From the press box Sunday night, Jordan Staal watched his brother, Eric, warm up, oddly in a Wild sweater. The Carolina Hurricanes center talked confidently about how the Wild would be a perfect fit to help Eric, the former Hurricanes captain and Stanley Cup winner, reignite his career.
Three hours later, after watching his brother look right at home in his new barn and uniform, Jordan Staal winked and said, "Told ya."
Eric Staal, the second-leading goal scorer and point producer in Whalers/Hurricanes history, assisted on Charlie Coyle's second-period tying goal and scored the eventual winning goal in the third period on a delayed penalty to help lead the Wild to a 3-1 preseason victory over the team he played with for 12 seasons.
"Not bad," close friend and former teammate Cam Ward added on the elevator ride from the press box to the event level.
On a night new coach Bruce Boudreau unveiled the Wild's anticipated top line of Zach Parise, Staal and Coyle, the trio got off to what each player called "a decent start."
"As a line, we definitely saw glimpses of some very good things we can be excited about, but it's one game," said Staal, who has scored 325 goals and 781 points in 929 games. "We aren't going to score two every game, but we want to make sure we're controlling pucks, … playing in the offensive zone and [playing] good defensively. We showed some good signs."
Staal's winner came on a whistler from the right circle, but his most impressive play was the pass he made to Coyle in the second period. After Coyle won a race to the puck, the big man slid the puck down low for Staal.
Virtually everyone in the rink figured Staal would swing the puck to Parise around the other side of the net, but Staal spotted Coyle beat his man off the wall. He fed a charging Coyle with a seeing-eye backhander, and Coyle perfectly placed his shot over Michael Leighton's left shoulder.
The goal came two days after Coyle vowed: "I have to produce. If I don't produce, I'm off that line. I like the pressure of that."
Pressure is on all three forwards. Boudreau said earlier this week that "we expect them to score," and he echoed that after Sunday's game.
"You need a big line to be able to score goals, so I was happy with that," Boudreau said. "It's going to take a while for them to get completely in sync."
Parise, Staal and Coyle believe they have the makings of a good line. Staal and Coyle bring size and have the ability to hang on to pucks. Parise, playing his first game for the Wild since a back injury that sidelined him during last season's playoffs, is the ultimate grinder and the Wild's best scorer.
"There's some pretty big D that we play against in our division, and with those guys' size and protecting the puck down low and winning 50-50 pucks, I think it will be important," Parise said. "We can all skate, we can all play off the rush. I think potentially, and I don't want to get ahead of myself, we could be a very good line."
Boudreau liked the look of Coyle, who has spent a large part of his Wild career switching between center and wing, at right wing.
"Our plan is to leave him there," Boudreau said. "And I think he can be a top-notch power forward. He's got great hands for a big man. He's good along the boards with the puck. You never know how it's going to work out, but you've got a 220-pound guy and then you've got a 6-foot-4 guy in Staal.
"It means Zach doesn't have to do all the corner work, which I think wears him down toward the end of the year."
Staal thinks it's going to be fun.
"We're getting into the last week of training camp, so it amps up a little bit," he said. "We have to continue to build, but it's been a lot of fun already in practice with those two guys. They're skilled, hardworking players, which is fun for me to be alongside. Hopefully I can bring some good things to the line."
One game in, so far, so good, and Staal was smiling afterward.
He planned to get a quick workout in so he could hang out with brother Jordan and Ward, his longtime goalie dating back to 2004 in Lowell, Mass., who were spending the night in Minnesota.
"There's a lot of people I care a lot about that are over there still, from the staff to players," Staal said.