Penguins Notebook: Staal, Michalek expect to return Wednesday
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RALEIGH, N.C. --The Penguins are about to get a significant personnel upgrade, and it won't cost them anything except a spot on the long-term injured list.
Center Jordan Staal, who hasn't played this season because of a foot infection, and defenseman Zbynek Michalek, out since Oct. 11 with what is believed to be a shoulder injury, have targeted the Penguins' game at Dallas Wednesday for their returns.
"I feel really good," Staal said after a rigorous on-ice workout Saturday at the RBC Center. "Obviously, that's my first opportunity to play. We'll see, come game-day, if I feel up for it."
Staal has been on the LITR so the Penguins could get relief from his $4 million salary-cap hit.
Michalek seemed even more optimistic than Staal about his prospects for playing against the Stars.
"I felt probably the best I have so far since the injury," he said. "I'm real happy. Right now, I would say I'm good to go for Wednesday."
When he was wrapping up a strong preseason a month ago, Marc-Andre Fleury couldn't have imagined how miserable his October would be.
He entered Saturday night as Brent Johnson's backup against Carolina with a 1-5 record, 3.35 goals-against average and .863 save percentage, all stunning numbers for a player with his skill set.
Nonetheless, goaltender coach Gilles Meloche insists that he expects Fleury to begin performing to his potential and that his performance hasn't necessarily been as bad as the stats suggest.
"He's having a tough start," Meloche said. "Really bad games, we didn't see too many. It's a funny start, and I'm sure he'll turn it around. His game is good. It's just not happening for him right now."
He said the coaching staff regarded Fleury's 21-save performance in the 3-2 loss against Philadelphia Friday as "one of his best games" so far. He added that, fundamentally, "I think he's sound," and that he doesn't have any concerns about Fleury's early game focus.
Consequently, Meloche said, no profound changes in Fleury's regimen are being considered.
"We just try to stay positive and work on the details of his game," he said. "The last two games, we thought his game was really good."
Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland is starting to get serious recognition around the league for his fighting ability.
No surprise there, given that he has dropped Toronto enforcer Colton Orr and bloodied Philadelphia tough guy Jody Shelley in the first month of the season.
Engelland's development into a top-quality fighter is likely to at least get management to contemplate Eric Godard's future with the team.
Godard, in the final year of a contract with a salary-cap hit of $750,000, has been the Penguins' resident heavyweight for two-plus years, but Engelland's prowess might make Godard's fighting ability a luxury the Penguins can get by without.
"It's an element that we knew we had with Deryk, to a certain degree, but, when he goes out and does what he does against Colton Orr and against Jody Shelley, it's probably a much higher level than you even thought he could do, and he's a guy who's [gone] out and played very, very solid with the minutes he's had," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Bylsma added that he had no reservations about having his primary tough guy be a defenseman, given the Penguins' other personnel at that position.
"In this case, no," he said. "Assuming we're close to full health, we have guys in [Paul] Martin and [Alex] Goligoski and [Kris] Letang and [Brooks] Orpik and Michalek who can all play 20, 22, 23-plus minutes, and more. And some, 25-plus. "To have a guy who may be off the ice for five minutes, it's not as big a factor with the group of defensemen we have."