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Eric Staal leaves game with upper body injury, won’t play Saturday vs. Montreal

Feb 25, 2011, 10:54 PM EDT

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Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Jussi Jokinen AP

In the short term, the Carolina Hurricanes improved their playoff outlook with a commanding 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yet the Eastern Conference’s current eighth seed could be in serious trouble if Eric Staal misses significant time with an upper body injury the star center suffered during tonight’s game.

Matt Niskanen knocked Staal out of the game with a body check in the second period. The big forward didn’t return to the game after the hit. It’s unclear how severe the injury might be, but reports indicate that the elder Staal brother won’t play in Carolina’s game against the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow night.

Some might say that this is an example of near-immediate karma, as Eric leveled his brother (and New York Rangers defenseman) Marc Staal with a brutal hit on Tuesday night. Marc didn’t play tonight for Washington, by the way. (It must be noted that Marc seems to have a knee injury that might not be related to the brotherly loveless check, though.)

However you frame it, this could be an enormous blow to the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes. It looked like he would easily hit the 30+ goal mark for the fifth time in his seven-season career, as Eric scored 27 goals and 32 assists for 59 points in 62 games so far this season.

Naturally, we will pass along updates regarding his condition as information comes along in the next day or few days. If the injury is significant, it could force the Canes to “buy” someone a little more expensive than Cory Stillman. We shall see.

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