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Staal OK for matchup vs. Capitals

by Alan Robinson /
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins already were without their top two centers. They won't be missing their top remaining center when they finish their always-entertaining season series against the Washington Capitals on Monday (7:30 p.m., VERSUS, TSN2, RDS).

Jordan Staal, one of the NHL's best two-way forwards, will play, according to coach Dan Bylsma, despite being struck on the left cheek with the puck in overtime during Pittsburgh's 3-2 loss in Chicago on Sunday.

Staal, stationed near the net, tried to duck to avoid a shot from teammate Kris Letang but couldn't avoid being struck. He did not return, but after the game he flashed a thumbs-up sign to Bylsma.

Bylsma said Staal has some swelling in the cheek, but wasn't otherwise injured.

Staal no doubt didn't want to miss any more playing time. After missing just one game in his first four seasons, he didn't play this season until Jan. 1 due to a right foot infection, which developed after he was cut by a skate blade during the playoffs last spring, and a broken right hand that occurred Nov. 1 when he took a puck off the hand during practice.

Pittsburgh has been playing without top centers Sidney Crosby (concussion, out indefinitely) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery, out for the season).

The Penguins could regain one of their numerous injured forwards later in the week. Chris Kunitz, who has 18 goals and 36 points in 52 games, took part in an optional morning skate Monday and is expected to return to practice soon. He has been out with a lower-body injury since Feb. 6.

"You don't want to come back too soon because you might get reinjured," Kunitz said.

Bylsma said defenseman Paul Martin will be a game-time decision. He was driven into the boards Sunday in Chicago, but returned to the game.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 29 saves against the Blackhawks, will be in goal.

The Capitals again will be without defenseman Mike Green (inner ear), who will miss his fifth consecutive game. Green was struck by the puck near his right ear against Pittsburgh on Feb. 6.

Green took part in the morning skate, but coach Bruce Boudreau said he believes Green would benefit from the three days off the Capitals will have after Monday. Their next game isn't until Friday against the Rangers.

"Let's make 100-percent sure that when he's ready Friday for the Rangers, he's ready," Boudreau said of Green.

Washington has dropped four of its last six games, but has beaten Pittsburgh twice in three meetings this season. The Caps have won six in a row in Pittsburgh -- including the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Heinz Field. The longest winning streak by an opponent in Pittsburgh is eight, by the New Jersey Devils from 2002-05.
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