Up until this year Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal had never missed a game. He was well on his way to being considered an "Iron Man" in one of the world's toughest sports. So far, the 2010 NHL regular season has been a season to forget for Staal, who has yet to play a game.
Staal has been very unlucky this year with injuries. In the playoffs last season, Staal had a tendon in his foot sliced and afterwards needed surgery to repair it in the offseason. Staal then caught an infection from the surgery, which caused him to get more procedures done on the foot, and delayed his return to the lineup.
Staal was finally set to rejoin the team in early December but broke his left hand during a practice. Again, that's very unlucky. Staal has to be in a very weird place mentally. Despite his absence, the Pens have been playing great and even won 12 games in a row. Also the Pens have managed to have the No. 1-ranked penalty kill in the NHL without Staal, which is where he made his name as a player in his career.
Staal is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL and was even nominated for the Selke Trophy, which is given to the top defensive forward in the league.
Now Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Tribune review has written that Staal thinks he can return in time for the Winter Classic, which is set to be played January 1st at Heinz Field. That would be great and I'm sure Staal really wants to be a part of it, but they shouldn't rush him. It's a great experience but after all it still just counts as a regular season game.
What if they bring Staal back too early and he gets hurt again? What if the Pens don't have Staal for the playoffs? Just because the team has been playing good without him shouldn't devalue what Staal brings to the table.
Staal is a very good two-way forward who gives coach Dan Bylsma a chance at getting better matchups for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Staal is usually on the ice against the other team's top line.
Also Staal was supposed to join Malkin on a line this year, which should have him be much more productive offensively.
If Staal is ready to come back mentally and physically then by all means bring him back. If he's not 100 percent yet then don't. The Pens need Staal healthy for the playoffs.