Jason Williams understands what it takes to earn a job in the NHL.
After all, he broke into the league more than a decade ago and has played 447 regular-season games there. So rest assured, he knows.
Which means he realizes that no one -- especially a guy on a two-way contract -- can prove he's worthy of a roster spot on the strength of anything he does while sitting in a press box.
That is why Williams, who was scheduled to make his preseason debut Thursday night against Chicago, was so unhappy about having to spend the evening in street clothes after a lingering groin problem flared during the game-day skate.
- Preseason game: Wild vs. Penguins, 3 p.m.
- Where: Consol Energy Center.
- TV: Root Sports
"It's very disappointing," he said. "It's very frustrating, more than anything."
Things aren't likely to be much better for him today. Williams sat out practice Friday at Southpointe and is a long shot to dress for the exhibition game against Minnesota at 3 p.m. at Consol Energy Center.
Williams' injury puts him in something of a Catch-22. If he doesn't take part in games, he can't demonstrate to the coaching staff that he deserves a place on the regular-season roster.
But if he tries to play while operating at significantly less than 100 percent, Williams risks performing below the level he might otherwise reach, all but assuring himself of a trip to Wilkes-Barre before the season begins.
"For me to play at 75 or 80 percent, it's not going to help my cause," Williams said. "I'm trying to make an impression and I have to make sure I'm feeling good. I'd rather rest it now, let it heal and not rush into anything."
At the same time, the Penguins are down to their final four exhibition games and are less than two weeks removed from the start of the regular season. So, even though the book on Williams' game is pretty complete by this point in his career, management would like to get some visual evidence that he can fill the role it had in mind when he was signed as a free agent in July.
"He's in a competition to show what he can do, and there are certain areas that he's added in the past and can add, and he's not getting a chance to do that right now," coach Dan Bylsma said.
"Hopefully, at some point in time, he gets to get out there and show he can be effective in those areas because that's what he's done in the past and what we're hoping to see from him."
Williams can play all three forward positions and is not out of place when deployed with skilled linemates. He also has extensive experience manning the point on the power play, and Bylsma has made it known that he's interested in using a forward to fill one of those spots this season, at least part of the time.
"It's something I like to do, and it gives you a different perspective on the game," Williams said. "I like to shoot the puck and, when I can get back there and use my shot, I think that's one of the main things I can do.
"I talked to Dan before I signed. I just thought there would be a good opportunity here. Playing on the point of the power play is something I really thrive on doing.
"He said he was going to give me a good chance to show that I can do that. If I can help out there, that's great."
Williams won't get to make his case until he's healthy enough to get into games.
He thought his groin problem, an issue for most of the time since he arrived about a week before camp opened, had passed when he turned in a solid showing during the' Black and Gold scrimmage Monday in Wilkes-Barre -- "I felt the best I've felt in camp," he said -- but it resurfaced a few days later.
"It's low in the belly, in the groin," he said. "It's something where you take a few days and try to let it rest. It usually doesn't take too long. It's when it gets up really high, up into your stomach, that you get into problems."
So Williams is taking a prudent, patient stance toward getting back on the ice, even though he clearly is eager to rejoin the battle for a spot on the opening-night roster.
"If I just take some time here and try to let it rest, make sure I'm feeling 100 percent when I get back," he said.
"I'm just going to go day-by-day right now. Hopefully, in the next couple of days, I can feel good."
NOTES -- Center Sidney Crosby participated in a practice Friday but still has not been cleared for contact. Defenseman Kris Letang missed the workout because of a migraine, while defenseman Brooks Orpik was given a "maintenance day." ... The Penguins cut their training-camp roster to 39 by sending forwards Bryan Lerg, Zach Sill and Keven Veilleux to Wilkes-Barre.