MONTREAL -- Pittsburgh Penguins centre Jordan Staal has never been in this position before, so perhaps he doesn't know what a normal rehabilitation period actually is.
When Staal missed Games 2 and 3 of the Penguins' Eastern Conference semifinal with the Montreal Canadiens due to a severed tendon in his right foot, it was the first time in his four-year career that an injury forced him out of the lineup.
On Wednesday, only five days after undergoing a surgical procedure to repair the foot, Staal was back on the ice skating with his Penguins teammates at the Bell Centre.
"I obviously haven't had that feeling in a long time where you're not playing, and it's not a fun feeling," Staal said after his near hour-long skate. "You want to get back as soon as you can no matter what, whether there is pain involved or not. It's always a good feeling to get back with the guys and back skating."
If it were up to him, he would not only be skating at an optional practice, but he'd be in the lineup for Thursday night's Game 4 showdown.
"(The practice) was more about just staying out there as long as I can and not feeling that it's getting worse," Staal said. "That was a good thing, it wasn't really getting any worse. It's still up to the coaches, doctors and trainers, but I'm feeling great."
Staal skated quite gingerly when he first joined the optional practice with 12 of his teammates. He was clearly favouring the right foot that was cut by the skate of Montreal Canadiens rookie P.K. Subban in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series last Friday.
The Penguins did some light drills for about a half hour before having a four-on-four scrimmage on a shortened rink four the next 25 minutes. Staal looked more comfortable as the practice went on, particularly in the simulated game situation.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma very nearly said afterwards that Staal would be a possibility for Game 4, but caught himself just in time.
"Judging by the end of his practice I was a lot more comfortable with how he was skating than when he first got out there," Bylsma said. "If he can skate like that, depending how he feels tomorrow morning, there's a possibility that he'll still be day to day."
Considering the pain threshold the Staal family appears to have, it's anyone's guess whether or not he could play in Game 4.
The only NHL game Staal has ever missed came as a rookie, when he was scratched while recovering from the flu. Missing Game 2 snapped his streak of 358 consecutive games played.
Jordan's eldest brother Eric, the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, had his own streak of 349 consecutive games played broken earlier this season when he missed 10 games with an upper body injury.
That leaves the current family title to Marc, the New York Rangers defenceman who has now suited up for 202 straight games.
That seemingly hereditary ability to disregard pain may not seem that impressive to Jordan Staal himself, but seeing him on the ice Wednesday provided a good dose of inspiration for his teammates.
"Whether he's back right away or not, just seeing him on the ice is a great sign for us and especially for him," Sidney Crosby said. "It was pretty scary a few days ago."
Indeed, when Staal hobbled off the ice midway through the second period on Friday, he realized immediately he was in trouble.
"I obviously knew it was not just a cut," Staal said. "So I went straight to the hospital, had a little surgery, went home and had a good sleep."
Staal sat and watched his teammates lose 3-1 to the Canadiens on home ice in Game 2, and the experience was so gut-wrenching for him he decided he would try to sneak his way into some skates.
"(Tuesday) morning I kind of threw it out there just to see what they'd say," Staal said. "They kind of shrugged their shoulders and said, `Why not?"'
Staal took a quick, five-minute spin around the Bell Centre ice at Tuesday's morning skate in a track suit, then went for the fully geared-up practice Wednesday.
"It's kind of one big blob down there," Staal said when asked to specify the location of his pain. "I just have to get through it."
Getting through it, apparently, runs in the family.