For all the talk about Eric Staal and Jordan Staal playing together this year for the Canes, and all the possibilities that presents, let's not forget their youngest brother.
Jared Staal has been skating with Eric and Jordan in informal workouts at Raleigh Center Ice. He's working hard, preparing for the season, even if it will likely be with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.
"This is definitely, by far, the biggest year of my career so far, being the third year of my contract and knowing you can probably tell where my career will go after this year, if I have a good year," Staal said today.
"So it's definitely huge. It was in the back of my mind all summer, wanting to put together a good year after the last couple. I put in a lot of work this summer and I'm excited."
Jared, 22, played 37 games for the Checkers last season, with three goals and three assists. Late in the season he was loaned to the Providence Bruins, the Boston Bruins' AHL affiliate, and played another seven games.
That came after a 2010-2011 season in which Staal split time with the Checkers and the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, spending most of the year with the Everblades. That's not what he was hoping for and not what he expected, but that's what his performance on the ice dictated.
Staal believes more emphasis on conditioning will make a difference. In the summer of 2011, he attended Gary Roberts' camp in Toronto, calling it beneficial. This summer, he was back in Thunder Bay, Ont., working with a personal trainer and with brother Eric.
"We pushed each other pretty hard," Jared said. "Mostly off-ice stuff. We did skate a little earlier this summer and we never really do that very often. Instead of waiting to come down here and get a feel of the game, we wanted to start that a little earlier."
Jared Staal was obtained by Carolina from the Phoenix Coyotes for a fifth-round draft pick in May 2010 and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canes. Conditioning has always been a key issue for him, but he said today he weighs about 203 pounds, which is as light has he has been the past three years.
For now, the locker room stalls at RCI have been full of the Staals for the informal workouts. Eric Staal missed a few days to attend a wedding, but Jared and Jordan have been constants.
Eric and Jordan both said it seemed weird to have the three together, in the same room and on the ice. And Jared?
"I'd already been through this with Eric before," he said, smiling. "It is a little different with Jordan. I've always seen him with Pittsburgh colors on. To see him in a Carolina sweater is a little different, but after the first day you get right back in it and it's fine."