Penguins Notebook: Depleted lineup gets its first boost

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The Penguins took their first step back to a normal lineup when winger Colby Armstrong returned last night against Carolina at Mellon Arena after missing two games because of gastrointestinal illness.

Next to return likely will be forward Adam Hall, who has missed five games because of a groin injury. There was a small chance of him playing last night, but that was ruled out.

"It's still sore," Hall said after the morning skate. "It's one of those things where it's day-to-day."

The only other injured player who has begun to practice is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was out early yesterday and stayed through the morning skate.

Fleury, who has been out two months because of a high ankle sprain, had no adverse effects from his first full practice Friday.

"It's improving," he said.

"He looks pretty good for a guy who's been out for a long time," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Next week, we're going to give him more work with [goaltending coach] Gilles Meloche and we'll go from there."

The next injured player likely to return to practice is winger Gary Roberts, who has been out because of a broken leg since the end of the year.

Where's that car?

Carolina center Eric Staal played in his 300th NHL game last night, making him something of a veteran.

"It's pretty neat considering the fact that I'm only 23," he said. "I still consider myself a young guy. Playing in No. 300 is an accomplishment. It's a league with a lot of great players. You just want to play one, never mind making a career out of it."

Staal has carved out a nice career so far. In his first 299 games, he had 113 goals, 249 points. Last Sunday, he was named MVP of the All-Star Game.

He's been good against the Penguins, dating to before they drafted his younger brother, Jordan Staal. Going into last night, Eric Staal had seven goals, 16 points and a plus-minus rating of plus-10 in 13 games against the Penguins.

"I like coming here. I like this building," Staal said. "We usually play them early in the season, and I've had some good games, so I guess I feel confident playing here and I like playing here and playing against the Penguins."

A visit to Mellon Arena gave Jordan Staal a chance to make another pitch for the SUV Eric won for his MVP accomplishment last week. There's also Marc Staal, a defenseman with the New York Rangers, Jared Staal, who plays junior hockey, their parents or any number of others who might like such a nice gift.

Eric hasn't decided what to do with the vehicle.

"I haven't heard what the scoop is on when I get it," he said.

Conquering heroes return

Former Penguins goaltender Tom Barrasso, who was part of the team's two Stanley Cup champion team, started the season as goaltending consultant with the Hurricanes. He has since been promoted to full-time goaltending coach.

"Tom is a good goaltender for teaching when we go on the ice, with drills," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's come in, he's watched, he's observed, he's had his input. One of his strengths is to show it, teach it, work with the goaltenders on their positioning."

The Penguins offered a welcome back to Barrasso and Carolina assistant general manager and director of player development Ron Francis, another former Penguin from the Stanley Cup era. It was their first trip here since retiring.

Slap shots

The game was the 200th of Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi's career. ... The Penguins scratched forward Kris Beech and defenseman Alain Nasreddine. Carolina scratches were center Matt Cullen and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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