Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is willing to concede that Jordan Staal won't be in the lineup tonight when the Penguins face Dallas at American Airlines Center.
No real surprise there, considering that Staal was to have surgery Tuesday to repair damage in his right hand, which was broken in practice Monday, and is not expected to play for about six weeks.
What really wasn't expected was that Bylsma would be so upbeat about the prospects of having three injured players - center Evgeni Malkin (knee) and defensemen Kris Letang (hand/wrist) and Alex Goligoski (undisclosed) - back in uniform.
Especially when Goligoski sat out Tuesday's practice at Southpointe.
Nonetheless, Bylsma said, "I'm optimistic about everyone but Jordan," while noting that no decisions on any of the injured players will be finalized until today.
Malkin, who sat out the Penguins' 3-0 victory Saturday at Carolina because of a bruised knee, pronounced himself prepared to return, even though he got a minor scare when he went down after his skate appeared to catch a rut about an hour into practice.
Malkin said, "I couldn't move" immediately after falling, but that his concern passed quickly.
"My knee was a little bit sore, but it was just five seconds," he said. "It's all right."
Although Letang did not pronounce himself to be pain-free - "The pain, when I get a pass, kind of vibrates through my fingers and my hand," he said - he seemed cautiously optimistic.
"It's not comfortable, but it's good enough," he said. "It's not that I can't hold my stick, or anything like that.
"You need to be able to make plays out there and not put your team or yourself in trouble. If I'm not able to handle the puck, it's not good to go in there.
"I don't think it could get worse. It's just a matter of time to feel comfortable."
The Penguins have failed to score a power-play goal in five consecutive games, but the Stars have the least effective penalty killing in the NHL and have given up eight power-play goals in six home games.
Point man Paul Martin, however, said the Penguins have to fix what is wrong with their power play, rather than hoping a struggling penalty-killing unit will cure it. He also noted that simply getting a man-advantage goal or two could make a huge difference, regardless of how it is scored.
"You always like to see the plays being made that the coaches have been teaching you [produce goals], but sometimes it just takes getting the puck to the net and screens or rebounds," Martin said. "Hopefully, it's something where we can just get one and start to feel better about it.
"When you're feeling good about it, it continues to go better. If you're questioning things and you're not comfortable, it's tough to have that confidence in it."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was born in San Francisco and spent the first seven years of his life there. That was long enough for him to become a lifelong Giants fan, especially when his father's job with an equipment manufacturer gave him access to places most young fans can only dream of going.
"I remember going down to Candlestick Park all the time, down to the cluhouse and hanging out," he said.
Orpik noted that some of the Giants staff members who were around in those days still work for the team, which only enhanced his happiness about seeing them win the World Series.
"It's pretty sweet," Orpik said.
Bylsma declined to identify his goaltender for the Stars game, but Brent Johnson, coming off a 33-save shutout at Carolina, seemed to be the favorite. He and Marc-Andre Fleury figure to split the final two games on the trip.
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org .