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Staal comfortable as No. 2 center

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008

BOSTON -- Nothing is settled in Jordan Staal's world.

His agent, Paul Krepelka, said via a text message Monday "there is nothing new to report on (Staal)," who can become a restricted free agent after the season.

As for Staal's thoughts on moving from left wing to center, his natural position, though not the one from which he has produced the most goals, well ...

"I'm giving you nothing," he said prior to the Penguins' 2-1 shootout victory over the Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. "Like I've said, I don't care where I play."

OK, a different approach.

Staal seemed quite comfortable last season as the Penguins' second-line center during captain Sidney Crosby's injury-related absence in the second half.

Is that a fair statement?

"Yeah, I think so," Staal said. "I was there. I was ready to play, and I was playing a lot."

Staal scored half of his 12 goals last season as the team's No. 2 center while Crosby was out. Staal was a plus-4 player in those 29 contests, with 24 games as an even-or-better player.

He rated a minus-9 over 53 games in a different role.

"I guess it's fair to say I was comfortable there," Staal said. "And I'm comfortable now, too."

No kidding. Staal is again the Penguins' No. 2 center. The experiment of him filling Ryan Malone's vacated spot, left wing on a second line centered by Evgeni Malkin, lasted five games.

Malkin assisted on 15 of Staal's 22 non-shorthanded goals when they were rookies two years ago, but their oft-discussed chemistry was not evident early this season. Staal recorded only an assist, rated a minus-3 and registered just nine shots during his time with Malkin.

"(Center) is his natural position - we know," coach Michel Therrien said Saturday. "Jordan is a top two-line player. So if he's a center and he's a top two line player, somebody's got to move."

That somebody is Malkin. He opened a second consecutive game last night at right wing on a line including left wing Pascal Dupuis and centered by Sidney Crosby.

Staal worked the middle on the second line with left wing Ruslan Fedotenko and right wing Petr Sykora.

"He's a tall kid, a strong kid with a really strong stick; once stride and he's there," Fedotenko said. "I played against him the last two years; when you do that, you can tell how good he is.

"But I haven't played with him a lot to tell you which (position) he's better at or where he should play."

That much seems obvious, but Staal's approach is that it's not for him to say.

Therrien said yesterday Staal won't have to say anything on the subject.

"At the end of the day, it's the results," Therrien said. "That could be a good line. I'm expecting good things. But at the end of the day, it's the results."




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