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Facing The Challenge

Tele-conference with Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal...
Q. There was a lot of talk about younger players adapting to the grind of the NHL in your second year, you went through 107 games, how was that for you physically? And the second question will be: Are you concerned much about the exhibition games with no wins so far, and what do you think the team needs to do to get better the next few days? ERIC STAAL: It is a long year. You know, I think it's something you learn as a process, your first year, you kind of know what to expect and it makes it easier the next time around. I think with our team, last year, was easy for me because we had such a great group of guys that when you went to the rink you wanted to be there; it was exciting; it was fun, we were winning and all of those things help and it makes it go a lot quicker. It was a long year but it didn't really feel like 107 games. It felt like it went by so fast. You know, that helps when you've got a great team to be around. And the second question, you know, training camp, you know, it's about getting back into your timing, your speed, your passes, everything like that, and you know, we obviously want to win every game we can, but I don't think anyone is too worried about the first three games. We're trying new guys here and there, and I think by this weekend here, or by tomorrow night, we're going to have most of the guys that are going to be in the lineup opening night on the weekend, and really need to have a good two games and get ready for the year.

Q. How short does the off-season feel when you go deep into June and hoist the Cup?
ERIC STAAL: Well, it was pretty short, but you know, I have to say, it was pretty well worth it. Like to have a short summer every year, and it is a quick turnaround, but I think we were away for long enough to be refreshed and the guys I’m sure will be ready this year.
Q. We understand Cory Stillman has been hurt, I don’t know if it’s four or six weeks he’ll be out, but can you tell us who you have been skating beside and what the top line might look like and a word about British Columbian Andrew Ladd, as well?
ERIC STAAL: Right now I’ve been skating with Erik Cole and Ray Whitney. We haven’t played any games yet in preseason or anything, but we’ve been starting to skate together the last couple of days and I really looking forward to playing with those two guys.
Andrew is doing a great job and came to camp in great shape. He’s a very strong guy, plays his checks very well and finishes everything. We’re looking forward to him having a big year this year.
Q. And lastly, how is Scott Walker fitting in?
ERIC STAAL: He’s doing well. He’s a great fit to our team, along with the other guys that we added. He’s a quality guy around the room and a character guy on the ice, and we always want guys like that on the team and that helps a lot.
Q. Do you have a lot of contact with your brothers and how is your communication with them?
ERIC STAAL: I talk to them more on the phone as of late because I’m interested to see how they are doing in training camp. Mark and Jordan are both in pro camps, one in New York and one is in Pittsburgh. They are doing very well and making it hard for the head guys to send them back to junior, so that’s always good. And I try to keep tabs as much as I can, talk to them every couple days on the phone, and Jarred, as well, back in junior and find out how he’s doing with moving away from home for the first time. It’s a lot of fun.
Q. And you’re a model man example?
ERIC STAAL: Well, they are kind of on their own path. I was the first one that went through everything and that gives them something to see and know what to expect a little bit more, but at the same time, you know, it’s all them doing it on their own, and you know, that’s the biggest thing that they need to figure out.
Q. Just to follow-up on the Staal brothers, when you were younger, what did you think when the Sutters did it, did you think it was out of this world that so many brothers could make the NHL? And when you win the Stanley Cup, I presume the next year in, people are gunning for you a heck of a l ot more than they were the year before.
ERIC STAAL: Yeah, well, watching the Sutters as kids was amazing. To have that many brothers in an elite league like that, it’s pretty amazing.
Obviously, you know, myself and my three brothers are on the way, but I haven’t quite made it yet. But it’s nice to kind of have a little bit of that comparison. You know, they are tremendous, hard-working people, and all of those guys played in the league for a long time. You know, I give them a lot of credit and hopefully we can come somewhat close to that with my brothers as well.
And your second question, yeah, it is, it’s going to be a lot more of a challenge this year. Obviously whenever you win the championship, you’re going to be hunted after the next year, and our team is no different. I think our team is excited for the challenge. We’ve got a lot of good leaders in our room, Rod Brind’Amour and the older guys will make sure that our guys are ready to play, and compete for another Stanley Cup.
Q. There was a lot of talk about younger players adapting to the grind of the NHL in your second year, you went through 107 games, how was that for you physically? And the second question will be: Are you concerned much about the exhibition games with no wins so far, and what do you think the team needs to do to get better the next few days?
ERIC STAAL: It is a long year. You know, I think it’s something you learn as a process, your first year, you kind of know what to expect and it makes it easier the next time around.
I think with our team, last year, was easy for me because we had such a great group of guys that when you went to the rink you wanted to be there; it was exciting; it was fun, we were winning and all of those things help and it makes it go a lot quicker. It was a long year but it didn’t really feel like 107 games. It felt like it went by so fast. You know, that helps when you’ve got a great team to be around.
And the second question, you know, training camp, you know, it’s about getting back into your timing, your speed, your passes, everything like that, and you know, we obviously want to win every game we can, but I don’t think anyone is too worried about the first three games.
We’re trying new guys here and there, and I think by this weekend here, or by tomorrow night, we’re going to have most of the guys that are going to be in the lineup opening night on the weekend, and really need to have a good two games and get ready for the year.
Q. Just wondering how you guys approach, you’re going to have your banner-raising, it will be a special night, don’t know if you have your rings yet, but do you sort of park that at that stage, or do you guys talk about feeding off that, like sort of how do you approach the year after you win the Cup, and the mentality that goes behind that?
ERIC STAAL: Well, I think you know, you need to enjoy it. I mean, it was an unbelievable experience, something people play their whole lives for and don’t accomplish. It’s going to provide energy in our building. Our fans are going to probably keep going crazy seeing that banner in our arena. I think that will get the guys fired up and be playing hard, and obviously it’s going to be exciting for all of the players that went through it and experienced it. We need to enjoy it. But at the same time, it’s a new year, it’s a new process, and we need to forget about that and once the puck drops for the new year, be focused and try and do it again.
Q. And everyone kind of feels, Eric, that your team was a great statement for the new NHL in so much that anybody can win it. Do you feel that way going in this year?
ERIC STAAL: Yeah, you know I like our group again. We have a great group of young players and some great guys that have been around a long time that can help us out. You know, we feel confident again in our team and in our own room. Doesn’t really matter what anyone else has to say, same as last year. We have our own inner confidence and we want to continue to get better as the year starts.
Q. The Buffalo Sabres was the last team to play last year and the first this year until the opening game, is this going to be a battle for the season-opener or what do you expect?
ERIC STAAL: Well, you know, Buffalo was a great team last year. I’m sure they are ready and excited to get it going again this year. You know, it was a great series in the playoffs. They were a tough team to play against all year. I’m sure it’s going to be no different coming into our building this year. It’s going to be a challenge for our team right off the bat, and, you know, that gets the guys fired up and excited. So it should be fun.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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