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Old 04-14-2007, 12:05 AM   #1933
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Penguins Notebook: Back-to-back games don't alarm players

Saturday, April 14, 2007
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

OTTAWA -- The Penguins have plenty of things to fret about as Game 2 of their playoff series against Ottawa approaches, but being forced to switch cities and play another game a little more than 24 hours later does not seem to be on the list.

Game 2 at Scotiabank Place is 3:08 p.m. today; Game 3 will be at 6:08 p.m. tomorrow at Mellon Arena.

Playing on consecutive days in the playoffs is unusual -- in this case, it is a by-product of the Penguins' popularity with TV networks -- but hardly unprecedented. And, from the Penguins' perspective, not an issue.

"I don't think it really matters," winger Jarkko Ruutu said. "You play [back-to-back] games throughout the year, and it's the same for the other team."

That might be the key, in this case. During the regular season, a team playing back-to-back games often faces a rested opponent in the second one. That won't happen tomorrow.

What's more, regardless of the outcome today, making their playoff debut at Mellon Arena figures to give the Penguins an emotional lift that should make fatigue less of a factor.

"It's going to be our first game at home, so [a shortage of] adrenaline and energy isn't going to be a factor," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "We know we're going to have that. I don't think anyone's too worried."

Not tipping his hand

The status quo prevailed during the Penguins' hour-long workout at the Senators' practice rink yesterday -- the line combinations and defense pairings were the same as they had been in the Penguins' series-opening, 6-3 loss Wednesday -- but that could change by this afternoon.

Penguins coach Michel Therrien could decide to reconfigure his forward units -- perhaps fine-tuning them a bit, perhaps trying something bold -- or add someone such as winger Ronald Petrovicky to the lineup. And there's always a chance he might settle for a few tactical tweakings.

"I'm not going to tell you the adjustments I'm going to do," Therrien said. "We'll see."

He acknowledged, though, that in the playoffs, coaches can't usually stick with lines that don't produce.

"This is where you have to coach," he said. "You have to [make] decisions. You have to find a way to win games. This is where you have to change your lines sometimes. You can't be stubborn."

It's out of their control

Ottawa's inability to take a 2-0 lead in any series during the first nine playoff runs in franchise history has gotten a lot of attention, but the significance of that stat was downplayed rather emphatically yesterday.

Not by a Senators player or executive, but by Therrien.

"You can't control the past," he said. "I don't think there's any extra pressure [on Ottawa, stemming from that]."

Staal makes big impression

Rookie center Jordan Staal, who got the Penguins' first goal Wednesday, fared better in the opener than many more experienced teammates, although he was on the ice for one of the Senators' even-strength goals and both on the power play.

"He doesn't stop amazing me, amazing his teammates," Therrien said. "He amazes a lot of people. ... It's pretty scary to see a young kid like that, coming off a tremendous season in his first year, the way he handled himself in his first playoff game in the NHL. We've got a player there."

Slap shots

The Penguins have won Game 2 in seven of their past eight playoff series. The exception came in Round 2 in 1999, when they were beaten in Toronto, 4-2. ... Crosby, on the theory that a youth-oriented team like his must get knocked out of the playoffs a few times in order to learn to win: "You can learn just as quickly winning as you can losing."
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