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Pittsburgh Penguins centre Jordan Staal celebrates his goal on the Montreal Canadiens during the first period in Game 1 of their NHL Eastern Conference semi-final hockey series in Pittsburgh. (JASON COHN/Reuters)
Pittsburgh Penguins centre Jordan Staal celebrates his goal on the Montreal Canadiens during the first period in Game 1 of their NHL Eastern Conference semi-final hockey series in Pittsburgh. (JASON COHN/Reuters)

Staal says he's ready for Game 4 Add to ...

There are regular humans, there are quick healers, and then there is Jordan Staal.

The hulking centre suffered torn ligaments in his foot this past Friday in a collision with Montreal's P.K. Subban, but barely six days later, the 21-year-old is a possibility for Thursday night's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semi-final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Canadiens.

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Staal said he feels as if he could play - Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he would be "a game-time decision" - and was blunt about the stakes of this game, where a victory would give the defending Stanley Cup Champions a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.

"This is definitely a breaking point game," he said.

Off-ice developments provided the main storyline at the teams' morning skates, and while the news was generally good on the Pittsburgh front - winger Bill Guerin returned to practice and said

"it's my goal to play in Game 5" - the same can't be said of Montreal.

Defenceman Jaroslav Spacek, a key cog in defusing the bomb that is Alex Ovechkin in the first round, is still laid low by an inner-ear infection, and will not play Thursday.

And if Sergei Kostitsyn thought his days in red, white and blue were over last fall when he threatened to bolt the team after being sent to the minors, it can now definitively be said that he is no longer part of the Habs' plans.

The talented, but enigmatic Belarusian was confined to a gym workout as his teammates took to the ice; an inauspicious sign for a team that's looking to bolster its secondary scoring, something Kostitsyn has occasionally provided this season.

The Habs' third- and fourth-line muckers, who saw their ice time slashed in the first three games of the series as coach Jacques Martin tried to generate offence, will have to step up their contributions if the Canadiens are to take out the reigning champions after upsetting the heavily-favoured Washington Capitals in the first round.

"You never know where the goals are going to come from," said centre Dominic Moore, who scored the insurance goal in game two.

The other bullet point on the Habs' chalkboard is a strategy to disrupt Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who logged a shutout in Game 3.

"We need to get in his kitchen," Montreal defenceman Hal Gill said.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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