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Old 03-15-2007, 12:14 AM   #1421
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Penguins Notebook: Even Devils like a feel-good story

Thursday, March 15, 2007
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's less than a month until the end of the regular season, and the Penguins are still hanging around -- not only in contention for a playoff spot, but also for home ice to start the playoffs and possibly for the Atlantic Division title.

The New Jersey Devils, who hold that division lead and faced the Penguins for the eighth and final time of their season series last night, are impressed.

"I guess everybody's kind of surprised just how well the young guys have stepped up and how they've played so consistently all year. It's great," said defenseman Colin White.

"We knew they were going to be a danger eventually, but they did come up quick."

Devils coach Claude Julien said the fact that there hasn't been a dropoff heading into the stretch drive of the season makes the Penguins' story even better.

"For the most part, they've really turned it on in the second half," he said. "They're a team that's got a lot of skill -- exceptional skill, if I may say so. They're gaining experience and they're learning to play together."

Eaton takes another step

After skating on his own Tuesday, Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton participated in the team's morning skate yesterday. He has been out because of a sprained right knee since March 1 and hopes to stick to the original projection of getting back in less than four weeks.

"I'm on the ice earlier than I thought I would be," Eaton said. "Hopefully, it feels better every day and I can increase the workload daily. I did a little more [yesterday than Tuesday]. There are still a few things that hurt it and aren't up to snuff, so I guess I just have to be patient."

Eaton earlier this season missed 21/2 months after wrist surgery.

Backache a pain

Penguins winger Georges Laraque also was back on the ice. He has been dealing with back spasms this week and missed his second game in a row last night.

"I'll probably be ready [tomorrow against Montreal]," Laraque said. "It's getting better every day, but not enough to play a physical game."

Laraque had never had back spasms and was surprised at how debilitating they can be.

"The last couple of days I couldn't even move, and the trainers did a great job loosening it up," he said. "It's much better than it was."

The game plan

During the Devils' morning skate, there was a handwritten sign the size of copy paper in the hallway around the corner from the home locker room. Written in black marker:

Win, adversity

Subs play well (Rupp, Dowd)

Aiming for?

Beating Pens

Stop Crosby and Malkin


Michael Rupp and Jim Dowd are seldom used forwards who are playing more recently because of injuries. Sidney Crosby had 17 points in 15 career games against New Jersey going into last night, and Evgeni Malkin had eight points in seven games.

The note was gone before the Penguins' morning skate.

Slap shots

Eaton and Laraque were two of just seven players who took part in the morning skate, which was overseen by conditioning coach Stephane Dube. The others who skated were defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, forwards Chris Thorburn and Nils Ekman -- all of whom have played little lately -- and goaltenders Jocelyn Thibault and Marc-Andre Fleury. ... Fleury took an Eaton shot off of an unprotected area of the outside of his right thigh during the skate. He was attended to, but stayed on the ice and continued to face shots. ... The Penguins' staff sometimes instructs certain players to skip practice as a way to conserve energy during busy stretches, often getting resistance from those players. It's the same in New Jersey, where Julien had winger Jamie Langenbrunner and defenseman Paul Martin skipped the morning skate. "I have veto power," Julien said.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07074/769708-61.stm
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Old 03-15-2007, 12:17 AM   #1422
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Devils glad Penguins are staying put

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, March 15, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Include the New Jersey Devils among those who are elated the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh has at long last been resolved.

"It's a great hockey city, a great town, and the league needs these guys to be good," Devils center Scott Gomez said Wednesday.

"That's the future of the NHL over there, definitely."

The Penguins and public officials announced Tuesday they had reached an agreement on a $290 million deal for a new arena.

"We all grew up with (Mario) Lemieux," said Gomez, a native of Anchorage. "We don't want to see that tarnished. It just wouldn't be right, one of the greatest of all time, 'He used to play in Pittsburgh.'

"Especially being a U.S. kid, that's a sports city. In the 1990s with the Pirates, and then the Steelers stuff, you need the Penguins there. Yeah, I'm a hockey fan. I'm relieved. It's good people, a blue-collar town, and, hey, they deserve to have the Penguins, especially because they're going to be so good.

"They're good right now, and who knows what the future's going to hold?"

Veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur was as enthusiastic as Gomez upon learning the Penguins wouldn't be relocating.

