Williams replaces injured Staal in Penguins lineup
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Penguins have the best collection of centers in the NHL and one of the league's deepest defense corps.
On paper, anyway.
That has not, however, been the case for games very often over the past year or so.
And they got more bad medical news, when it was determined that center Jordan Staal would have to miss their game Saturday night against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum because of an unspecified injury he apparently sustained in the 3-2 loss against Philadelphia two nights earlier.
Staal sat out the Penguins practice Friday, but participated in the first 10 minutes or so of their game-day skate Saturday before adjourning to the locker room and not returning. Coach Dan Bylsma described him as "day to day at this point in time."
Staal's spot was taken by veteran forward Jason Williams , who was summoned from the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. Williams, 31, had three goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the Baby Penguins.
He was signed as a free agent in the offseason and was competing for a spot on the major league roster at training camp until a groin injury derailed him.
Richard Park was placed on injured reserve, clearing a spot on the 23-man roster for Williams.
The Penguins feared they might have to bring up a defenseman from Wilkes-Barre to replace Robert Bortuzzo , who had what Bylsma called "concussion-like symptoms" after being hit by Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers, but Deryk Engelland was able to step into Bortuzzo's spot after sitting out the previous two games because of an injury.
It is not clear whether Penguins center Sidney Crosby , who was held out of the past two games after experiencing a headache Wednesday, will be back in the lineup Tuesday night when Detroit visits Consol Energy Center. When asked about that possibility after the Penguins' game-day skate Saturday, Bylsma said:
"There was not ice available today for our rehabbing guys back in Pittsburgh.
"They are working out, but I don't have anticipation about anything past getting past this game and going back home and evaluating where we're at."
Crosby played in eight games, putting up two goals and 10 assists, after sitting out 61 because of a concussion.
The game Saturday night was not the first Islanders defenseman Dylan Reese , an Upper St. Clair native, has played against his hometown team.
There have been several since he broke into the NHL in 2010 -- including the final regular-season game played at the Civic Arena -- but that does not mean he takes facing the club he rooted for while growing up in stride.
"Anytime you play against your hometown team, it's special," Reese said. "All my buddies from home, everybody from Pittsburgh watches the Penguins, so they get to see me play."
Reese, who said the Game 7 loss to the Islanders in the 1993 playoffs is one of his most enduring memories of the Penguins, appeared in his fifth game this season for New York Saturday night.
Penguins alum Mark Eaton , who injured a medial collateral knee ligament in a collision with Penguins winger Matt Cooke Nov. 21, worked out on the ice before the Islanders' optional game-day skate Saturday. A team official said it was the first time Eaton had skated since being injured.
Cooke arrived from the Penguins hotel, which is separated from Nassau Coliseum by a parking lot, while Eaton was on the ice, and the two spoke in the doorway that opens onto the ice near the New York locker room.
Cooke said he had not spoken with Eaton since the incident, and that he assured him the contact was inadvertent. Eaton, he said, agreed.
First Published December 11, 2011 12:00 am