Eric Staal takes leave of absence

RALEIGH, N.C., Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal has taken a leave of absence due to the death of his sister-in-law, Tamara Stephenson, from cancer, the team said.

In a statement, the team said Stephenson, 26, died Tuesday in Thunder Bay, Ont., and Staal will miss the next two contests to be with his wife's family.


"He's taken his family home to be with them at a very difficult time," Coach Paul Maurice said. "It's something that the family has been going through. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

General Manager Jim Rutherford said the Hurricanes would recall a player yet-to-be-named from Albany in the American Hockey League to fill in until Staal returns.

Staal has 27 points -- eight goals, 19 assists -- in 31 games, tying him with left wing Ray Whitney for the team's scoring lead.

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