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Game Day: Too Early to Tell on Staal

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins center Jordan Staal suffered a knee-to-knee collision with the Rangers Mike Rupp Friday night in the third period of a 3-1 loss to New York at CONSOL Energy Center. He left the game and did not return.

Following Pittsburgh’s Saturday morning skate head coach Dan Bylsma said there was no update yet on Staal’s condition.

“You saw (Staal) leave the game with an apparent knee injury,” Bylsma said. “At this point in time it’s too early to tell the significance of the injury. Maybe in the next few days we’ll have an update on what the timetable will be for that.”

In Staal’s absence, the Pens will adjust their lineup tonight. One maneuver is repositioning Pascal Dupuis to center as part of a defensive, checking unit.

“Dupuis has (played center) a couple times for us with success,” Bylsma said. “We’ll see him go up against the (Patrik) Elias line in a checking role. We’ll count on Richard Park and Joe Vitale to fill in the penalty killing and faceoff roles and defensive situations when called upon.”

Today’s optional morning skate was the perfect opportunity for Dustin Jeffrey to rejoin his teammates for the first time since starting his current rehab stint for an injured knee.
“It’s going well. I think practice today went really well,” Jeffrey said of how he’s feeling. “It’s just a matter of managing my injury and making sure we don’t have any other setbacks.”
After making his season debut Oct. 20 and playing the next six games (plus a short conditioning stint in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), Jeffrey, 23, was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 11 to continue to rehab his knee injury, originally suffered March 24 vs. Philadelphia.
While there was always the possibility of needing another surgery for the knee, Jeffrey explained he didn’t need it because his injury was handled the proper way.
“We’ve taken the time and we’ve managed it right,” he said. “Now it’s under control and I can get back to start pushing it more and hopefully return to games soon.”
Jeffrey had recently been skating before practice with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, and they decided he was ready to make the next step. And although today’s skate was optional, Jeffrey will be participating in full practices with the team from here on out.
“We have a lot of games coming up, so we’re not sure when we’re going to have full practices,” he said. “So it was an opportunity today to just jump in. whatever the schedule brings in the next week or so, we’re going to get into as many practices as we can.”

Marc-Andre Fleury is back between the pipes for Pittsburgh after playing Friday against the Rangers.

“Tonight, he’s the guy we want in the cage in this game,” Bylsma said. “It’s a big game for our team. We’re rebounding and he’s going up against (Martin) Brodeur. We want to see ‘Flower’ in the cage.”
It’ll be a special night for Fleury, as tonight will mark his 400th career NHL game.
It’s quite the feat for any player, especially for a goaltender – and specifically one as young as Fleury, who turned 27 just over a month ago.
“I see Marc as an old guy even though 27 is not old,” Bylsma said. “He’s played a lot of hockey. He came in the league at 18 years old. He’s been in playoff series, he’s been to the Final twice – he’s played so much hockey that I’m not surprised to see him play his 400th game.”
And to make it even more significant, Fleury will likely accomplish the feat going head-to-head with his hockey idol. Fleury was raised in Sorel, Quebec – just over an hour from Brodeur’s hometown of Montreal – and idolized the Devils netminder growing up.
Granted, Fleury has a ways to go before catching Brodeur, who’s got 1,156 games in the National Hockey League, but playing against him does make the milestone more special for ‘Flower.’
“I think he definitely is aware of who the other goaltender is when it’s Martin Brodeur,” Bylsma smiled. “He definitely gets a little charged up about playing against him.

Pens forward Richard Park returned to the lineup against the Rangers Friday night after missing 11 games with a broken foot, suffered when blocking a shot Dec. 3 at Carolina.

Park, who took part in the team’s morning skate, said he felt good following the game and this morning.

“I feel good,” Park said. “You never really know what to expect. You have a lot of adrenaline going into the game. I thought things went well. I’m looking to continue to build on that.

Park was also sporting a new cut with stitches under his right eye. He left the game to have the cut attended to by trainers, but returned to finish the contest. Park will be in the lineup tonight. 

“The eye is always a scary thing, but I’m pretty fortunate,” Park said.

The Pens and Devils will meet in an Atlantic Division battle at CONSOL Energy Center Saturday night at 7 pm.

Pittsburgh and New Jersey are currently tied in the standings with 46 points each, meaning tonight’s game will be a big four-point swing for both clubs. The Devils also played Friday night, a 5-2 victory over Florida in New Jersey.

Future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur is expected to get the start between the pipes.

“We played them not too long ago in New Jersey,” Bylsma said. “They have a balanced attack in a lot of different areas. You always have to be aware of their goaltender and the factor that he’ll play in the game.”

The Penguins held an optional morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center Saturday.

Twelve Pens took part in the optional skate. They were forwards Jeffrey, Steve MacIntyre, Colin McDonald, Chris Kunitz, Park, Joe Vitale and Matt Cooke, defenseman Deryk Engelland, Matt Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy and goaltenders Brent Johnson and Fleury.

The Pens opened the day with a roster move, re-assigning defenseman Robert Bortuzzo to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Bortuzzo has been sidelined with a concussion he suffered Dec. 8 at Philadelphia.

Compiled by Sam Kasan and Michelle Crechiolo
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