Penguins Notebook: Injuries give minor-leaguers their shot

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Nathan Smith's NHL career spans four games with the Vancouver Canucks, the club that drafted him in the first round of the 2000 draft. But he was signed as a free agent in the offseason and will get a chance to pay dividends in tonight's game against the Devils after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre.

Scouting report
  • Matchup: Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils, 7:08 p.m. today, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
  • TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
  • Probable goaltenders: Ty Conklin for Penguins. Martin Brodeur for Devils.
  • Penguins: Are 1-3 against Devils, with all three losses by one goal on home ice. ... RW Petr Sykora has four goals, six assists in past 10 games. ... Are sixth-worst faceoff team in NHL, winning 48.4 percent of their draws.
  • Devils: Have gone 14-8 at Prudential Center, including 5-0 loss Nov. 5 to Penguins. ... D Colin White does not have goal in his past 123 games. ... Home-ice power play is NHL's third worst, with success rate of 14 percent.
  • Hidden stat: Penguins have been outshot in seven consecutive games and 11 of past 12.

"What works best for players is to play their own game. I'm not going to try to do too much offensively. I have to keep the game simple," said Smith, who had 34 points in 44 games while serving as captain of the Baby Penguins.

Smith was brought up yesterday along with Alain Nasreddine, who appeared in four games earlier this season in a stint in Pittsburgh. And although the spate of call-ups means the parent club is going through a rash of injuries and ailments, it has had a positive impact on players in the minors.

"You have a lot of guys getting a taste of the NHL. Guys down there are definitely motivated. They're working hard to get their turn," Smith said.

Staal tales

Penguins forward Jordan Staal was on a flight back to Pittsburgh and missed watching the NHL All-Star Game. He still hadn't seen any highlights as of yesterday afternoon, but he was thrilled that older brother Eric, who plays for the Carolina Hurricanes, won an SUV after being named the game's MVP.

"It was great for him to be acknowledged like that. I'm proud of him. Maybe I can win one myself," Jordan Staal said.

And what's going to happen with the SUV?

"That's a good question. Last I heard he was going to give it to me," Staal laughed.

Meanwhile, Staal had an unusual, if not unprecedented, experience recently when he watched his brother Marc, a defenseman with the New York Rangers, fight his roommate, Adam Hall.

"It was a little weird, watching those two fight," Staal said. "[But] it's part of the game, and Marc can hold his own."

If Staal had a strong stake in seeing either of the combatants come out on top, he wasn't letting on.

"I was rooting for a fair fight, I guess," he said. "But it wasn't too dangerous of a fight. It would have been nice to see a couple of shots from both sides."

A bitter taste

New Jersey figures to be highly motivated and focused tonight, given the outcome of its final game before the all-star break.

The Devils failed to hold a 3-1 lead at home against Montreal and, after being outshot, 20-3, in the third period, ended up losing, 4-3.

"It's real disappointing," Devils center John Madden said. "It's something we have to sit on for three days now -- how awful we played.

"Maybe it's something we need, an eye-opening loss for us. We were playing decent hockey, but not like we had been."

Slap shots

The Penguins said that Georges Laraque, who received a major penalty and a game misconduct for a run-in with Philadelphia's Steve Downie last week, will not be suspended. ... Kris Beech, claimed off waivers twice in a week, is with his fourth team this season. He encountered immigration problems and missed yesterday's practice, making his status for tonight uncertain. Beech, part of the 2001 trade that sent Jaromir Jagr to the Washington Capitals, is in his second stint with the Penguins. "He's kind of had a different journey than most of the guys who are here," said Ryan Malone. ... Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, whose return date from a high ankle sprain is still uncertain, skated in pads before yesterday's workout.


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