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Capitals can’t sleep on slumping Hurricanes captain Eric Staal

Carolina’s star center has 50 points in his career versus Washington

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Eric Staal looked very much like an All-Star when he put up two goals and an assist for the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 8 at Verizon Center. Fewer players have had a more frustrating stretch since.

Staal has just one goal and one assist in the 10 games after yet again punishing the Capitals in their 4-3 overtime victory.

"I know, for Eric, he's a competitive person and he's the captain of our team. He wants to lead by example and he tries everything in his power to do that," defenseman Bryan Allen said. "I'm sure he gets upset when he misses the net or misses a chance."

Staal has five points and is a minus-12 going into Friday night's game against the Caps at RBC Center. But coach Paul Maurice isn't down on his captain, brushing off stats and praising his work in his team's past three games.

"I'm just hoping he continues on with the game he's playing. The points are going to come — I'm not worried about that. The offense will come," Maurice said. "But he's playing the right way now and he's playing hard and doing a great job leading this team."

Staal, who went into Friday having put up 22 goals and 28 assists in 49 career games against the Caps, looked back on that performance at Verizon Center with some pride.

"I felt good that night," he said. "I obviously scored two power-play goals, which was nice. ... You have to have your best every time you play Washington because they've got some guys up front that will make you pay if you're not."

Staal can make opponents pay, too.

"He's big, he's fast, he's got good hands, he's got vision — he's got all the tools; that's why he's one of the better players in the league," Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. "He usually doesn't miss when he gets a chance."

That's what has made Staal a four-time All-Star.

Alzer, however, might have figured out a way to get under Staal's skin and affect his game. Late last season, the defenseman said he accidentally high-sticked Staal and noted that the center was different afterward.

"He's a great player. He's tough to defend against. You've just got to frustrate him, because he is a guy that can get frustrated," Alzner said. "He was pretty frustrated after that. You didn't really see a whole lot out of him."

Beagle skates

While the Caps were in Raleigh, injured forward Jay Beagle got on the ice at Kettler Ice Complex — as he had hoped — for the first time since suffering a concussion Oct. 13.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said Beagle's timetable depends on trainer Greg Smith's evaluation and more.

"It's also got to be a let's see how he fares when he's skating. I don't have any clue. We'll see," Boudreau said. "He hasn't been at practice, hasn't taken contact. There's all these process steps that you have to take before he's allowed to play."

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