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Old 03-24-2007, 02:48 PM   #1521
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Quote:
Originally Posted by X-Terminator View Post
Penguins confident two-game slump is aberration

Yeah right. Absolutely amazing that a team with this much talent can't score goals. If they lose this game, they can chalk it up once again to their inability to put the puck in the net. One goal AGAIN? Ridiculous.

OK, 2 goals now, but that was pure, blind luck.
OMG will you stop it please????? I love ya dearly, XT, but you're pissin' me off with all of the negativity all of a sudden. It's not like they are playing the slouches of the league. Again - NO ONE EXPECTED THIS TEAM TO GO AS FAR AS THEY HAVE THIS SEASON!!!!!!!!

PENS WIN 2-1 in a physical and hard fought matchup against the Thrashers. Great job guys!
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Old 03-24-2007, 03:14 PM   #1522
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To keep it short and sweet. Nice win by the Penguins. Completely controlled the Thrashers for the most part. The Geico Caveman grabbed his signature garbage goal (Malkin and Roberts made the play) and Staal got the other garbage goal. Good hustle by the whole team and hats off to T-Bo.

The score was pretty deceiving. Lehtonen played one hell of game. Nice way to take two points. Bring on Baaaaaaaaaaston.
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Old 03-24-2007, 06:06 PM   #1523
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OMG will you stop it please????? I love ya dearly, XT, but you're pissin' me off with all of the negativity all of a sudden. It's not like they are playing the slouches of the league. Again - NO ONE EXPECTED THIS TEAM TO GO AS FAR AS THEY HAVE THIS SEASON!!!!!!!!

PENS WIN 2-1 in a physical and hard fought matchup against the Thrashers. Great job guys!
I know that, but I'm just frustrated by their lack of scoring right now - they've scored just 4 goals in their last 3 games. Yes, they've faced some quality goaltenders lately, but it's still not making me any less frustrated. Let's face it, they're in a goal-scoring slump, and not at a particularly good time. There is so much talent out there that it's tough to sit by and watch them only get a goal or 2 a game when I know what they're capable of. It's not negativity, it's concern - that's all. I give them full marks for playing a solid defensive game, Thibault played great, and I was particularly impressed with the way they kept the pressure on the Thrashers with their forechecking late in the game, rather than sit on the lead.

I guess I just won't be satisfied until I see that "X" next to their name, and they've officially clinched a playoff berth..

EDIT: 2 more points for Joe Thornton tonight, so now he trails Sid by just 4 for the scoring title. Looks like he's going to repeat as scoring champ if this keeps up.
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:01 AM   #1524
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Excellent read by Ron Cook. Glad somebody said it instead of living in La-La Land.

Cook: Penguins' scoring slump must end before playoffs
Sunday, March 25, 2007

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The goal was nice. It was nothing less than a gift from the hockey gods.

The 2-1 win against the Atlanta Thrashers yesterday was better. It stopped the bleeding from a two-game losing streak before it could become debilitating.

But neither could mask the fact that the Penguins are having a wicked time trying to put the puck in the net.

There are valid excuses, for sure. The schedule has been brutal. Every game it seems the Penguins are playing a team in playoff contention, which makes for high-stakes, pressure-packed hockey. Rookies Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal have never played so many games with so much travel mixed in. It's obvious it has hurt Malkin's performance -- no goals in seven games, two in 17 -- although he did show more life yesterday, twice being robbed on point-blank shots by goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Superstar Sidney Crosby played a full schedule last season, but the Penguins were also-rans and the intensity of the games was nothing. This is all new to him, as well. Then, there's Mark Recchi at the other end of the spectrum. He's 39 and appears to be feeling the full impact of March madness -- 17 games in 31 days.

But no one wants to hear excuses.

The Penguins have to find ways to get past this.

They scored just one goal in each of the past three games, excluding Staal's winner yesterday, which wasn't even a shot, yet somehow managed to take a couple of crazy bounces on its way past Lehtonen. Malkin isn't the only key player struggling. Staal has only one legitimate goal in his past eight games. Recchi has gone a staggering 16 games without a goal. Even the great Crosby had no points in the past three games -- the first time that has happened this season -- although almost all of his scoring troubles can be blamed on his wingers, not him.

The power-play numbers are just as grim. The Penguins went 0 for 5 against Atlanta and looked bad doing it. They've had no power-play goals in five of the past six games, a dismal stretch during which they are 2 for 25 with the extra man.

This is not the time of year to be having goal-scoring issues, not with the playoffs a mere fortnight-and-change away.

It's not as if coach Michel Therrien hasn't tried just about everything. From day one, he has had to deal with not having a high-quality winger -- a finisher, so to speak -- to play with Crosby, a problem that won't be solved until the offseason when general manager Ray Shero gets to do his thing with a trade or a free-agent signing. Therrien has used virtually everybody on Crosby's left wing and yesterday -- finally -- replaced Recchi as the top-line right winger. It's a delicate matter to demote a team leader, long one of the sport's great warriors, but as Therrien said, "We've never been afraid to shake things up when we're not quite satisfied."

Left winger Erik Christensen -- a much better center than winger -- and right winger Colby Armstrong played with Crosby yesterday, but that line didn't get a point.

"We've got to give those guys some time," Therrien said.

If it doesn't work out, Therrien should think about going back to left winger Nils Ekman, who was brought in by Shero last summer specifically to play with Crosby. It's true, Ekman didn't play well early -- six goals in 32 games before his elbow was dislocated in late-December. Therrien clearly isn't a big fan -- he used Ekman against Ottawa March 6, then scratched him the past nine games -- but it might be time to give Ekman another shot. It couldn't hurt, could it?

