New dad Staal up for challenge as Capitals face 11 games in December

DADDIES COOL: Jared Staal and wife Natalie with baby Hudson are pictured left on the ice at Murrayfield with, on the far right, Kevin Forshall, his partner Leona Barnes and baby Layla. Pic: SMP

DADDIES COOL: Jared Staal and wife Natalie with baby Hudson are pictured left on the ice at Murrayfield with, on the far right, Kevin Forshall, his partner Leona Barnes and baby Layla. Pic: SMP

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Edinburgh Capitals winger Jared Staal appears to be coping well with the challenges of being a new father as the club prepares for what he describes as a “season defining” December – beginning tomorrow when they face-off against Elite League leaders Cardiff Devils in Wales.

Caps, who play 11 times across 28 days this month, complete their weekend with a home game against Belfast Giants on Sunday (face-off 6pm) and Staal said: “We had a great win last time out against Braehead but following that up with playing in Cardiff is a big challenge for us. It’s a long trip and, if we don’t get the result we’re looking for, it’ll be an even longer one coming home before we play a good Belfast team here on Sunday. It’s going to be one of the toughest weekends of the year for us and will put us to the test.”

Edinburgh have already lost to red-hot Devils home and away this season, and the Welsh outfit enjoy a huge lead of 13 points over second-placed Sheffield Steelers at the top of the table. Staal, who has scored ten goals already this season, continued: “The biggest thing for us is staying out of the penalty box. Their power-play is pretty lethal and last time we were there they picked us apart. They have a lot of good players, and it’s always the same when you play teams like that. You’ve got to take away their time and space and don’t let them get comfortable.

“December is jam-packed, with more games than we’re used to, whereas November was a light month for us which helps going into such a busy time.

“Guys want to play, though, and, if you get on a roll, playing a lot can be the best thing for you. As long as we look after ourselves physically it shouldn’t be a problem.

“It’s a throwback to my recent years (in North America). Those months are tough when you’re playing almost every second night. If you get rolling as a team you can string together a lot of wins in a short period of time. At the same time, you don’t want to go the other way. It’s a month that will be season-defining for us.”

Edinburgh signed Staal to a one-year deal this summer, raising eyebrows up and down the country, the 26-year-old being a member of one of the world’s most famous ice hockey families. In 2013, the former Carolina Hurricanes forward made history by debuting in the NHL on the same line as brothers Eric and Jordan, whilst second eldest brother Marc, who but for injury would have iced for the opposing New York Rangers, looked on from the stands.

“It’s something I look back on now and it almost feels surreal, like it didn’t happen,” said Staal. “You’re starting with two of your brothers on the same line, unfortunately Mark was injured with his eye or he would have been playing against us. He was still at the game, our parents were there, my wife, the whole family experienced it. We all soaked it in and looking back it’s a really cool thing we got to do and a proud family moment.”

Talking of families, both he and Caps stalwart, Kevin Forshall, became fathers for the first time last month. Staal has a baby son, Hudson, while Forshall has a daughter named Layla. And having a fellow first-time father on the team to compare notes with has been a big help.

A delighted Staal said: “It’s been amazing. It’s been challenging having a baby to look after but it’s so rewarding to come home and see the little one sleeping, crying; it doesn’t matter it’s just a cool feeling to take care of him. My wife is such a trooper. To be doing this away from most of our family, she’s a very strong woman.

“It’s pretty neat to go through this with someone on the team. Both of ours are at the same stage. The other night we were laughing, just going over stories about how they were sleeping and what else was going on. It’s nice to compare, and to hear that your baby isn’t the only one crying or whatever. It’s been great and they have such a cute little girl.”