Penguins notebook: Hurricanes' Staal back in form
Center Jordan Staal wasn't himself in his first season with Carolina, the pressure of a 10-year, $60 million contract perhaps forcing him out of his comfort zone.
Staal is back to being himself this season, focusing on shutdown defense first.
“He's a completely different player,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “He's had the opportunity to absorb the (trade). He was great last year attitude-wise. It just didn't click for him. He looks more comfortable now.”
The 25-year-old former Penguins standout added muscle but lost weight during the summer, trimming down from 230 to 220 pounds while looking more imposing.
His slightly different physique has Staal feeling better about himself. So, too, does the fact that he is returning to his roots as a defensive-minded player, letting the offense come as opposed to forcing it.
“It's been a good start for me,” he said. “I'm getting back to where my game fits. My approach to the game is a little different this year.”
Staal doesn't have a point in two games. Of course, he's already played a key role in shutting down quality centers like Henrik Zetterberg and Claude Giroux. This was a trademark of Staal's six seasons in Pittsburgh when he was a combined plus-53. He was a minus-18 in his first year with the Hurricanes.
“So far it's been good,” Staal said. “Obviously the blame was on me last year, but there were a lot of factors. It's been good this year.”
Penguins general manager Ray Shero denied a report that right wing James Neal pulled an oblique muscle last week in practice when the Penguins played a Wiffle Ball game in tribute to the Pirates' season.
Neal came onto the ice the following day, then abruptly left practice.
He attempted to play in the season opener the next night against New Jersey, only to depart early in the first period.
“Not accurate,” Shero said. “100 percent not true.”
Neal hasn't skated since last Thursday and the Penguins are listing him as “week-to-week.”
Americans stick together
In a few months, recently fired Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette will join Dan Bylsma's coaching staff at the Olympics. The Penguins coach decided to check up on Laviolette following his dismissal from the Flyers.
Bylsma said he was “shocked” by the news and contacted Laviolette on Monday.
Defenseman Kris Letang skated on his own for a third consecutive day but still hasn't taken part in a team practice. It remains unknown if Letang will accompany the team on its two-day, two-game road trip to Florida this weekend.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
- Penguins notebook: Malkin could return Wednesday at Edmonton
- Penguins minor league notebook: Rookie Wilson emerges as 3rd-line NHL prospect
- Stat dropoff, road struggles have Penguins seeking consistency
- Starkey: What are Penguins, Pirates up to?
- Penguins finally break through, defeat Devils at Prudential Center
- Penguins get physical, trade Goc for Blues’ Lapierre
- No cross-checking here: Penguins misspell ‘Sidney’
- Penguins notebook: Crosby understands NHL’s reasoning for ban
- Lapierre eager to make mark with Penguins
- Crosby banned from Jets game because he missed All-Star Game