PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes will face each other Tuesday as members of the Metropolitan Division for the first time, but former Penguin Jordan Staal and former Hurricane Brandon Sutter are treating it like any other game.
Pittsburgh traded Staal to Carolina in June 2012 for Sutter, the eighth pick of the 2012 NHL Draft (which the Penguins used to select defenseman Derrick Pouliot) and defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
Staal spent his first six seasons in Pittsburgh, scoring 248 points in 431 games and staking claim to the Penguins' third-line center role behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The trio of Crosby, Malkin and Staal gave Pittsburgh one of the NHL's deepest rosters down the middle.
When he returned to Pittsburgh in the two teams' final game of the last regular season, Staal was warmly welcomed by the Consol Energy Center crowd. He earned an assist in the Hurricanes' 8-3 loss on Apr. 27.
"I don't know if they [Penguins fans] got it out of their system or not," Staal said. "I'm assuming they have. It's always nice to be back here. There are a lot of great memories and I had a lot of fun here."
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said Staal had an impressive offseason and should return to the form Pittsburgh fans were accustomed to.
"I think he just went home this year and trained hard," Muller said. "He came in lighter. Attitude wise, he was great last year that way too, but it just didn't click for him. He just looks a lot more comfortable. He's playing his game, he's playing that direct north game and he's using that big body."
Like Staal's relationship with Pittsburgh, Sutter began his career with four seasons in Carolina, earning 107 points in 286 games. He replaced Staal as Pittsburgh's third-line center last season and finished with 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) while skating in all 48 regular-season games.
Sutter, who earned one assist in three games against the Hurricanes last season, said being in the same division as Carolina doesn't impact his outlook much heading into Tuesday's game.
"I think we usually play each other four times a year and this year, it's probably four or five times," Sutter said. "So it doesn't really make it a whole lot different, but obviously, there might be that extra game every year and that does make a difference.
"You kind of work on trying to treat every team the same right now and it doesn't really matter who we're playing."
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – Beau Bennett
Chuck Kobasew – Brandon Sutter – Dustin Jeffrey
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta – Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Deryk Engelland
Injured: Matt D'Agostini (lower body), James Neal (upper body), Kris Letang (lower leg), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)
Notes: Defenseman Kris Letang skated before Pittsburgh's morning skate, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he will not play Tuesday.
Jiri Tlusty – Eric Staal – Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe – Jordan Staal – Patrick Dwyer
Jeff Skinner – Riley Nash – Radek Dvorak
Brett Sutter – Elias Lindholm – Drayson Bowman
Justin Faulk – Andrej Sekera
Brett Bellemore – Ron Hainsey
Jay Harrison – Ryan Murphy
Scratched: Mike Komisarek, Kevin Westgarth
Injured: Joni Pitkanen (heel), Tim Gleason (concussion), Tuomo Ruutu (lower body)
Notes: The Hurricanes held an optional morning skate at Consol Energy Center. Every healthy player participated in the skate.