PITTSBURGH -- Injured Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal skated Friday afternoon at Heinz Field as the Penguins prepared for their starring role in Saturday's 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said after the loose and mostly unstructured practice at Heinz Field that Staal would be a game-time decision for the Winter Classic, suggesting Staal may well make his season debut in the biggest regular-season game of the season -- against the rival Washington Capitals, no less.
Staal, 22, has yet to play this season because of off-season foot surgery and a broken hand.
Bylsma dis say, however, that the weather and other game conditions could impact the decision on whether or not Staal makes his debut, a position slightly different from the stance the coach took on Tuesday when Staal took part in his first full practice.
"The only factor is that 42 games, 41 games, 40 games or 39 games doesn't really make a big difference," Bylsma said on Tuesday. "With Jordan we need to make sure he's healed and ready to go when he does play. That's the main concern, not whether it's the Classic or what the situation is. We're not weighing that in as a factor. He'll come back when he's fully ready to go to be engaged in a full-contact game. I don't have a timeline on that right now."
Earlier this week, Staal said his shooting and stick handling is not where he wants it to be yet, but it's getting better. Friday, he took part in the traditional end-of-practice penalty-shot competition at the end of practice. He was the last player to score in that contest. But, there may have been a bit of collusion involved in the outcome as Bylsma had a short chat with goalie Brent Johnson when the field of shooters was whittled down to five, including Staal.