NEWARK — Eric Staal was one of the last Canes off the ice this morning at the Prudential Center, and the media was waiting.
Nothing was asked about tonight's game with the New Jersey Devils. The questions that peppered the Canes captain all dealt with his brother, Marc, and the concussion the New York Rangers defenseman suffered from a hit by Eric in a February game at the RBC Center and Marc's lingering post-concussion woes.
The questioning started with: "You did know it was your brother?"
Eric: "It was a quick reaction. Regardless if it was him or anyone else it would have been the same play: Be physical and go for the puck. After I hit him and he was down I knew it was him."
Question: "Has it left you and him and the whole family in an awkard situation?"
Eric: "It's been all right. It's not something that has affected me on a daily basis. Obviously I talked to him a lot. It's hard. He has a passion and a love for the game and he can't play right now. It's tough for him and it's tough for me and everybody in the family. Hopefully he'll be back to his old self and playing like he was before he got hurt."
Question: "Did you talk to him after the game and what did he say?"
Eric: "He was disappointed. You never want to get hit in any spot like that. He's not getting used to getting hit a lot, but he was in a vulnerable position, and I finished my check on him. You never want to get hit and all, and when it's your brother it only makes it worse. I'm sure it was. It would have been the same if it was me.
"He's upset about the hit but he understands it's a hockey game and things happen. It is what it is."
Question: "If you had enough time to see it was him, would you have hit him a little differently."
Eric: "No. It's a body check. It's the same regardless. I didn't try to hit him harder because it's my brother or try to hit him softer because it's my brother. In a hockey game things happen fast, and that's just the way it is."
Question: "Now that it has been a couple of months and you see the effect that hit had, does it change your thinking on that kind of hit?"
Eric: "No, not at all. It was unfortunate after the fact, but it's part of the game. You finish checks and you're physical. Sometimes things happen, and in his case he's been injured for a long time because of it. But he'll recover fully and will be back fine."
So it went. There were more questions about Marc, who has not played this season because of the post-concussion symptoms, and whether Eric expected retaliation from the Rangers on Friday, etc.
"I think it might be a good thing, to get it out of the way," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "He's a big, strong man. This isn't a guy who's hiding in the corner. He'll answer your questions.
"He's been on the big stage. He's won a gold medal and won a Stanley Cup. He's not hiding from anything. He'll go in there, answer those questions and go on."
Eric said he talked to Marc on a regular basis and would see his brother this week in New York. Eric also said, again, that concern for his brother was not a factor in his scoring slump.
"I think if it had been a bad hit it might have affected him more," Maurice said. "I think they had delivered the same kind of hits on each other every single time they'd played each other. There's a lot more on the ice at Carolina that's affecting his game, finding some chemistry and people to play with."