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Jordan Staal making return to Pittsburgh

by Chris Adamski /

PITTSBURGH -- Jordan Staal isn't sure what emotions he'll experience when, as expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins roll a tribute video to him during a first-period stoppage in play Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.

Traded to the Carolina Hurricanes after declining to sign a contract extension with the Penguins last June, Staal also isn't sure how the Pittsburgh partisan crowd will receive him.

"All I can say is that I had a lot of good memories here and I had a lot of fun playing here," Staal said following his final morning skate of the season Saturday.

The Hurricanes wrap up their season with a 7:30 p.m. game at the Penguins, Staal's former team that enters next week's Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

Staal spent the first six seasons of his NHL career with Pittsburgh and was part of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2009. This is his first game in Pittsburgh since being traded.

"It's going to be a little different for him because he's used to being on the other side dressing for the Penguins," teammate and brother Jared Staal said. "I'm sure he'll try to enjoy it. It'll be a little weird at first, but I'm sure he's moved on a bit. He's a Hurricane now."

Staal was a popular Penguins player. From scoring an NHL rookie-record seven shorthanded goals as an 18-year-old in 2006-07 to scoring memorable goals during victories in Games 4 and 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final to the career-high 50 points while being limited to 62 games last season, Staal was a valuable contributor to six consecutive Penguins playoff teams.

Staal was traded during the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh last summer. The Hurricanes surrendered Brandon Sutter, a first-round pick and defense prospect Brian Dumoulin. The deal has been a bonanza for the Penguins, who plugged Sutter into Staal's third-line center spot with similar results and were able to deal defense prospect Joe Morrow for Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow, in part, because of the surplus of young defensemen the Staal trade gave them.

United with brothers Jared and Carolina captain Eric Staal, Jordan Staal has had a mediocre season of 10 goals and 20 assists with a career-worst minus-17 rating. The Hurricanes are in 13th place in the conference standings.

"Coming into the last game of the year and you've got a team that's going into the playoffs and we're not," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "For sure it's a tough one for him, but like I said to him I like a lot of the things that we have going right now. I think his focus is on us right now and the things that need to be cleaned up over the summer to be ready to roll next year.

"I think he sees that and sees the light at the end of the tunnel and sees the promise in things, and that makes it a little bit easier coming back to a rink like this tonight."

If the morning skate is any indicator, Jordan Staal will be centering Tuomo Ruutu and Kevin Westgarth on Carolina's second line for the season finale.

The Hurricanes will welcome center Tim Brent and defenseman Joe Corvo back into the lineup. Brent missed eight games with a lower-body injury, and Corvo sat out Thursday's overtime loss to the New York Rangers because of an upper-body injury.

Muller said defenseman Jay Harrison sustained a concussion when he was struck in the nose with a puck during that game. Harrison's nose is not broken, but he will not play against the Penguins.

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Chad LaRose

Tuomo Ruutu - Jordan Staal - Kevin Westgarth

Tim Wallace - Jeff Skinner - Pat Dwyer

Nicolas Blanchard - Tim Brent - Jared Staal

Justin Faulk - Tim Gleason

Jamie McBain - Joe Corvo

Bobby Sanguinetti - Marc-Andre Bergeron

Justin Peters

Dan Ellis

Injured: Jay Harrison (concussion), Alexander Semin (concussion), Joni Pitkanen (heel)

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