MONTREAL, QUEBEC – Penguins center Jordan Staal
took part in a full practice with his teammates for the first time since suffering an injury in Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens.
Staal missed the second half of Game 1 and Games 2 and 3 – the first two contests he’s missed due to injury in his four-year career – after having a surgical procedure to repair a torn tendon on his foot.
“Being able to stay out there as long as I can and not feeling that it isn’t getting worse is a good thing,” Staal said. “It wasn’t really getting any worse. I’m feeling pretty happy.”
“We saw Jordan the next morning,” head coach Dan Bylsma said, “and with the way he was progressing he was able to come on the trip (to Montreal) with the knowledge that he’d be working to get back to skating, get back on the ice. He’s progressed nicely. We knew he was getting better with how his foot responded. He’s excited to get back on the ice.”
Staal, who is listed as day-to-day, took part in all the drills at the Bell Centre, and appeared strong on his skates just four days after surgery. He first tested out his foot by skating gingerly for five minutes Tuesday prior to the Penguins’ Game 3 morning skate after lobbying the Penguins coaching staff.
“(Tuesday) morning I threw it out there just to see what they’d say,” Staal said. “They kind of shrugged their shoulders and said 'why not.' I went out and tested it out. (Wednesday) I decided to get a full practice in and it felt good.”
Staal pushed his foot more and more as he went through the practice. He appeared to get stronger with each stride, and was looking like his old self toward the end. However, he is still in the early stages of his recovery and there is no indication yet on when he will return to the lineup.
“We don’t have a time frame,” Bylsma said. “He skated a little bit yesterday and today he was in his full gear. He was getting around the ice pretty well. It’s encouraging for him. We’ll see how he is tomorrow morning when he wakes up.
“When Jordan first got out there he was dipping his foot in the water to see how his foot was going to react. In the four-on-four (drill), a couple times he busted through the defense and skated by guys. You probably didn’t see anything that would remind you that he has an injury in his foot. We’ll talk to the trainers today and see how his foot reacts. Judging by the end of his practice, I am a lot more comfortable with how he was skating than when he first got out there.”
“That’s up to the coaches, doctors and trainers, see what they say,” Staal commented. “I’m feeling great.
“Practice is one thing but in games there are hits, leaning on each other and getting into scrums. Mentally for a player that’s tough to get into.”
Staal suffered the injury early in the second period of Game 1 when he was cut during a collision at the Montreal blue line with Habs defenseman PK Subban. Staal left the game and had surgery that evening.
“It was a freak accident,” Staal recalled. “I went to the bench and looked down. It wasn’t looking good. I went to the room and took the skate off. I knew it wasn’t just a cut. I went straight to the hospital after, had surgery, went home and had a good sleep.”
For Staal, who wore the same pair of skates that had the tongue sliced in the incident during Wednesday’s practice with new plastic protectors, dealing with an injury is something new to the Thunder Bay, Ontario native.
The injury snapped his streak of 358 consecutive games played (including playoffs), which dated back to his rookie season. Staal had previously only missed one game in his career when he was a healthy scratch. It’s been nearly four years since he’s last had to sit out and watch a game.
“I haven’t had that feeling in a long time of not playing, it’s not a fun feeling,” Staal said. “You want to get back as soon as you can no matter what, even if there is pain involved. It’s always a good feeling to get back with the guys and playing again.”Notes:
Bylsma still wouldn't disclosed Bill Guerin's injury that forced him out for Game 3, but he did add that Guerin may skate Thursday ... The Penguins had an optional practice at Bell Centre. In all, 13 players participated: forwards Craig Adams
, Chris Conner, Ruslan Fedotenko, Eric Godard, Tyler Kennedy
, Mark Letestu, Mike Rupp and Staal, defensemen Deryk Engelland
, Ben Lovejoy
and Jay McKee and goaltenders Brent Johnson
and Brad Thiessen
... The Canadiens also had an optional practice at their practice facility. Seven players were in uniform for the Habs: Mathieu Darche, Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Ben Maxwell, Glen Metropolit and Carey Price.