"Hockey means a lot to us," Brodeur said. "Pittsburgh's a great hockey town. I've played a lot in Pittsburgh. I know what people think about hockey and how they feel, the support. For a team to leave a city like that would have been stupid. It's nice that everybody got together and figured it out and made something happen.

"There are enough markets with no support. When you have one (that supports its team), you have to try to keep it."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_497814.html
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Old 03-15-2007, 12:19 AM   #1423
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Penguins top Devils 3-0, move into fourth place

Thursday, March 15, 2007
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Back-to-back games can be tiring. And inspiring.

The Penguins found that out by beating the top two teams in the Eastern Conference in a 27-hour span.

They got a shutout from backup goaltender Jocelyn Thibault to beat the New Jersey Devils, 3-0, last night at Continental Airlines Arena in a tight, defensive game.

Tuesday, the Penguins survived a third-period comeback by Buffalo for a 5-4 shootout win in an open, speed-driven contest.

"These are important games," center Sidney Crosby said. "They were two totally different hockey games."

With one large upside.

The Penguins, with 88 points, moved ahead of Ottawa into fourth place in the conference, four points behind the Devils, who sit atop the Atlantic Division, and six points behind the conference-leading Sabres.

"It's awesome," Thibault said in a postgame locker room that had a party atmosphere, complete with blaring music and whooping players.

"The reason I'm very happy about this game is we played [Tuesday] night, then we came in here, playing in Jersey, and we played a very tight-checking game, a grinding game, it was bad ice, it was warm. It was a character win tonight, it really was."

Jarkko Ruutu, Erik Christensen and Jordan Staal scored for the Penguins.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle was the ice, which had been made less than 24 hours earlier and made skating treacherous.

"There were chunks out of it," Crosby said. "It's not fun to play on that."

The feeling afterward wasn't bad.

"It's like I told the team [Tuesday] -- we need to start to get in the playoff mood," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Again [last night] we had the right attitude to approach that game.

"Those young guys, they keep surprising a lot of people."

Thibault, playing in his 19th game of the season and making his sixth appearance in the past 13 games, picked up the 37th shutout of his career, his first since 2003-04 when he was with Chicago.

"He had a great effort, and everyone kind of followed his lead," defenseman Ryan Whitney said.

The win halted a Penguins streak of five games that were decided in overtime or a shootout. Five of their previous seven games had been decided by shootout.

The Penguins, who finished 3-4-1 in their season series with New Jersey, picked up where they left off Tuesday night, playing a strong first period. They couldn't beat goaltender Martin Brodeur, who, as usual, got plenty of help from teammates clearing the front of his net. But neither could the Devils get a puck past Thibault as each team collected 11 shots.

The shots evaporated for most of the second period.

The Penguins got the first power play of the game when defenseman Brad Lukowich was called for holding at 11:49. It was eventful, if not fruitful.

Early in the power play, point man Sergei Gonchar had the puck at the blue line but lost his balance and landed on the ice. New Jersey center John Madden scooped up the puck for a long breakaway, but his shot from the slot sailed wide to Thibault's left.

Later on the same power play, Crosby took a clearing attempt by Devils winger Jay Pandolfo in the face. Crosby was bloodied on the right side of his mouth, but he remained in the game.

The game's first goal came on the Penguins' third shot of the second period and on an unlikely play.

Crosby got the puck to Ruutu in the right corner. Ruutu one-timed it toward the net. It clipped the stick of New Jersey center Travis Zajac, changed directions and wobbled over Brodeur's glove at 17:18.

It was Ruutu's seventh goal and his first since he had a two-goal game Feb. 16, the Penguins' previous game at New Jersey, a 5-4 win.

The assist was Crosby's 75th of the season and his 104th point.

Christensen increased the lead to 2-0 at 9:31 of the third period when his shot from the left point, a one-timer from Ruutu, rocketed over Brodeur's shoulder.

New Jersey got a prime opportunity with a power play at 14:35 of the third.

Just after a faceoff in the Devils' end, Crosby got clipped in the face by linemate Mark Recchi's stick. He spit out his mouthpiece and skated to the bench. When the puck found its way to Crosby's skates, he kicked it, drawing a penalty for too many men on the ice because another forward had left the bench to replace him.

