Now that Carolina’s Eric Staal has broken out of his scoring drought, the Hurricanes are hoping it won’t take another two weeks for him to score again.
Staal and the Hurricanes look to win their fourth straight when they host the Nashville Predators on Sunday.
Staal recorded his fifth career hat trick after scoring three goals in less than 24 minutes in Carolina’s 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday. The Hurricanes’ highest paid player hadn’t scored since Nov. 2 when he recorded an empty-net goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had two game-tying goals on Friday and put the Hurricanes (11-7-2) ahead with his eighth goal of the season late in the second period.
“It’s about burying your head, working hard, not changing your game, getting to those areas where goals are scored - and for me, goals are scored in the front of the net and those traffic areas,” said Staal, who has 13 points for the season. “Eventually, they were going to fall - I knew that.”
Staal had gone eight games without a goal - his longest drought since he went nine without one in 2006-07.
“The best thing about Eric is he doesn’t get too high,” Ray Whitney, who added two third-period goals on Friday for Carolina, told the Hurricanes’ official Web site. “He’ll come to the rink tomorrow and won’t be on cloud nine because of his hat trick, and over the last nine or 10 games he hasn’t been too down either.”
The Hurricanes have won three straight after dropping their previous three in a row while allowing 13 goals. Carolina has given up five goals in the last three games, with Cam Ward in net for all of them.
Sunday closes out Carolina’s four-game homestand. The Hurricanes have played six of their last seven at home, where they are 6-4-0 this season.
Nashville (9-9-1), meanwhile, continues a tough, road-heavy portion of its schedule trying to avoid a third straight loss. It’s dropped its last two by scores of 4-1, including Friday’s loss to Tampa Bay.
Jordin Tootoo scored the Predators’ only goal on Friday, but Dan Ellis allowed three goals in the first period. He’s given up 15 goals in the last five games and is 7-9-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average for the season.
“They won the game because of everything we did,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We turned the puck over. We made bad decisions. Some guys played poorly. There’s no where to hide right now. Some guys are going to have to get their game up or they will not be playing or they will be moved on.”
The Predators are 3-5-0 in their last eight games, seven of which have been played on the road. Opponents are averaging 3.4 goals per game against Nashville during that stretch.
“It just comes down to poor decisions,” Ellis said. “We’re making very basic hockey very difficult hockey.”
Carolina is 3-1-1 with one tie at home against the Predators. Nashville won last season’s meeting 1-0. This is the only time the two will meet during the regular season.