NEW YORK -- Penguins rookie center Jordan Staal won't be playing for Canada at the 2007 world junior championships.
General manager Ray Shero said yesterday that he had "significant discussions" with Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson before denying his request that Staal be made available for the tournament, which will run Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Sweden.
"I told him that Jordan will be staying with us," Shero said. "That's our decision, and I'm not going to flip-flop on it.
"I don't think [the tournament] is better competition than he's going to get right here. When we kept him [at the start of the season], when we evaluated everything, the world juniors really wasn't at the top of my list for Jordan at this point."
Staal, a healthy scratch for the Penguins' 3-2 loss Tuesday to Florida, was back in uniform when they faced the New York Rangers last night at Madison Square Garden. And even though the world juniors is a major event on his country's sporting calendar, Staal said he is happy to be staying with the Penguins.
"It's a good thing," he said. "I'd rather be here, I think, and be part of this team. The fact that they want to keep me here obviously means I'm doing something right."
True enough, but he also has experienced some of the lows that go with being an NHL rookie. Especially an 18-year-old one.
He did not have a goal in his seven previous games before last night and had just been held out of a game for non-medical reasons for the first time in memory. Shero, though, said the team isn't concerned about the bumps Staal has hit during his first winter as a pro.
"This is what I talked about before the season started," he said. "He may not play every game. That's OK. We're in this for the long run with Jordan, and this is part of [his] development."
And competing in the 2007 world juniors will not be.
Will he or won't he?
Left winger John LeClair, who technically rejoined the Penguins' major-league roster when he cleared re-entry waivers earlier this week, was returned to their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre yesterday.
LeClair was assigned to the Baby Penguins for the second time in a week because the Penguins needed room on their 23-man roster for right winger Michel Ouellet, who went back on active duty after missing six games because of a series of injuries.
Penguins officials said LeClair, who has spent the past week with his family in suburban Philadelphia, has not told them whether he plans to report to Wilkes-Barre. LeClair has not played in the minors since the 1991-92 season, when he was a Montreal prospect.
If LeClair declines to either go to Wilkes-Barre or retire sometime in the reasonably near future, it's possible the Penguins will suspend him. Unless he retires or is suspended, they will remain on the hook for his $1.5 million salary, which also is what he would be paid for playing in the minors.
Period of adjustment
Evgeni Malkin, the first-year Penguins center, is getting acclimated to two of the biggest changes he faced upon his arrival in North America -- a smaller ice surface and a new language.
Malkin, speaking through interpreter George Birman, said the smaller size of NHL's playing surface is "the biggest difference" between it and the Russian Super League, and that it affects the way the game is played.
"Over here, there's much more speed, and you have to make decisions much faster," he said.
And while Malkin certainly isn't chatty in the locker room, he gets involved -- a little involved -- in conversations with his teammates every now and then.
"The guys around me help a lot with the language," he said. "I'm starting to learn English, so I know a [few] words. I can answer some simple questions."
New York left winger Brendan Shanahan, who had 20 goals in 27 games before last night, is the fourth player in NHL history to record 20 in 18 or more seasons. The others are Gordie Howe (22), Ron Francis (20) and Dave Andreychuk (19). ... Defenseman Kristopher Letang, who played in the Penguins' first seven games before being returned to his junior team in Val d'Or, Quebec, has been invited to Canada's training camp for the world juniors. ... The Penguins scratched defenseman Rob Scuderi (illness) and forwards Ronald Petrovicky and Chris Thorburn last night.