Jordan Staal, 'Canes ready to start training camp

Posted September 5, 2013

— In September 2012, as the NHL and its players slogged through a lockout that would stretch to nearly four months, Jordan Staal and his Carolina Hurricanes teammates were decidedly frustrated. 

Players didn't know when – or if – a season would begin, and they struggled preparing their bodies for a scaled down preseason and 48-game regular season. A year later, as Staal and the Hurricanes count down to their Oct. 4 opener against the Detroit Red Wings, things are quite different. 

Notably, the first game has a date beside of it – a date not subject to change.

"It's a lot better knowing that the season is going to start," Staal told Mark Thomas and Mike Maniscalco on 620 The Buzz Thursday. "It's easier getting your body ready and kind of ramping things up before training camp. Having a full training camp will benefit our team. I'm excited about that."

Players will officially report for preseason activities on Sept. 11, and the first preseason game comes Sept. 18 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Head coach Kirk Muller said he's excited about the full training camp because players battling for roster spots will have a "more fair" shot at making the team. 

"We expect a real battling type of training camp. It's nice to know we're starting from scratch, just like everyone else in the league," Muller said. "Everyone is going to get a good opportunity."

The renewed excitement associated with preseason activities could be a much-needed release for Staal, who struggled at times during his first season in Raleigh. The 24-year-old produced, tallying 31 points in 48 games, but he struggled to lead the second line and develop chemistry with Jeff Skinner. 

Those struggles coupled with an untimely injury to goalkeeper Cam Ward kept the Hurricanes out of the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. In his seven year career, Staal had never missed the postseason.

"Summers are long, even though they are short," he said. "Missing the playoffs was a first in my career, and I wasn't happy about it. The city and organization wants it, we're all pretty hungry to get back there."

To make the playoffs in 2013-14, Staal and the Hurricanes will have to work their way through the new Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference, which includes Columbus, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. 

"It's going to be a tough division, but it will bring our level up," he said. "Our record against some of the other teams in our old division wasn't that good, but when we've played the teams (from the new division) we play confident and feel like we can win."

Muller agreed, saying that playing in a tough division will only make his team tougher. 

"I think it's great. We did have better results against some of those teams last year than we did in our own division," he said. "We know we have to be better defensively."


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