Staal to play on despite grandfather's death

Updated: May 13, 2008, 5:08 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal will be carrying an additional burden in Game 3 on Tuesday night, the burden of grief.

Staal

Staal

Staal learned Monday his paternal grandfather, John Staal, died near the family's home in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Staal said his grandfather was in his early 80s. "He had a pretty good run," he said.

The second-year center, who anchors the Penguins' hard-checking third line and also sees some power-play time, will play Tuesday night and then fly to Thunder Bay on Wednesday morning. He'll return to the team Wednesday night and take part in Game 4 on Thursday.

"Well, I just talked to my parents and I obviously want to be there," Staal said after Tuesday's morning skate. "It's definitely a difficult situation for myself, especially the way things are going right now for me. But I think there's bigger things than hockey sometimes and I'm just glad I can make it home."

Staal has four points in 11 playoff games for the Penguins, who are up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals over the Flyers.

When Mark Recchi, Staal's former teammate in Pittsburgh, learned of Staal's loss, he offered to help charter a plane that would allow Staal to be with his family without missing playoff action. Staal, 19, lived with Recchi when the veteran forward was still with the Penguins. After Recchi was traded to Atlanta this season, Staal continued to live in a guesthouse on Recchi's property.

Staal said his grandfather was an avid hockey fan, especially when it came to watching the three Staal brothers who are in the NHL, Jordan, Marc and Eric. A fourth brother, Jared, is playing in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He watched every single game last year, I think, for all three of us or all four of us," Staal said. "He's been a hockey fan and we've all been really close. It's definitely a tough loss."

Penguins coach Michel Therrien said he didn't anticipate Staal being distracted once the puck dropped Tuesday night.

"This is personal. Everybody deals with those things differently," Therrien said. "So, he came to see me [Monday] announcing the bad news, but he seems all right. He's focused to play tonight, and I'm sure all of his concentration will be there for tonight's game."

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.