Penguins Notebook: Staal wants more playing time
Penguins forward Jordan Staal makes a pass during Wednesday's game against the Lightning at Consol Energy Center.
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Center Jordan Staal will experience back-to-back games for the first time this season when the Penguins visit Montreal tonight. He won't be asking his coaches to pull the reins tight on his ice time.
"The more, the better," Staal said Wednesday before the Penguins played host to Tampa Bay. "When I'm on the bench, I want to be out there. So, no matter which way the coaches use me, I want to play."
Staal missed the first 39 games of the season because of successive foot and hand problems. He returned to practice six days before making his season debut Saturday against Washington in the outdoor Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
He played 14 minutes, 38 seconds in that 3-1 loss. Around that, maybe a minute or two more, is where coach Dan Bylsma would like Staal right now, although he is open to monitoring him and opting for more of a green light.
"Muscle-wise, exerting himself in a game and practice, he feels pretty good right now," Bylsma said. "Jordan is one of the guys who you can kind of see in the game how he's doing. There are other players who kind of mask it a little better, but Jordan's a guy who lets you know how he's feeling and where he's at."
One addition to Staal's game that might be permanent is a set of clear plastic guards he is wearing on his skates. It was a cut from a skate in the playoffs that led to surgeries and an infection, forcing him to miss the first 12 games of the season.
"I've been trying to get used to them in practice," Staal said. "I wore them [in the Winter Classic]. I didn't notice them. If I don't notice them, I might as well wear them."
For the first time in weeks, the Penguins went through a game day Wednesday without talk of the Winter Classic, without a crew from HBO filming a "24/7" series.
"By the end of the HBO thing, it was kind of normal having those guys around," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "They were great. But I think maybe it's just a little less on our minds. It's just a normal game day. It kind of feels good."
The fourth and final episode of the cable reality series aired Wednesday night and covered the Winter Classic.
"There was a lot of hype, and, rightfully so, because it was a big game for the NHL," center Mark Letestu said. "But now, getting back to normal routines, it's kind of refreshing."
Bylsma liked the timing, with the game against the Lightning marking the midpoint of the season and the end of the HBO and Winter Classic portion of the schedule.
"You feel like you're turning the page and going to a different part of the season," Bylsma said. "I was happy that it's at the halfway mark of the season. You typically have these marks in the year when you're at the 40-, 41-game mark and now it coincides with end of HBO and the Winter Classic.
"You kind of use it as a coaching staff to say, 'OK, that's behind us. That was the second 20-game [segment], the first half, and now we're going on to the second half of the season.
"I indicated to my players I won't be miked for any of these [upcoming] games or practices. I think there's a little bit of a sigh of relief. There's no camera around the corner, and you can act a little bit at ease."
The Penguins scratched defenseman Deryk Engelland and forwards Arron Asham, Mike Comrie (hip) and Eric Godard (nose). ... Tampa Bay, coming off of a 1-0 overtime win Tuesday at Washington, did not have a morning skate. ... Bylsma, on goaltenders often saying they would rather be busy facing shots than sitting idle for long stretches in games: "It's not very typical for a goalie to say before a game, 'I'd like 45 tonight, and I want them to come fast and furious.' "
First Published January 6, 2011 12:52 am