Penguins vs. Hurricanes preview: Jordan Staal faces former team for 1st time

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes (9-8-1, 19 points) will host the Pittsburgh Penguins (13-7-0, 26 points) at PNC Arena on Thursday night.

It will mark the first of three meetings between the teams this season.

While the newly proposed realignment plan would make these clubs future division rivals, the focus of this meeting will revolve around the inaugural match-up between Jordan Staal and his former team. Originally chosen with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, Staal spent six years with the Penguins and accumulated 120 goals and 248 points in 431 regular-season games.

In addition, Staal was the first selection in the tenure of general manager Ray Shero and was a key member of the organization's 2009 Stanley Cup Championship team.

With Staal set to become an unrestricted-free agent at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season, Shero made an attempt to sign Staal to a reported 10-year, $60 million extension. According to Staal, he was close to signing the deal. However, the desire to play with his brother Eric Staal outweighed the opportunity to stay with the Penguins.

Had Jordan signed the multi-year extension, he would likely never have an opportunity to play with his brother.

During the 2012 NHL Draft, Shero completed a deal with the Hurricanes that sent Staal to Carolina in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 overall selection in that year's draft.

Jordan eventually signed a 10-year, $60 million extension with the Hurricanes.

Entering Thursday night, Staal's new team claims ownership to the top-spot in the Southeast Division. However, they have struggled of late, as they have lost four of their last five games.

His old team also holds the top-spot in their division, as the Penguins enter the night atop the Atlantic. While the team will come into the contest off a 6-4 loss to the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh has won five of their last seven games and has accumulated a 5-2-0 record against the Southeast this season.

Carolina is 3-1-1 against the Atlantic.

Thursday's game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., ET and will be televised on NHLN-US, ROOT and FS-Carolinas.

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