Post-Morning Skate Report
Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal will make his season debut tonight, Staal said following the morning skate. “It’s really exciting. “It’s been a longhaul for myself, ” Staal said.
“It’s kind of funny how it kind of falls on me being ready for this game and I’m very excited and happy about being in the lineup”.
Staal said that the game being pushed back did help his prospects of playing tonight.
“I think it did a little bit, ” Staal said.
Bylsma said this morning that the decision to let Staal play had nothing to do with the game being the Winter Classic.
“The only things that really — and it was decided before this morning’s skate, was taking draws but that was not going to make or break it. He was going to play in tonight’s game, ” Bylsma said.
“I guess there’s more drama to it because of the Winter Classic, but we approached the decsion as if this was any other game. If this was a game in Buffalo, would he play? And the answer to that is unequivocally yes.”
Bylsma said it was hard to see Staal get healthy and then have the setbacks.
“So the difficult part has been to see him get excited about playing and getting healthy and then have some setbacks, ” Bylsma said.
What does the return of Staal mean?
The Penguins will look for the return of Staal to be a major boost for their second line which has struggled mightily of late.
The long-term plan is for Staal to center Evgeni Malkin and Bylsma said during his press conference that on his lineup card for tonight, Staal is centering Malkin. Look for Matt Cooke to be on left wing with Staal and Malkin.
“On my lineup card, he is playing center with Geno on the wing, ” Bylsma said.
There will be certain times where the two won’t play together as the Penguins will look to limit to Staal’s ice time in the 14-15 minute range.
With Staal coming out of the lineup, it appears that Arron Asham will sit tonight.
Morning Skate Tidbits
*Spoke with Deryk Engelland after the skate and he was very pleased with the game being moved to 8:00 p.m. That also appears to be the consensus inside the room as the players can now go through their normal routine.
The sense from the players is that they’re very excited about playing under the lights at Heinz Field. Engelland like several players, said the ice was soft yesterday but was fast at first then slowed up.
*I’m not sure why Bylsma didn’t give Staal and Malkin line reps during the morning skate. The two have not skated together as a line in practice once this season. We were going to find out he’s playing minutes later, so i don’t understand that one.
*It has rained all morning but officials are confident that the game will be played on time.