Rangers-Hurricanes Preview

It’s already been an outstanding week for Carolina Hurricanes

center Eric Staal. He’ll look to close out 2009 on a high note

Thursday night at RBC Center where the Hurricanes open a

home-and-home series with the New York Rangers.

Staal, who leads the Hurricanes (10-22-7) with 26 points, had

two goals and three assists in Monday’s 6-3 victory at Southeast

Division-leading Washington. It was Carolina’s second road win of

the season.

“It feels good,” Staal said after posting the second-highest

point total of his career. “We haven’t had a lot of those this

year. Hopefully we can follow this up and continue to play

well.”

The Hurricanes have an NHL-worst 27 points, but Staal has

provided them with a major spark since returning from a 10-game

absence Nov. 4-23 due to an upper-body injury. Staal has five goals

and 16 assists in 16 games back.

Following Wednesday’s practice, the 25-year-old from Thunder

Bay, Ontario, found out he was named to the 23-man Canadian Olympic

Team roster. It will be his first Olympic appearance after being on

the reserve squad in Torino in 2006.

“This is going to be intense,” Staal told the Hurricanes’ Web

site. “I was in Torino last time and obviously not playing, but I

was around the dressing room and it’s as competitive as ever. I’m

excited this time around to be in the mix and counted on to perform

on the ice.”

Staal, who has five goals and seven assists in 21 career games

against the Rangers, did not score in a 3-1 loss to the visiting

Rangers on Dec. 21.

The Hurricanes visit New York (18-17-4) for the first time this

season Saturday afternoon.

The Rangers play their final game of 2009 following one of their

worst performances of the year – Wednesday’s 6-0 loss to

Philadelphia at Madison Square Garden.

In its first game without the injured Vinny Prospal, New York

suffered its most lopsided loss since a 10-2 defeat at Dallas on

Feb. 6.

“There was nothing good about the game,” said Rangers center

Brandon Dubinsky, who had a goal and an assist in the Dec. 21

victory in Raleigh. “I don’t want to sit here and talk about how

the team played. I know I was awful.”

He wasn’t alone, as Henrik Lundqvist was pulled after giving up

three goals on 11 shots in the opening 20 minutes. Lundqvist, who

made 32 saves in last week’s victory over the Hurricanes, is

scheduled to start his 14th straight game Thursday. He 7-3-0 with a

1.98 goals-against average in his last 10 starts against

Carolina.

Cam Ward, 0-2-1 with a 3.58 goals-against average in his last

three home starts, is expected to start in net for the Hurricanes.

He made 28 saves in the Dec. 21 loss.

Rangers leading scorer Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist

in that game. He will try to avoid his first three-game scoreless

stretch since a four-game span with Minnesota from Feb. 20-27,

2008.

Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen were both named to

Finland’s Olympic team on Wednesday.

Carolina, which has been outscored 12-5 in three straight home

losses, had won eight of 10 against the Rangers at RBC Center prior

to the Dec. 21 defeat.