What's a few bruised ribs anyway? That must be what Jordan Staal was thinking when he skated during practice Wednesday following a first period collision in Tampa the day prior. Despite injuries plaguing the Penguins all season, Staal is expected to suit up Thursday against the Panthers.
Far from the offensive powerhouse of 2006/07, Staal has still proved vital to the Pittsburgh penalty kill and second power play unit. But to say Jordan Staal is the sort of player who's better off in the minors is as far-fetched a statement as they come.
Now I will admit - I was completely willing and accepting of having Jordan Staal on the trading block two weeks ago. And frankly, even in saying so I knew it wouldn't take any action because Michel Therrien loves what he sees in Staal.
He's not the sort of player who will make an impact on paper, but Staal IS the sort of player that will make an impact on the ice. And although he doesn't have the locker room personality of Colby Armstrong, the shootout skills of Erik Christensen or the gritty end-to-end skating agility of Sidney Crosby, Staal does use his six-foot frame to his advantage and has a lot of promise at his age.
And perhaps that's the thing. This 'kid' is only 19-years old. He's no doubt on course to evolve and find his true game, which if you ask me is set to be more along the lines of Michael Peca than a Zetterberg (hey, can't make Sid references ALL the time).
If you ever needed further evidence with regards to player evolution, just take on look at 28-year old Ryan Malone. This season is his 'breakout year' that coaches, announcers and fans talk about. Malone has already surpassed his career-high 22 goals, notching his twenty-third on Sunday against the Thrashers, and may likely see 30 before the season's end.
So while he may very well choke on a breakaway or go 10-plus games without a point, you can just as easily pin the success of a Pittsburgh penalty kill on Jordan Staal.