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Status of Pens center Staal is still uncertain

The Penguins expect defenseman Zbynek Michalek (concussion) to return for Friday night's game at Ottawa, but the status of center Jordan Staal (lower-body injury) is uncertain. Coach Dan Bylsma said after Thursday's practice that Staal, second on the team with 12 goals, will be a game-time decision.

Staal also missed Wednesday's practice. He played in Tuesday's loss to Detroit but was not 100 percent.

Bylsma said center Joe Vitale, who did not practice Thursday for unspecified reasons, also will be a game-time decision.

Michalek, Staal and Vitale are part of a long injury list that includes Sidney Crosby, who has missed four games after developing headaches following a game against Boston on Dec. 5. Michalek has missed the past seven games; if he plays, he won't face his brother Milan, who also is with a concussion. He leads the NHL with 19 goals.

> > Concussions remain a hot-button issue — one that makes it hard for coaches to create long-term plans.

"It's a different scenario," Bylsma said. "You just don't know if a guy is gonna be one week, two weeks or out longer than that. And that uncertainty makes it kind of tough to plan in terms of down the road."

> > Even though the Penguins are not part of HBO's "24/7 Road to the NHL Winter Classic" series this season, one player said Wednesday's debut episode was outstanding.

"HBO should do '24/7' on every sport because it's phenomenal," goalie Brent Johnson said. "It's so well done. It's great for fans, great for people who don't watch sports a lot."

The four-episode series this year features the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

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