The Penguins did not officially know that center Jordan Staal would be in their lineup Wednesday night against the New York Islanders until early afternoon, when the NHL decided not to uphold a one-game suspension.
They did not expect Staal to be punished beyond the major penalty and match penalty he received a night earlier for punching Brandon Prust of the New York Rangers.
"I didn't think there would be a suspension," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I didn't think there would be with the rules in place. I was relieved they interpreted it that way."
Late in the second period of what became a 4-3 shootout win for the Penguins, Staal joined a scrum after Prust sent Tyler Kennedy sprawling with a hard check. Sticking up for his linemate, Staal exchanged a couple of shoves with Prust, then caught Prust on the jaw with his gloved left hand.
"Stuff like that happens in hockey," Staal said. "I just kind of reacted to a few plays that happened. It was not what I wanted to do, but it happens in hockey."
Asked if Prust might have embellished by dropping to the ice and grabbing his face, Staal said:
"That's one of those spur-of-the-moment things. You're not really sure what happened, and the next thing you're going to the [penalty] box.
"I was a little surprised when the ref told me I had to get out of there. I obviously wasn't happy about it."
Under NHL Rule 21.2, a player who receives a match penalty gets an automatic one-game suspension, but the league reviews such plays and has the option of rescinding the suspension. The match penalty Staal received was for intent to injure.
"I think what happened on the ice was reactionary," Bylsma said. "He went in to take exception to the hit on [Kennedy]. They both kind of engaged. ... It's certainly unfortunate. He does take a penalty. I didn't think there was intent."
Penguins center Mark Letestu was scheduled to have an MRI on what is believed to be a knee injury.
He apparently caught a skate in a rut at Madison Square Garden at the team's morning skate Tuesday and missed the game against the Rangers.
Forward Arron Asham is day to day, Bylsma said, with an unspecified injury that forced him out of the game against the Rangers.
There was some thought that forward Evgeni Malkin would play against the Islanders, but instead he had a rigorous skate in the morning and "appears to be, hopefully, progressing toward playing later this week," Bylsma said.
Malkin missed a fifth game in a row with what originally was a left knee injury and then a sinus infection.
"It's not like he has to get better anymore," Bylsma said.
"He's had a couple of good days. It looks like he should be ready to go to the next level, which is playing."
Malkin was put in injured reserve, retroactive to Jan. 18, but is eligible to come off at any time.
Penguins defenseman Alex Goligoski is a Green Bay Packers fan down to his hockey socks, but he apparently has not been strutting even with his team in the Super Bowl against the Steelers and game day getting close.
At least, he has not drawn flak for his allegiance.
"No one's really said anything yet," said Goligoski, who is not willing to sell a Packers win.
"I just hope it's a good game," he said.
"It should be a great matchup. No prediction."
Bylsma said there was "nothing new on Sidney" Crosby, who is recovering from a concussion. ... The Penguins' only healthy scratch was defenseman Ben Lovejoy. ... Islanders winger Matt Moulson, a one-time Penguins prospect, signed three-year, $9.4 million deal last week.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published February 3, 2011 6:45 AM