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STAAL, LETANG MAKE PENGUINS' OPENING-NIGHT ROSTER

Wednesday, 10.04.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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STAAL, LETANG MAKE PENGUINS\' OPENING-NIGHT ROSTER

(PRESS RELEASE: Penguins make roster moves.)

(PRESS RELEASE: Penguins sign Jordan Staal.)

(PRESS RELEASE: Penguins sign Kris Letang.)

The Pittsburgh Penguins got younger on Monday.

Jordan Staal and Kris Letang made the team and will join Sidney Crosby as the only teenagers on the Penguins' roster when the squad opens the season Thursday against Philadelphia at Mellon Arena.

Staal, who turned 18 on Sept. 10, was the second-overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is excited to remain in Pittsburgh.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet. Come the first game, I am sure it will hit me hard," he said. "I am really excited to be a part of this team and hopefully I can be here for years to come."

Staal, who had 68 points (28+40) in 68 games last season with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, knew making the NHL roster was a long shot this season.

"I don't think any 18-year-old thinks he's going to play in the NHL. Obviously, I'd love to be here. I am glad to be a part of this team," he said.

He also knows the Penguins could return him to Peterborough before he appears in 10 NHL games. The short stint would not count toward the expiration of his NHL contract of free agency eligibility.

"There is going to be a decision come game 10. It's whether I play good enough to be here or not. We'll wait and see," he said. "They have been pretty fair and given me the opportunity to play in different situations. I am happy with how they have treated me and I look forward to showing what I have."

The same time frame applies to Letang, the Penguins' 2005 second-round pick. The 19-year-old defenseman can appear in up to nine games with the Penguins and then be sent back to Val d'Or of the QMJHL.

"I don't know if they are going to keep me for nine games and send me back or what, but I hope I will stay the whole year," he said. "I am going to give my best every game."

The 5-11, 190-pound offensive defenseman has impressed the Penguins. His right-handed shot has given the team a different look the blue line.

"It's a great feeling right now. I gave my best all camp," he said. "It was my goal to make the team when I came here."

Letang racked up 68 points (25+43) in 60 games last season. He also helped Team Canada win gold at the World Junior Championships. Letang's not afraid to put the puck on net - as evidenced by his 290 shots, which averages to 4.8 per game.

"I have been good on offense, but my defense was not very good [during training camp]," he said. "Right now, I am practicing hard on my defense and I am getting better and better every practice. I learn something from these guys like Gonchar and Eaton every practice and it's helping me.

"I hope I am going to be in the lineup for my first game, but it's the decision of the coaching staff, so we'll see."

 

 

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