Penguins Notebook: 'Cheating' Staals face off on faceoffs
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Carolina center Eric Staal had a pretty simple explanation for why his younger brother, Jordan Staal, was thrown out of the faceoff circle several times when they squared off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Monday.
"He's cheating, that's why," Staal said. "[The linesman] has got no choice. [Jordan] has got his stick in the air and he's turning his body.
"The linesmen know how important faceoffs are in the playoffs, and they're going to call it the right way. They did a good job of that in Game 1."
After the Penguins' game-day skate yesterday, Jordan Staal offered an interesting -- though not necessarily serious -- explanation for that, once his question of "Is he calling me a cheater?" had been answered in the affirmative.
"What usually happens is ... well, [the linesmen] pick sides and kind of lean toward the older brother on faceoffs and kick me out," he said, smiling. "He cheats, too."
The brothers actually squared off on the first draw of the series, and Jordan controlled it cleanly. Not necessarily on merit, though, according to his brother.
"I blame it on the referee," Eric said. "He dropped it on their side of the red line and didn't really give me a chance."
Jordan didn't dispute Eric's contention, saying simply that if he did benefit from a favorable drop of the puck, "I'm fine with that."
Left winger Matt Cooke wasn't suspended for a knee-on-knee hit on Carolina winger Erik Cole in the third period of the Penguins' 3-2 victory in Game 1.
Perhaps because league officials didn't believe there was any intent to injure Cole.
Or perhaps because there wasn't knee-on-knee contact at all.
"We didn't even hit knee on knee," Cooke said yesterday. "We hit shin on shin."
Cooke confirmed that "I had a conversation" with the league about the incident but declined to say whether he had been fined.
Coach Dan Bylsma was typically noncommittal about his Game 2 lineup after the game-day skate -- he had dressed seven defensemen for each of the previous four games because of Sergei Gonchar's knee injury -- but said he wouldn't refrain from making changes simply because the Penguins won the opener.
"I have changed a winning lineup before," he said.
"I'm not a coach who will say to the players, 'I'm not going to change anything. We won the game.'
"We'll make the decisions we think are best and that give us the best chance to win, given the circumstances we're in. The last few games, it's been [using] seven defensemen."
Gonchar played nearly 22 minutes in the opener, up from about 15 in Game 7 in the second round against Washington.
Power-forward prospect Eric Tangradi attended Game 2 at Mellon Arena. Tangradi, acquired from Anaheim with Chris Kunitz in the Ryan Whitney trade, is recovering from surgery to repair what team officials characterized as a "complete tendon laceration" in his left hand. ... Bylsma, on the effects of the two-day break between Games 1 and 2: "When you get into a series, you feel like the hockey comes fast and furious. With the pause, we haven't had that feeling yet."
First Published May 22, 2009 12:00 am