If you’re a Penguins fan and you’ve been stressing out about Pittsburgh’s so-so start to the season, your version of early Christmas could be coming on Wednesday as two significant players could be back in the lineup. Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette springs the details on us about the imminent returns of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek,
Center Jordan Staal, who hasn’t played this season because of a foot infection, and defenseman Zbynek Michalek, out since Oct. 11 with what is believed to be a shoulder injury, have targeted the Penguins’ game at Dallas Wednesday for their returns.
“I feel really good,” Staal said after a rigorous on-ice workout Saturday at the RBC Center. “Obviously, that’s my first opportunity to play. We’ll see, come game-day, if I feel up for it.”
Getting both Staal and Michalek back would be a huge boost to the Pens on both sides of the puck. Staal was slated to be the team’s second line center this season with Evgeni Malkin playing on his wing, whereas Michalek was working as a top pair defenseman with fellow injured blue liner Brooks Orpik. The Penguins have been playing better of late and most of the talk there has centered in around the goalie battle between Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson where Johnson is riding the hot hand. With the Pens getting Staal back on the ice with Michalek, perhaps they’ll make the goalie talk irrelevant by taking over games regardless of who’s between the pipes.
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It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.