Even with new stitches in his upper lip, Jordan Staal was feeling optimistic about his health and his season now that his month-long layoff has ended.

"Things are looking up," said Staal, who will rejoin the Penguins' lineup today for an afternoon game against the Winnipeg Jets at Consol Energy Center. Staal hasn't played since injuring his left knee Jan. 6.

"The knee feels really strong and everything feels really good," he said.

Staal's recovery and return will be uplifting for a team all too familiar with injuries, including several to Staal.

"He's had some bad luck in the injury department," said Matt Cooke, now paired with Pascal Dupuis on a line centered by Staal. "He's a big part of this hockey club. It's fun to see him out there."

Staal's play was strong from October through December, as he learned to better use his skating and speed in combination with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame. He had 15 goals in 34 games, putting him then on pace for around 35 - which would have been a career high.

"This year more than any, he's understood exactly how big and strong he is," coach Dan Bylsma said. "That has led to better offensive opportunities for him ... When he uses his speed and strength, it can overpower defenders, and they can't get the puck off him. He's done that significantly better than he has in the past."