Series puts Jordan and Marc Staal on opposite sides


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One day soon, brothers Marc and Jordan Staal will have a lot to talk about -- although Marc Staal hopes it's not too soon, so that he and the New York Rangers have a chance to extend their second-round series against Jordan and the Penguins.

For now, the Staal brothers aren't talking. It would just be too weird.

"The night we found out we were playing each other, we talked and that was the last time," said Marc Staal, 21, a rookie defenseman. "It's probably going to stay that way until after the playoffs."

Going into Game 3 tonight at Madison Square Garden, Jordan, 19, a second-year center, has the upper hand in the sibling rivalry, considering the Penguins have a 2-0 lead.

Marc Staal had two assists -- or 20 percent of his point production of two goals and eight assists through the regular season -- in Game 1 to one assist for Jordan Staal, but the Penguins won, 5-4.

In Game 2, Jordan Staal notched the winner in a 2-0 game on a power play after teammate Evgeni Malkin made a samba-like move around Marc Staal to set up the goal.

Regardless of which brother does the congratulating and which does the consoling when one moves on to the Eastern Conference final, it likely will take years to sort out the pecking order among the Staal brothers -- a clan that includes Eric Staal, 23, who already has won a Stanley Cup with Carolina, and youngest brother Jared, who plays junior hockey.

Marc Staal, the only defenseman of the tall, square-jawed bunch, took a little longer to get to the NHL than his older and immediately younger brothers, but that doesn't mean he has any less potential.

"I think the sky's the limit for Marc," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "I think he's one of those kids who will be in this game for a long, long time because of his demeanor, his comportment and his intelligence on top of it."

Marc Staal is among the league leaders this postseason with a plus-minus rating of plus-5. He had a winning goal in New York's first-round series against New Jersey.

While Jordan Staal and Eric Staal stepped into the NHL right after being first-round draft picks, Marc Staal spent two more seasons in juniors with Sudbury after being taken 12th overall by the Rangers in 2005.

Although he took some grief for having a younger brother in the NHL -- "He got it from a few people that I was playing already and he wasn't," Jordan Staal said -- Marc Staal benefited from remaining in juniors.

Last season, he was Sudbury team captain, played extensively in all situations and was named the Ontario Hockey League's top defenseman.

"The extra year was big," Marc Staal said. "I got a lot better, trying to improve. Coming into this year, I was more confident, and it was much easier to be able to play."

Jordan Staal, whose Penguins played the Rangers eight times this season, noticed changes for the better in his brother over the course of his rookie season.

"He just looks a lot more comfortable out there," Jordan Staal said. "He takes control when he has the puck. He's moving his feet and skating up the ice with it and making plays. I saw him do it in juniors, and now he's starting to do it in the NHL."

In Game 1 of their playoff series, Jordan Staal had Marc Staal lined up a couple times. Both are 6 feet 4, but Jordan Staal had trouble finishing a check on Marc Staal even though the younger brother is listed at 220 pounds, 15 pounds heavier.

"I tried to hit him a couple times, but he's a pretty big kid, and he's tough to push over," Jordan Staal said. "It was kind of a weird feeling."

Just like this whole brother-against-brother thing.

Their parents, Henry and Linda, couldn't figure out who to root for or how, so they stayed home on the family sod farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario, this round. They field calls after games from Marc and Jordan.

"They don't like it very much," Marc Staal said of his parents having to divide their loyalties.

Eric wouldn't mind attending the Penguins-Rangers games, but he is in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with Team Canada for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.

"He's watching closely," said Marc Staal, who text messages Eric Staal with updates. "He's pretty excited we're playing against each other."


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


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