Family first for Staal

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- This hardly will rank as an off-day for Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jordan Staal, who is nursing a heavy heart after the death Sunday of his grandfather, John.

Having played in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the Flyers last night in Philadelphia, Staal, the second-year forward with the Pittsburgh Penguins, will take a private jet to Thunder Bay this morning to be with his grieving family, then will return to Philadelphia to rejoin the Penguins by the end of the day.

"I talked to my parents about it," Staal said. "I want to be there. There are bigger things in life than hockey, and this is one of them."

John Staal was in his early eighties.

"(My grandfather) watched every single game of all four of us last year," Staal said, referring to the four hockey-playing boys -- Eric, a forward with the Carolina Hurricanes; Marc, a defenceman with the New York Rangers; Jared, a forward with the Sudbury Wolves; and, of course, Jordan himself.

Eric Staal left Team Canada at the world championship to be with the family as well.

Jordan's whirlwind day today will be possible because of the efforts of former Penguin Mark Recchi, who has helped secure the plane that will take Jordan back to Canada. Jordan spent the season living in the guest house on Recchi's Pittsburgh-area property.

Staal is expected to be back in the Penguins lineup for Game 4 tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center.


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