Penguins center Jordan Staal
spoke to reporters on Thursday at the Iceoplex at Southpointe for the first time since the team announced he would miss the beginning of the regular season following a procedure to cure an infection in his foot.
Staal originally suffered a lacerated tendon injury on his foot during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals when he was accidently stepped on by Montreal’s P.K. Subban during a battle for a loose puck. The next day, Staal underwent a procedure to repair the tendon, forcing him to miss Games 2 and 3, before he made a dramatic return in Game 4.
The infection did not develop until after a follow-up procedure in June.
While Staal is still not sure when he will be able return to the lineup, he did give an encouraging report when he talked about no longer experiencing any swelling or feeling any pain in the foot.
“There’s nothing really, no pain at all, so it’s just a matter of getting the incision closed and getting into a skate,” Staal.
As far as the infection itself, Staal said it came as a surprise to him because he initially felt really good after he had the second procedure done.
“Basically, I just had that second procedure and it felt good,” Staal said. “But towards the end it had an infection, and it’s just been ongoing ever since. I’m just trying to clear it up and it’s been frustrating ever since. I think right now it feels really good and it’s heading in the right direction.”
Although Staal is heading in the right direction, when he will be able to get his foot into a skate is a question even he still can’t answer definitively. He hopes that it will occur sometime in the next few weeks, but right now he is more concerned about being able to resume his workouts, which he expects will happen by next week.
“I’m hopefully starting to work out next week getting my legs back into shape,” Staal said. “It’s kind of withered away a little bit, so I’m hoping to get back into shape as soon as possible.
“It’s not going to be easy. I didn’t have much working out going on this summer, and the way my body is right now, I have to get into shape pretty quickly. It’s not going to be too easy, but hopefully I can do it quick.”
After practice, head coach Dan Bylsma reiterated his stance from two weeks ago, and echoed Staal’s words, by saying the team has no plans to rush Staal back.
“There is not a timetable right now … He’s getting healthy, he’s getting better,” Bylsma said. “He’s on the road (to recovery), and when he gets to the next step we’ll see him get on the ice. We haven’t put a timetable on it. We’re just making sure he’s going to heal and get better before he gets to the next step.”
Staal promised that he expects to be as close to his old self as he can when he returns, but he did admit that having a setback like he did is tough on a guy whose streak of 302-consecutive regular-season appearances will end when he misses the season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 7 – especially knowing that game will be the first-ever regular-season contest at CONSOL Energy Center.
“It’s frustrating for any player going through this kind of thing,” Staal lamented. “Again, it’s the first bump in my career and I’m sure everyone goes through it. I’ll get through.
“(Missing the first game) definitely hit me hard. The arena’s pretty special and obviously to play the first game would have been a pretty special feeling, but it comes with the territory playing hockey. You find injuries every now and then.”
It’s helped Staal’s recovery that his teammates have been there for last season’s Selke Trophy finalist throughout his ordeal, although Staal has tried to stay in the background as often as he can to prevent being a distraction with reporters consistently asking his teammates about his absence.
“I’ve just been sitting at home relaxing, but I’ve had a few conversations here and there coming in and talking to the guys and coaches,” Staal said. “But it’s mostly just been relaxing and keeping my foot up.”
Bylsma said that keeping Staal away was also good for the 22-year-old’s psyche, because in the grand scheme of things, the number of games Staal misses is irrelevant to his coming back at full strength when that return does occur.
“When you’re reminded of the fact that you’re not at training camp, you see it at practice, you see it on the news and you see it at exhibition games – it’s tough to deal with it,” Bylsma said. “The big picture is that he will get better and he’s going to get back on the ice. It’s going to happen for him, and he may get 75, 70 games. He may get 68 and this will be a blip in his season and not as big of a deal for him.”
Read all of Staal's comments at today's Penguins Report
. Keep checking PittsburghPenguins.com later today for more Staal reaction.