center Jordan Staal
has had his nose sewn together with stitches and glue. He's taken shots off nearly every body part imaginable and has butted helmets against every top-line center in the NHL.
So when you make note that he's played more games than anyone in the NHL over the past three seasons, he deflects it as if it's a screaming Alex Ovechkin
"There hasn't been a whole lot of rest this season," Staal told NHL.com. "But I wouldn't have it any other way."
If you add the 102 games he played in 2007-08 (playoffs included) to the 106 games he played last season (playoffs included), Staal entered this season having played more games than anyone in the NHL. And he hasn't skipped a beat this season, playing in all 62 games for the Penguins.
"This last month has been really tough for our team and for myself," Staal admitted before the Olympic break. "The games and the practices all start mixing together and every day is the same stuff. It's hard mentally to get through it. It plays as much on your mind as it does physically."
That hasn't stopped Staal from becoming the Penguins' all-time iron man at the age of 21. On Jan. 28, Staal became the youngest player in NHL history (21 years, 140 days) to play 300 games.
His 356 straight games, including playoffs, is tops in club history.
Staal's streak would have been even longer had he not been a healthy scratch for one game during his rookie season with the Penguins.
Staal probably would have won the Calder Trophy during the 2006-07 season if not for teammate Evgeni Malkin
, whose 33 goals and 85 points made him an easy choice over Staal, who totaled an impressive 29 goals and 42 points.
Staal occasionally lined up as Malkin's right wing that rookie season, but the two have played together very little since then – until now.
Looking for some offensive spark, coach Dan Bylsma
united Malkin and Staal recently and Staal quickly ended a 12-game goal drought.
"It's not something I could feel comfortable doing at different times later in the year if we don't try it now," Byslma said. "We have seen Geno and Staalsy play together previously in their career. We saw them earlier in the year for very short times. Now we have seen them (again)."
Staal has been playing between Malkin on the left and Pascal Dupuis
on the right.
"Playing with Geno is always exciting for me because he's such an amazing player to play with," Staal said. "He makes my job easy because all I have to do is go to the net with my stick on the ice and he usually finds it."
Like many of the Penguins' fans, Staal is eager to see if General Manager Ray Shero
will wave his magic wand before the March 3 trade deadline. Two years ago Shero struck gold when he obtained Marian Hossa
prior to the deadline and last year he snagged Bill Guerin
as a late-season addition to Sidney Crosby
's top line.
"I think the GMs might like the deadline more than the players," Staal said. "Nobody wants to see teammates leave, but it's part of the business. Sometimes teams add the right players at the right times and they get a little spark. It's worked well for us the past couple years."
The Penguins were not believed to have strong interest in Kovalchuk but they are rumored to be in the hunt for Carolina Hurricanes
veteran Ray Whitney
"I know from my brother (Carolina captain Eric Staal
) what Ray can do for a hockey team," Staal said. "He sees the ice well and he's an unbelievable guy off the ice as well. I'm sure a lot of teams would like to have him if he's available."
During the Olympics, Jordan watched as Eric played for Team Canada.
"The more and more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be on that team," Staal said. "People told me I was a player very close to making it, so I was a little disappointed. It's too bad, but I'm still young enough that if we go in the future I'd like to go."