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Shero Finds Silver Lining In Staal's Extended Absence

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Just when it appeared as if Penguins center Jordan Staal was getting close to returning to the lineup, the 22-year-old’s comeback attempt was dealt a harsh blow on Monday morning.

Penguins forward Jordan Staal will miss up to six weeks with a fractured right hand.
Staal fractured his right hand when he was hit with a puck during Monday’s practice at the Iceoplex at Southpointe, an injury that could keep him on the shelf for the next six weeks.

Staal will undergo surgery on his right hand Tuesday morning.

“Unfortunately Jordan broke his hand in a freak accident,” general manager Ray Shero said. “You always want to find the positives in every situation. He will get to come back and make an impact on a big portion of our season. That’s what we will look forward to. It’s disappointing, but not the end of the world because he was so close to coming back.”

The fractured right hand is another in a series of setbacks for Staal, who has missed the entire season thus far due to a foot infection that developed this summer following a post-op procedure on the lacerated tendon he first injured during the 2010 postseason.

Staal originally had a procedure to repair the torn tendon on his foot following Game 1 of the Penguins’ Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Montreal Canadiens last spring. He quickly recovered from that injury, returning to play Games 3-7.

However, during the follow-up procedure in June, Staal developed an infection which prevented him from working out or skating until recently. In fact, Staal’s first practice with the team occurred just two weeks ago on Oct. 19.

Based upon how well Staal was progressing with each practice, and judging by the fact he began Monday’s practice by centering a line with Mike Comrie and Tyler Kennedy flanking him on either side, the thought was that Staal was going to make his 2010-11 season debut sometime during the Penguins’ upcoming three-game West Coast trip – possibly even Wednesday night in Dallas.

“We were actually looking at him coming back on Wednesday, that’s how far he has progressed,” Shero said.

Now that return will have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

Shero, who did not get to talk to Staal, was able to exchange a couple of text messages with last season’s Selke Trophy finalist.

“He had worked really hard to get to this point, which isn’t surprising because that is the way that he is,” Shero said. “He will do the same thing with this injury. There has to be a silver lining with everything. For me, it’s that he will get a chance to get a significant portion of our season in. That is the good news.

“I keep saying this, but if he is going to miss the first 12 games, 30 games or whatever it is, it’s much tougher to hear that a guy is going to miss the remainder of the season when he gets hurt in February. We’ll move on and give some other guys more opportunities and kind of go from there.”

While Staal’s broken hand is an obvious blow because of his value to the team and because he was so close to returning, the Penguins have the depth down the middle to continue to withstand his absence.

Mark Letestu continues to pace all rookies with four goals (tied), Mike Comrie has picked up five assists over his past eight contests and Maxime Talbot scored in Saturday night’s 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

“We believe we have a good hockey team,” Shero said. “We are a better team with Jordan, but without him we are amongst many teams that have some good players out of their lineup. I like the strength and character of our team. We are getting points.

“For me, we have a big road trip coming up here. We are 5-2-1 in our last eight games and that is a positive. We will keep moving on and continue biding our time until Jordan comes back to help us out.”

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