Colin McDonald isn't looking to spread sour grapes -- "I already may have been too outspoken," he said -- but the winger can't stress enough how glad he is to be in the Penguins organization.
"In my four years with Edmonton, I had four different coaches in the American [Hockey] League, and three of them, it was their first year as a coach at the professional level. I just felt like it was hard to develop there," said McDonald, who was recalled from Wilkes-Barre of the AHL and made his Penguins debut Friday against the New York Rangers.
"And just coming here, it's completely different. I've said many times I wish I could have started here, but that's just not the way it happened. I'm trying to take advantage of being here and I would like to stay here for years to come. From top to bottom, it's so professional. They're so knowledgeable."
The Oilers drafted McDonald, 27, in the second round of the 2003 draft. By last season, he was on an AHL contract rather than an NHL one, then was not re-signed after scoring 42 goals for Oklahoma City.
That is when the Penguins came calling.
McDonald had played in just two NHL games (in 2009-10) before Friday. He was leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 28 points, including 20 assists, in 33 games before he got called up.
The Penguins had a break built into their schedule -- they hadn't played since an afternoon game Saturday at New Jersey -- giving them time to get a couple of injured players healthy.
And they did, but they nearly lost another.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek missed the Friday morning skate but was in the lineup against the Rangers after being listed as a game-time decision. He apparently was dealing with the effects of a blocked shot Thursday in practice.
Meanwhile, defenseman Paul Martin returned after missing six games because of an unspecified injury; forward Richard Park returned after missing 11 games because of a broken right foot; and winger Pascal Dupuis, who left the Saturday game because of an unspecified injury, played.
Winger Arron Asham, who left that Devils game after blocking a shot on or near his left knee, continues to skate separately from the rest of the team.
Defenseman Kris Letang, out since Nov. 26 because of a concussion, skated for the first time, indicating he "has reached that level of his rehab," coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's a good sign."
There was no update on center Sidney Crosby, who has concussion symptoms.
Rangers forward Mike Rupp became the latest former Penguins player to return to Consol Energy Center with warm feelings.
"I've had my best two years of my career here. I think that goes with just overall being happy in a hockey environment and playing, having a great group of guys," said Rupp, a rugged, hard-working player who had a career-best 13 goals in 2009-10 and nine last season with the Penguins.
"The coaches were great to me. The organization was awesome. The fans were fantastic. It's a place that was really welcoming for me and my family. We've lived in this area for a while and plan on continuing to do that, so it's home for us."
Rupp had been limited to 16 games with the Rangers going into the game Friday because of arthroscopic knee surgery, but he made a splash Monday when he scored twice to help New York beat Philadelphia, 3-2, in the outdoor Winter Classic -- and mocked a former Penguin not in very good standing with fans, Jaromir Jagr, by doing a salute as a goal celebration.
Although Rupp didn't participate in the optional morning skate, he took in a few minutes of the Penguins skate.
Penguins winger Steve Sullivan, who missed practice Thursday because of illness, was in the lineup. ... Crosby watched the game from the team management box on the media level, as he did for a stretch of time late last season. ... Rangers coach John Tortorella earned a spot behind one of the benches at the All-Star Game Jan. 19 in Ottawa, based on New York's midseason record. Boston's Claude Julien will be the other coach.
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: email@example.com , 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.