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Penguins Notebook: Staal scratched for first time
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

With Ryan Malone's return from a broken forearm last night against Florida, Penguins rookie Jordan Staal was scratched from the lineup for the first time.

Coach Michel Therrien said that's not an indication that the Penguins are becoming disenchanted with the 18-year-old, who was their first-round pick in the June draft.

"When we decided to keep Jordan Staal, we said that this is a development year for him," Therrien said. "We have a plan for him, and we're sticking to our plan.

"With the addition of Ryan Malone, we have an extra forward, and there's nothing wrong with [Staal] watching from the stands. We had a meeting with him. There's things that we like about his game, and there's things that we think he could upgrade."

Staal has seven goals, including three short-handed, and two assists and is plus-one. But he hasn't scored the past seven games and has just one assist in that stretch.

Therrien said the Penguins are looking for renewed focus and intensity from a young player that otherwise has a long list of attributes.

"Jordan Staal has the full package as a player," Therrien said. "He's got the size. He's got the shot. He's got the hands. He's smart on the ice. And at 18 years old, we have to make sure he can keep up to play against [older] guys."

No decision on LeClair

The Penguins have not come to a decision on the status of John LeClair.

The veteran winger cleared waivers and re-entry waivers over the past week without being claimed and is home with his family in Philadelphia.

Technically, he was a scratch.

DuPont's long wait
Penguins defenseman Micki DuPont, promoted Monday from Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League, didn't play last night, but he most likely will on the team's upcoming three-game road trip.

"He's not here to watch games," Therrien said. "He's going to play."

When DuPont does, it will end a long wait for the mobile defenseman. He played two games with Calgary in 2001-02 and 16 games in '02-03 but hasn't gotten into an NHL game since.

"I was very happy when I got the call to come up here, and I want to make the most of it, show them I can play here," said DuPont, 26, who was acquired from Calgary in a trade in March 2003.

DuPont made a three-season detour to Germany, where he played for the Berlin Polar Bears.

"It was pretty different with the big ice surface," he said. "I think it helped me because it's more of a puck-movement, skating game over there. I think it was a bit of an adjustment for me to come back this year to the smaller ice and the North American game. But I think I've adjusted, and, hopefully, I can keep it up."

In 23 games with Wilkes-Barre this season, he had three goals and nine assists.

Not much playoff experience
With things tightly bunched in the Eastern Conference, Therrien this week pointed out that many of his players are young and inexperienced and don't know what it takes to push for the playoffs.

He's right.

Of the 23 players available to play last night, six have played in the NHL postseason and 17 have not.

Slap shots
Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby (401,365 votes) and Evgeni Malkin (217,146) remain the top two vote-getters in fan All-Star balloting. Buffalo's Ryan Miller (253,024) has passed the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury (208,492) atop the goaltending balloting. ... Crosby had the top-selling NHL jersey in November, and Malkin's was No. 10 as the Penguins had a 39 percent increase in merchandise sales over November 2005. ... A new carpet in the team dressing room at Mellon Arena has an embedded Penguins logo. Walking on it is a fineable offense, with the players acting as monitors. ... Former Penguins defenseman Ric Jackman, traded to the Panthers last season, was put on waivers Friday but was not claimed and remains with Florida. He has been a healthy scratch a team-high 24 games and had played in just four before being included in the lineup last night.

First published on December 6, 2006 at 12:00 am
Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.