Staal set to reach milestone as 'Canes visit Wild

( - The Carolina Hurricanes lost in Eric Staal's NHL debut over 10 years ago.

Now with 699 career games under his belt, Staal will look to lead the Hurricanes to a third straight victory on Thursday night when his club visits the Minnesota Wild.

Staal is scheduled to skate in his 700th NHL game tonight and has certainly made his mark on the Hurricanes franchise since it took him second overall in the 2003 draft -- one pick after the Pittsburgh Penguins made goaltender Marc- Andre Fleury the top overall selection.

The 28-year-old Staal has logged 271 goals and 363 assists for 634 points with the Hurricanes, ranking second on Hartford/Carolina's all-time list in goals, assists and points. He is behind only Ron Francis in all three categories.

Staal is set to become just the fourth player in team history to play in at least 700 games with the franchise, joining Francis (1,186), Glen Wesley (913) and Kevin Dineen (708).

The center has totaled three goals and seven points in nine games this season, notching a pair of assists in Saturday's 4-3 win over the New York Islanders. Jiri Tlusty scored twice, while Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner also scored.

Cam Ward made 22 saves in the victory, giving up two of his three goals on New York power plays. He was also beaten at even strength with 1:01 left in regulation before Carolina held on.

"We took some questionable penalties in the third that put us in a position that we don't want to be in late," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "But other than that, I thought we had a good effort."

Carolina has won the first two of a four-game road trip after losing three in a row -- all at home -- and have won three of four as the guest this season. The 'Canes wrap their current swing on Friday night in Colorado.

The Wild snapped a three-game slide with Tuesday's 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators as Josh Harding made 16 saves for his first shutout of the season and eighth of his career.

Justin Fontaine had the game's first goal late in the second period after putting home a rebound of a Clayton Stoner shot, while Jason Pominville added an empty-net score.

"We can't feel too good about (the win). We have to build off this," Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo said.

Minnesota will have to build tonight without defenseman Jonas Brodin, who missed the majority of Tuesday's win after suffering a broken cheekbone when he was hit in the face by a puck. There is no timetable for his return.

It is unknown if Yeo will stick with Harding again tonight or give Niklas Backstrom his first start since exiting early on Oct. 8 due to injury. Backstrom has dressed as the backup in each of Minnesota's last two games.

Harding, meanwhile, has won all three of his home starts this season while stopping 48-of-50 shots faced. He currently leads the NHL with a 0.96 goals against average and is second with a .953 save percentage in eight games.

Harding did lose his only previous matchup with Carolina, giving up three goals on 28 shots, while Backstrom is 3-1-2 with a 2.76 GAA in six games versus the Hurricanes.

Carolina has won four straight versus Minnesota, including a pair of games in Helsinki, Finland to begin the 2010-11 campaign. Two of those four wins over the Wild came in a shootout and Ward is 3-0-1 lifetime versus the club with a 2.80 GAA.

The Wild, though, are 4-2-0 with a pair of ties in the eight all-time meetings played in Minnesota.