"My head was down and the puck came right into my skates, so I just kicked it," Crosby said.

The Devils, though, could not score, and Crosby was off the hook.

"It was good we were able to kill that off," he said. "That was a big kill."

The Penguins put it away at 17:24 when Staal got his 28th goal by converting a backhand pass from Evgeni Malkin to make it 3-0.

"It's good to see the team play games like that because we're going to play a lot of those games in the playoffs," Thibault said.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07074/769709-61.stm
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Old 03-15-2007, 07:47 AM   #1424
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

I've never been a huge fan of the Devils (other than Brodeur), but it is great to see how much respect they are giving the Pens as a team and Pittsburgh as a city! Thanks for the great reads, XT!
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Old 03-15-2007, 08:24 AM   #1425
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that was a good hame played by the pens last night. Im probably one of the biggest devils hooligans in jersey and ill even admit what sloppy play by my guys last night.
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Old 03-15-2007, 10:00 AM   #1426
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BOXCAR JOEY View Post
that was a good hame played by the pens last night. Im probably one of the biggest devils hooligans in jersey and ill even admit what sloppy play by my guys last night.
Thanks Joey - the Pens totally dominated that game from start to finish. You've got 4 points on us for the division lead - anything can happen!
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Old 03-15-2007, 11:31 PM   #1427
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Who'da thunk it? The Pens with a shot at the #1 overall seed in the East, when all we were hoping for at the beginning was to maybe sneak into the postseason. Simply an amazing season our Pens have had!

Once on playoff bubble, Penguins set sights on top seed

By The Associated Press
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Back in October when the season began, the Pittsburgh Penguins were coming off a last-place finish and looking to reclaim mere respectability.

Come December when the team was near the .500 mark, players shifted their focus to qualifying for the NHL postseason.

Now, the Penguins are within four points of the Atlantic Division lead and six points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres.

"That shows what kind of turnaround we had," said backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault, who shut out the division-leading New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night. "We've pushed it into second gear. It's great."

The win over New Jersey came 24 hours after a 5-4 shootout win over the Sabres to give the Penguins the third-most points in the conference. (Pittsburgh, however, holds the No. 4 seed because the top three seeds go to division leaders.)

With an 11-point lead over ninth-place Toronto with 12 games to play, it would take quite a collapse for the Penguins to miss the postseason. So now the bar has been set higher.

"It's always better to shoot high," winger Georges Laraque said. "If you miss the playoffs, that's it. But if you shoot for first in the division, then at least you know you're still in. Now we're close to finishing first, and that's always the goal. It's a big difference trying to go for first (as opposed) to trying to make the playoffs."

With a cushion between it and the eighth and final playoff spot, Pittsburgh is able to shift its focus from merely qualifying for the postseason to getting ready to make a run once it gets there.

The Penguins, who haven't made the playoffs since 2001, are in the midst of playing a league-high 17 games in March. That game-on-every-other-night schedule is similar to how the playoffs are conducted.

"We want to make sure we're well-prepared for the playoffs," coach Michel Therrien said. "It's important for us to play solid hockey. I'm very optimistic about the way we played against the top two teams in the conference."

The Penguins recently had a string of 15 games out of 16 that were decided by one goal. For a team with one of the youngest cores in the league, experience in that type of pressure-cooker will only help.

"It's not like there's a light we open on and off, saying, 'It's April 11, it's playoff time. We're ready,"' Therrien said. "I think you need to have the right attitude to prepare yourself a month before the playoffs and make sure we're on the right track. I think our team has started to get in that mode with the way we're battling and the way we're preparing ourselves."

Notes: Laraque, who missed both games this week due to back spasms, said after practice Thursday he is available to play Friday. ... D Mark Eaton, out since March 1 with a sprained knee, practiced for the second consecutive day but said he would not be ready to play until next week at the earliest.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_497970.html
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Old 03-15-2007, 11:34 PM   #1428
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Versatility major part of Penguins' success

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, March 16, 2007

The Penguins weren't trying to beat the New Jersey Devils at their own game by cycling and grinding and checking them into submission.

It just worked out that way.

"No, we gotta play our game," center Sidney Crosby said in a boisterous visitors locker room Wednesday night at Continental Airlines Arena. "They've done that for a lot of years, and they're good at it. By no means were we trying to slow them down or anything like that.

