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Finding A Spot For Eric Staal

Bill Peters has played the Captain at center and at winger. Where should he be?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters seems unsure of where to play Eric Staal.

After playing at wing for much of last season and early this preseason, the coach moved Carolina's captain back to center ice this week.

Staal has played center throughout most of his career.  There were a few exceptions, for instance when he successfully played first line wing for Team Canada when they won the gold medal in 2010.  Sidney Crosby was his center and Rick Nash was the other wing.

Staal started out last season at his familiar center ice position but Peters mentioned that he might like to try the veteran at wing, when his brother, Jordan Staal returned from injury.  Sure enough when the younger brother returned, Eric played at his wing and they were successful for awhile.

But even though Staal had some success there last year, he still finished with the lowest point per game average since his rookie season.  He has most certainly scored the majority of his career points while playing the center position.

Peters mentioned to me earlier this preseason that he could see Staal at wing on a line with Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm and the coach experimented with that combination this past weekend.  Regardless, he moved the captain back to center ice on Monday in preparation for Wednesday night's exhibition game against Washington.

Kris Versteeg and Lindholm will be his wings.

This leads to a question and one criticism of the head coach.  Will he allow any line combination to stay together long enough to build some chemistry?

I asked him about his frequent switching of combos during the end of season interview process last April and he told me that he would prefer to have consistent lines.  He was forced to switch things up often because of injuries and also he was searching for combinations that would work well together.

We will see if the line changes continue this season.

In the meantime, it seems like there is a conundrum of sorts here.  For the record, the captain has said he prefers to play center, but he would be willing to play anywhere.

Is the team better off with him at his most familiar position, where he has had the most success?  Perhaps he will make a case for himself to return to being the team's number one center with his performance against the Caps.

In related Staal news, it was reported earlier Tuesday that Carolina's star player wants $9 million a year in his next contract.

The Hockey News - Staal wants $9 million per year?

The Hockey News and other sites quoted Renaud Lavoie, who may or may not have been misquoted.

Later in the night, Bob McKenzie was quoted by Chris Nichols as saying that Staal said that no numbers had been discussed.

Nichols on Hockey

My take?  I have my doubts about both stories.  I doubt Staal is hard set on $9 million, though that might be his starting point.  And I doubt that no numbers have been discussed.  It has been confirmed that there have been discussions, if they didn't talk numbers, what did they discuss?

It's hard to believe that a single number was not brought up.

But back to the primary question, where should Bill Peters play Staal?