TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

For ex-Pens star Staal and his replacement Sutter, a role reversal

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Forward Brandon Sutter will make his postseason debut with the Penguins next week.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Forward Brandon Sutter will make his postseason debut with the Penguins next week.
Getty Images - The Hurricanes' Justin Faulk (27), Jared Staal (13), Eric Staal (12) and Jordan Staal (11) are pictured during the National Anthem prior to a game against the Rangers on April 25, 2013, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Hurricanes' Justin Faulk (27), Jared Staal (13), Eric Staal (12) and Jordan Staal (11) are pictured during the National Anthem prior to a game against the Rangers on April 25, 2013, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

Penguins/NHL Videos

Friday, April 26, 2013, 11:15 p.m.
 

Jordan Staal makes his return to Pittsburgh on Saturday night, but for the first time in his career, he won't be returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The man who replaced him on the Penguins' third line, Brandon Sutter, is only days away from making his postseason debut.

What a role reversal.

“It has been really hard for me to deal with,” Staal said Friday. “It's been a tough season, obviously, for both myself on a personal level and for the team. Not going to the playoffs is a situation I don't want to be in again.”

Staal's Hurricanes led the Southeast Division at the season's halfway mark but plummeted in the standings following an injury to goaltender Cam Ward.

The final game of the regular season for the Penguins and Hurricanes marks Staal's return to Consol Energy Center. He played his first six seasons with the Penguins, never missing the playoffs while playing a crucial role in the team's 2009 Stanley Cup run.

He favored playing the remainder of his career in Raleigh, N.C. — Staal turned down the Penguins' contract extension in June to sign a similar deal with Carolina — and isn't sure how the crowd will respond to seeing No. 11 in another team's sweater.

It has become common for former Penguins to receive a video tribute and warm ovation upon their return.

“I have no clue what to expect,” Staal said. “But I hope it's positive. I have a lot of great memories.”

Sutter has made great memories of his own, thriving in a defensive role this season while scoring 11 goals, including five game-winners.

For most of the season, Sutter didn't want to acknowledge the inevitability that he would participate in the playoffs this spring. For a player who has participated in 333 regular-season games without tasting the postseason, remaining cautious felt prudent to the 24-year-old.

“The playoffs are why we play this game,” Sutter said. “I can't wait.”

Staal earned a reputation as a big-game player from his playoff performances.

Staal, 24, has played in 73 playoff games. He scored the two most important goals of his career in Games 4 and 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. While his teammates largely floundered last year against the Flyers, Staal had six goals.

Sutter would do well to duplicate such performances.

“I have been wanting to play in the playoffs for a long, long time,” Sutter said.

Staal already feels that way. Still, he isn't questioning his decision to angle for a trade to play with his brother, Eric.

“I do believe in our core group here,” Staal said. “There's an opportunity to have a good team here. We've just got some building to do. It's a learning experience. I'm still learning myself.”

Staal has 10 goals and 30 points in 47 games. A career plus-53 with the Penguins, he is minus-17 this season.

Although he doesn't always like watching playoff games, he will watch his old team.

“I think they should do well,” Staal said. “It will be fun to watch because in the playoffs you never know what might happen.”

He would know.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Penguins

  1. Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
  2. Stat dropoff, road struggles have Penguins seeking consistency
  3. Penguins minor league notebook: Rookie Wilson emerges as 3rd-line NHL prospect
  4. Penguins notebook: Malkin could return Wednesday at Edmonton
  5. Penguins notebook: Bennett a healthy scratch
  6. Starkey: What are Penguins, Pirates up to?
  7. Penguins’ Ehrhoff being tested for concussion
  8. Lapierre eager to make mark with Penguins
  9. Penguins get physical, trade Goc for Blues’ Lapierre
  10. Rossi: Crosby’s debt to NHL paid in full
  11. Crosby banned from Jets game because he missed All-Star Game