"We were trying to skate ourselves. We're a lot better team when we have the puck. We just tried to control the puck down low and dictate the play."

On a night when the Penguins found the ice quality to be sub-standard, there really wasn't any other way to play it.

Their 3-0 victory stands as evidence that they might be as versatile as they are surprising.

On Tuesday night at Mellon Arena, the Penguins hosted the Buffalo Sabres, with their NHL-leading 256 goals, and won in a shootout, figuratively and literally, 5-4.

On Wednesday night in New Jersey, the challenge was to dent the NHL's second-stingiest defense (the Devils' 167 goals against trailed only the Dallas Stars' 166), and it was the Devils who ultimately came up empty.

Two games in two nights in two cities against two teams with drastically different approaches.

The one constant?

The Penguins won both games, beating the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Eastern Conference.

"Probably two totally different hockey games," Crosby said. "We had to play more of a speed game (against Buffalo). It was more up-and-down, a lot of chances, a quick game. This one (against New Jersey) we had to be solid on positioning the whole night because the ice was so bad, and we couldn't really move."

Coach Michel Therrien might have opted for a more conservative defense-first approach had the ice been perfect in New Jersey.

"It was a different game than (Tuesday) night, for sure," Therrien said. "When we play the Devils, we know what to expect. We were really cautious with our decisions with the puck. We didn't want to turn the puck over. This is a team that has a really good counter-attack. Every time they got the puck, we were gonna make sure where they were going to get that puck.

"We were patient, and when there was a chance we tried to attack the net."

Apparently, the Penguins are comfortable playing it either way.

"Those young guys, they keep surprising a lot of people," Therrien said.

Added Crosby: "These are important games. They're all important from here on in. We definitely have some games the next little while against some teams that are high up there in the league. We have to be ready for that challenge every night and really make sure we're on our game.

"When you're playing strong teams like that there are nights you can go out and play well and still not win. If you want to give yourself a chance, you have to play well and hope it goes right. We're giving ourselves a chance right now."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_498004.html
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Old 03-15-2007, 11:42 PM   #1429
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Good news here on Laraque and Eaton, and I hope Laraque ends up being in the lineup so that a punk like Francis Bouillon will have to answer to him if he pulls the same crap on Crosby that he did in their last meeting.

Pens' Laraque ready to play

By The Tribune-Review
Friday, March 16, 2007

Georges Laraque declared himself "100 percent" after the Penguins' practice Thursday. He had missed two games because of back spasms. Since the Penguins won both games, knocking off the Eastern Conference's two best teams, and coach Michel Therrien generally doesn't like to change his lineup after a win, Laraque said he didn't know if he'd play tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I'd be OK to wait," Laraque said. "I'm a team guy. Whatever it takes to win."

? Most of the Penguins players were told to stay off the ice yesterday after back-to-back wins over the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. Those who participated were Laraque, Mark Eaton, Joel Kwiatkowski, Chris Thorburn, Ronald Petrovicky, Nils Ekman and goaltenders Jocelyn Thibault and Marc-Andre Fleury.

? Eaton skated for the second time after spraining his knee March 1. There is no timetable for his return.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_498007.html
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Old 03-15-2007, 11:44 PM   #1430
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Scouting the Canadiens

By The Tribune-Review
Friday, March 16, 2007

Today's game

Montreal Canadiens (35-30-6) at Penguins (39-21-10)

When, where: 7:30 p.m. - Mellon Arena

TV/radio: FSNP/WXDX-FM (105.9)

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (33-14-8, 2.92 GAA); David Aebischer (13-11-3, 3.10 GAA)

Notable: The Canadiens have won two games in a row following a 5-2 victory Tuesday over the New York Islanders. Heading into Thursday's games, they were two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. ... Former Penguins winger Alex Kovalev has been suffering from vertigo and is questionable. Forward Radek Bonk missed Tuesday's game with an illness. ... Sergei Samsonov, the team's third-highest-paid player, was scratched for the second game in a row and the seventh time this season Tuesday despite the injuries to Kovalev and Bonk. Samsonov said last weekend that he regretted signing a lucrative two-year deal with the Canadiens last summer, although he later apologized and took back what he said.
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