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Staal's return boosts Penguins as Jets come to town

Saturday, 02.11.2012 / 2:15 AM

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Staal's return boosts Penguins as Jets come to town
Winnipeg Jets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
JETS (26-24-6) at PENGUINS (30-19-5)

TV: NHLN-US (HD), CBC; ROOT (HD)

LAST 10: Winnipeg 5-4-1; Pittsburgh 7-2-1

Season Series: This is the third of four season meetings, and the first at Consol Energy Center. The teams split the first two meetings, with Pittsburgh winning the most recent encounter 4-1 in Winnipeg on Dec. 23.

Big Story: Sidney Crosby is still out, but the Penguins figure to get a boost with the return of center Jordan Staal from a knee injury.

"I'm feeling really good," Staal told the Penguins' website on Friday. "The last couple days it was great just to get a couple practices with the team and kind of get back into the timing and everything. Things are looking up."

Team Scope:

Jets : Winnipeg still isn't scoring many goals -- offense has been a problem for much of the season -- but the Jets have won two straight games against playoff-eligible Eastern Conference opponents heading into Pittsburgh. The Jets topped Toronto 2-1 on Tuesday, subduing the Leafs' explosive offense, then traveled to Washington and salvaged an improbable result against the Southeast-leading Capitals. Winnipeg was down 2-0 with 2:15 left in regulation until Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien scored power-play goals 12 seconds apart -- Winnipeg's first conversions in seven games and 17 chances -- then won the game in a shootout.

"We haven't had a lot of luck lately," said coach Claude Noel, whose team is four points out of playoff position. "So, for us, we'll take that and we'll run with it."

Penguins: After an eight-game winning streak to close out January, Pittsburgh staggered into February, going 1-2-1 on a four-game road swing. Losses in Toronto and New Jersey paled in comparison to the fourth and final game, a shootout loss at Montreal. The Canadiens won for just the second time in nine shootouts this season, as Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on a late tying goal from James Neal. One bright spot was goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who turned aside 23 shots.

"He had four or five really big saves, really good scoring chances by their team," Bylsma said of Fleury. "They had some short-handed opportunities, a breakaway coming out of the box there after the power play - he made a number of huge saves for us and really stood strong."

The Pens return to Consol for a three-game homestand looking to protect - and improve - their sixth-place conference ranking.

Who's Hot : The Jets might wish that Staal had waited another day to return. The center - who has 15 goals in 34 games this season - has five goals and three assists in his last nine outings against Winnipeg.

Injury Report: Winnipeg center Kyle Wellwood is questionable for Saturday with flu-like symptoms that have kept him out of the last two games. Tim Stapleton has been on injured reserve since Jan. 20 with a lower-body injury. … Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy will miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain, while Arron Asham (concussion), Simon Despres (lower body), Crosby (concussion/soft tissue damage) and Nick Peterson (concussion) are all on IR.

Stat Pack: It'll be a tale of two creases on Saturday. Fleury has been nearly perfect against the Winnipeg franchise of late, with an 11-2-0 record and 1.83 goals-against average over his last 13 starts, including 7-0-0 at home. Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec, meanwhile, is 1-8-0 with a 4.16 GAA lifetime against the Penguins.

Puck Drop: "I think we're talking about a team that is in a playoff mindset right now where you need to win to go on, not necessarily just this game. They need to win games to go on. That's what we think we're playing (Saturday) -- a team that's in playoff mode right now." - Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, on Winnipeg's postseason mindset.

2011-2012 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 20 '12WPG 4 at PIT 8E. Malkin
Feb 11 '12WPG 5 at PIT 8R. Park
Dec 23 '11PIT 4 at WPG 1J. Neal
Oct 17 '11PIT 1 at WPG 2T. Glass
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
B. Wheeler55102838+33562
E. Kane49191332+23543
K. Wellwood55112132+1421
D. Byfuglien4182129-135221
A. Ladd57161228-13914
N. Antropov4981927+33220
B. Little49141226-31434
Z. Bogosian5231821-64910
T. Enstrom3741620-42621
A. Burmistrov5110919+13010
T. Stapleton388816-5442
J. Oduya5621113-53301
J. Slater538412-82701
T. Glass574812-74501
R. Hainsey33099+11600
M. Stuart55347-67801
M. Flood28336+1811
C. Thorburn56246-97200
A. Miettinen24044-6000
E. Fehr31112-61200
B. MacLean5022+1200
R. Jones22101-3600
M. Scheifele7101+0010
J. Jaffray13011-1700
A. Kulda9000+3400
K. McArdle9000-3400
A. Gagnon7000-1000
P. Cormier6000+0000
C. Klingberg6000-1400
B. Festerling5000-1200
B. Maxwell4000-2000
P. Postma3000+0000
D. Meech2000+1400
S. Machacek2000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
O. Pavelec4720-19-612613882.80.909
C. Mason156-6-0273092.26.913
P. Mannino10-0-0040.001.000
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
E. Malkin48303767+83877
J. Neal55292352+064133
C. Kunitz55152237+32552
P. Dupuis55121931+102604
S. Sullivan55101626-61440
K. Letang3271926+72231
J. Staal3516723+02030
T. Kennedy4261622+22901
M. Cooke5591120-22011
P. Martin4811718-61400
M. Niskanen5431417+93530
D. Engelland4921012+24200
S. Crosby821012+7801
R. Park375611-31003
J. Vitale483811-32401
B. Orpik472911+32800
A. Asham412911-55300
C. Adams55369-73000
C. O'Reilly31257-11410
Z. Michalek35156-101600
D. Jeffrey20325+0200
S. Despres14134+4810
A. Picard17044+4400
B. Lovejoy26123+11100
J. Williams8112+1400
M. Letestu11011-6200
C. Sneep1011+1000
E. Tangradi12000-51200
S. MacIntyre11000+0400
R. Bortuzzo6000+1200
C. McDonald5000+0000
B. Strait1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Fleury4729-13-310812092.35.911
B. Johnson112-6-2302613.10.885