Jordan Staal and Kevin Westgarth are the Canes' two biggest forwards. They'll also have something else in common tonight: they're both playing their first home game for the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
Both came to the Canes in trades -- albeit Staal in a much more high-profile deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Each will have different roles tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Canes seek to bounce back from a 5-1 loss to Florida in their season opener.
"I'm just excited, anxious, ready to get it going," Staal said after today's morning skate. "I've been in this building, with the Pens, and know how loud it can get. It's a building that's got that kind of roar feeling, when it gets going and the fans are into it. They're the seventh man out there. It should be exciting."
Staal was one of the Canes who may have been trying too hard, and was a bit jumpy, early in the Florida game. He said tonight, against the Lightning, a big key would be to "take the right kind of emotion but to stay calm and play the kind of game we know we can."
Staal caused a bit of a stir when he first took the ice today with his brother Eric Staal and Alex Semin. The Canes usually roll their lines to begin a skate. Staal-Staal-Semin? Not yet. Canes coach Kirk Muller was taking an early look at entering the zone and setting up the power play.
"It didn't happen, but it's nice to be with those guys on the power play anyway," Jordan said, smiling.
Eric Staal will have Semin and Drayson Bowman on his wings. Jordan Staal will center Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose, and Jussi Jokinen will center Jeff Skinner and Pat Dwyer.
Muller will add some size to his lineup on the fourth line this game: Westgarth, Tim Brent and Jeremy Welsh. Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe, who played in the opener, will be healthy scratches at forward -- Dalpe after missing Monday's practice because of an illness.
Like Jordan Staal and Westgarth, Semin and Welsh will be playing their first home game in Canes sweaters. Semin has turned down media requests to discuss his first game at home for the Hurricanes, saying he might discuss it after the game.
The D pairs also will have a different look from the opener: Tim Gleason and Justin Faulk, Joni Pitkanen and Bobby Sanguinetti, and Joe Corvo with Jay Harrison. Jamie McBain again will sit out the game.
Westgarth, listed at 6-4 and 234 pounds, came to the Canes in the Jan. 13 trade that sent Anthony Stewart to the LA Kings. Westgarth and Welsh were the forward scratches Saturday against Florida.
And tonight? It's both his first game as a Hurricane and the first in PNC Arena with the Canes.
"Home opener, everyone is pumped up about having hockey back here, and especially the guys in this room," Westgarth said. "Obviously we have to bounce back from a tough start. There were some good things there, but we just have to dial it in and be a lot sharper -- be a little harder, faster, stronger, and a bit more detail."
Westgarth said his family will be at the game. That includes his father-in-law, Bill Cowher.
Muller did not hold a lengthy skate today, saying he wanted his players to "save their energy for tonight." He said the team's focus was good, that the players seemed "fresh and ready to go."
On changing up the fourth line, Muller said, "It's just a good-size line, with good-size bodies. They know their role. Just play hard and play the game clean and physical."
The Lightning had an optional skate today. Tampa Bay lost a 4-3 road game Monday against the New York Islanders after opening the season Saturday by blasting Washington 6-3.
Muller said his message to the team after the skate was simple: "Enjoy the moment tonight. The fans have been waiting for this game for a while. We're excited to play here but control your energy and come ready to have a good game."