Staal looks to extend his run to nine games when the Hurricanes open a home-and-home set with a visit to the Boston Bruins on Monday afternoon.
Carolina (22-16-6) is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games, converting on 12 of 38 power plays after going 4 for 41 and 5-5-2 over the previous 12 games. The Hurricanes have also killed 21 of their opponents’ last 24 power plays.
They scored four power-play goals and got a short-handed tally from Staal while killing all five of Tampa Bay’s chances with the man advantage in a 6-4 win Saturday.
“I thought our penalty kill was outstanding,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Special teams (were) the difference in the game for us.”
Staal’s production is also playing a major role in Carolina’s recent push, which has put it one point behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The center has six goals and six assists in 10 games, getting at least a point in each of the last eight for his longest streak since an 11-game run from Jan. 16-Feb. 5 of last year.
Staal added two assists against the Lightning, passing Rod Brind’Amour(notes) to become the Hurricanes’ all-time leading scorer with 474 points since the franchise moved from Hartford in 1997. He ranks third in team history, behind Ron Francis (1,175) and Kevin Dineen (544).
“What’s exciting about Eric Staal is that he’s not at his peak offensively or defensively,” Maurice told the team’s official website. “He’s still learning the game and he’s still getting better.”
Often shadowed by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara(notes), though, Staal has just one assist in his last three meetings with Boston, setting up Jussi Jokinen’s(notes) power-play goal in a 3-0 win at TD Garden on Nov. 26.
Jokinen and rookie center Jeff Skinner(notes) are also hot, putting together five-game points streaks. Jokinen’s stretch includes five goals and five assists after getting two and one, respectively, on Saturday - all on the power play.
Skinner has scored five times and assisted on three others during his streak, and he had a power-play goal and an assist against the Bruins in November.
Boston (24-13-7) is looking to rebound from Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. The Bruins erased a two-goal, second-period deficit only to see their three-game winning streak end on a goal by Jordan Staal(notes) - Eric Staal’s brother - early in the third period.
Thomas, the NHL leader with a 1.88 goals-against average, has a 4.62 GAA in losing his last two starts against Carolina. Ward beat him earlier this season with a 37-save shutout.
Boston may get a boost from the possible return of defenseman Mark Stuart(notes), who hasn’t played since Dec. 7 due to a broken finger. Milan Lucic(notes) may also play after a three-game absence with an undisclosed injury.
Lucic leads the Bruins with 16 goals but has none in his last 11 games.