RALEIGH, N.C. -- Brandon Sutter isn't the one who asked to change teams.
He never said a word about wanting to be united with a blood relative, even though Sutter's kin have passed through the NHL almost by the dozen over the past few decades.
So, no, Sutter did nothing to bring about the trade in June, when the Penguins sent center Jordan Staal to Carolina for Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and a 2012 first-round draft choice that became defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
While Staal figures to get most of the attention before and during the Penguins' game tonight against the Hurricanes, it will be a pretty significant evening for Sutter, too, because he also will be facing his former club for the first time, in what was his home rink for his first four NHL seasons.
"Obviously, it's a little extra special when you're playing against a bunch of friends and fans who really treated me well," he said.
When the Penguins acquired Sutter, he was slotted into the spot opened by Staal's departure, and he has executed those third-line duties effectively for the first 17-plus games. He was bumped up the depth chart Friday after No. 2 center Evgeni Malkin was felled by a concussion. So far, Sutter has handled his upgraded role well, too.
Staal's former teammates -- who make no attempt to hide their affection and respect for him --have volunteered lavish praise for the guy who replaced him.
"[Sutter] has been great for us," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "If we'd just gotten nothing back but a draft pick for [Staal], you'd have a bigger void. I think [Sutter] has filled the void pretty well."
Sutter said he has paid "a little bit" of attention to how Carolina's season is going and has remained in contact, generally by text message, with a number of former teammates, including Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tim Brent and Tim Gleason.
Sutter said getting traded because Jordan Staal wanted to play on the same team as his older brother, Eric, has not had any impact on his relationship with the elder Staal.
"We just talk like we always have," he said. "It really doesn't matter who you're traded for. Obviously, it's a little unique, but that's just the way it is."
The same could be said of the game tonight. The trade to the Penguins was Sutter's first, so facing a team for which he once played will be a new experience.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "And probably looking forward to getting it over with, too."
Malkin back on the ice
Evgeni Malkin's recovery from a concussion took a significant step forward Wednesday.
Coach Dan Bylsma reported that Malkin, injured Friday, skated for about 30 minutes in Pittsburgh, a day after being free of symptoms.
Malkin had suffered some short-term memory loss after being knocked into the boards by Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson in the Penguins' 3-1 victory against the Panthers at Consol Energy Center.
He has missed two games and did not accompany the Penguins on the road trip that continues in Raleigh tonight.
There is no timetable for him to return to the lineup.
Although Carolina's record, 9-8-1, is pretty ordinary, Jordan Staal believes the Hurricanes have the potential to be a force this season.
"I think we have a lot of potential," he said. "We have a different style [than the Penguins], but some very mobile [defensemen] who really know how to play in both ends of the rink.
"And we have a lot of quick forwards who know how to crash the net and get those big goals.
"I can really see the potential on our team, that we can do a lot of damage in this league. With Eric [Staal] leading the way and a lot of the players around him, we could do a lot of good things."
Winning on the drop
Sidney Crosby is the Penguins' go-to guy on faceoffs -- he has handled 476, 185 more than any teammate -- and has done pretty well, going 270-206 for a success rate of 56.7 percent.
Still, he hasn't been good enough to be the team's best.
Aside from left winger Chris Kunitz, who has won three of the four draws he has handled, the Penguins' top faceoff man, percentage-wise, is fourth-line center Joe Vitale. He is 96-49, a success rate of 66.2 percent.
Jordan and Eric Staal have gotten a point in the same game 11 times this season. ... Carolina's penalty-killing is 17 for 18 in its past five games. ... The Penguins have a power-play goal in 12 consecutive games, five shy of the team record set Jan. 22-Feb. 27, 1986.penguins
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.