The Carolina Hurricanes suffered a big blow in their second preseason game of the season against Buffalo.
With the Canes already trailing Buffalo 2-0 in the third period, center Jordan Staal got tangled with Sabre defenseman Josh Gorges and went down in obvious pain. He was helped off the ice and, without putting weight on his right leg, he went straight to the locker room.
Postgame x-rays indicated Staal had a broken bone in the lower portion of his leg. Further examination showed the fracture occurred in the fibula, which is the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. This could mean an earlier return for Staal, although there is no set timetable at this time.
The injury leaves the Hurricanes very depleted down the middle. Eric Staal is set as the first line center, while Jordan plays a more defensive second line role. With Jordan’s absence, center Riley Nash may be penciled in. Nash, who served as the team’s third line center last season, totaled 14 goals and 24 points (both career highs at the NHL level). It appears it’s his job to lose. However, newly appointed head coach Bill Peters may opt to slide Jeff Skinner or Elias Lindholm into the C2 spot.
No matter who fills the void, the Canes will struggle to match the production and defensive prowess Staal provided. Last season, Carolina finished with a -23 goal differential. Jordan Staal posted a +2 plus/minus while playing against opposing team’s top players.
With Jordan Staal on the shelf for several weeks, it’s up to Carolina’s youth to step up in his absence. The Hurricanes open the season on October 10th in Raleigh.