Therrien also fidgeted with his power play yesterday, dropping Malkin from the top group and replacing him with Christensen. The surprise was that he kept Recchi with that unit. Therrien's respect for a pro's pro is admirable, but the Penguins need more than Recchi is giving them in such a key spot. Crosby is too fabulous as a playmaker for a winger not to score a goal or two with him.

Since we're passing out free advice to Therrien, here's something else he should consider:

Staal on the top power play.

It's understandable why Therrien doesn't want to ask even more of Staal, who's just 18. But the kid has shown he can handle everything thrown at him. Why not give him a shot on the power play and take advantage of his size, reach and skills, all of which are formidable?

And if not Staal, how about Gary Roberts?

Just a thought.

"These are tight games," Therrien said, stressing patience again as his mostly young team goes through the playoff-drive grind for the first time, learning a little more each day.

"This is what we're going to be facing in about three weeks. We're not going to be able to score five or six goals when we get to the playoffs."

No, but the Penguins are going to have to score two or three. One won't get it done.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07084/772385-87.stm
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:02 AM   #1525
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Staal ends Pens' skid at 2 games

By Karen Price
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Had Penguins center Jordan Staal carried out his plan the way he wanted Saturday, he would have stopped the puck that came to him in the corner and carried it in for a shot on

Atlanta Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen.
It didn't work out that way, and that turned out to be the best thing for the Penguins in their 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena.

The puck bounced off the toe of his blade, Staal explained, and somehow had enough spin on its way to the net that it got past Lehtonen to break open a tie score with 10 minutes remaining in the third period.

The goal enabled the Penguins to end their two-game losing streak.

"I was actually mad that I missed, and then it ended up going in," said Staal, who has 29 goals on the season. "What are you going to do? ... It was definitely a lucky bounce, but I'll take it for sure."

Goaltender Jocelyn Thibault made 25 saves for his third win in his past four starts, and Michel Ouellet scored the Penguins' other goal.

With the win, the Penguins (42-23-10) moved into a tie with the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic Division lead with 94 points. The Devils, however, won in a shootout last night against the Florida Panthers to reclaim the lead by two points.

The Penguins play again this afternoon against the Boston Bruins.

"We needed that game (yesterday)," Thibault said. "The standings are one thing, but just for us, the last couple games we didn't play as well as we were supposed to or we should at this time of year. It was a big game, a game we can build on."

Lehtonen said the puck just "kind of climbed up the side of the net and then behind my pad."

"It was just a funny goal," he said. "I saw it was coming. I always keep my skate there, but I guess it was bad ice, and it jumped up and hit my pad, not my skate like I was hoping. It was just a bad way to end the game."

In each of the Penguins' previous two losses, they had scored only one goal.

That led coach Michel Therrien to shuffle his lines against the Thrashers. He moved Erik Christensen and Colby Armstrong onto Sidney Crosby's left and right wings, respectively. He also moved Staal back to center with Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi on his wings. Gary Roberts played the left side with Evgeni Malkin in the middle and Ouellet on the right, and Maxime Talbot centered Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque.

Ouellet scored 7:55 into the first period for a 1-0 lead, whacking at a loose puck after a scramble in front of the net.

Neither team could find the net after that, and the score remained 1-0 heading into the third period.

The Penguins' slim lead vanished at 6:18. Thibault couldn't smother the puck after a shot on goal. Although the Penguins got control, defenseman Ryan Whitney threw a blind, backhand pass across the ice right to Thrashers defenseman Greg deVries.

Thibault stopped deVries' shot, but the rebound popped out to the goaltender's left, where Scott Mellanby was all alone. He knocked it into the net to make it 1-1.

Despite the modest goal total produced by his team, Therrien didn't seem concerned with the still-anemic offense.

"We've been playing a lot of tight games lately, and it's good that finally we're able to win in such a tight game like this, such a defensive game," Therrien said. "There's not much room, and this is what we're going to face in about three weeks (in the playoffs).

"We have to learn to play those tight games. We're not going to be able to score five, six goals when we get to the playoffs, and it's good for the confidence."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_499461.html
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:03 AM   #1526
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Pens' Laraque sets example for diversity

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Georges Laraque is an example as well as an enforcer.

"He really epitomizes what the NHL Diversity Program has said over the years, that hockey is for everyone," said Howard Smith, the program director and head coach for Hockey in the Hood's Pittsburgh chapter.

Laraque, a native of Montreal, is of African-Canadian decent.

He met the kids from Hockey in the Hood following their March 8 appearance at Mellon Arena, where they skated following the first period of the Penguins game against the New Jersey Devils.

"For us, the opportunity to meet Georges Laraque was fantastic," Smith said. "He spent about 15 minutes talking and taking photos with the kids. We presented him with an autographed team jersey and explained what the program is all about, to give city kids an opportunity to learn to skate and play hockey.

"He suggested coming to one of our practices. We welcomed that idea with open arms."

Smith, a South High School graduate and a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, has been involved with the Pittsburgh Hockey in the Hood chapter since its inception in December 2000.

He said about 60 to 70 kids have been participating twice a week in this year's program, which also includes a traveling team of about 20.

"We probably have one of the more diverse chapters," Smith said. "We have a lot of city kids, black kids, white kids, one from West Africa, one who's Asian; it really doesn't matter. We tell them, 'When you lace up the skates, we really don't care where you're from.' The kids that are out there are, one, they're hockey players. That's what we want these kids to take away from the program."

Seeing Laraque on TV or at the arena reinforces that message, Smith said.

"They're actually seeing a black hockey player," he said.

Smith credited the Penguins for their assistance in helping to make the group's get-together with Laraque possible.

"We've gotten tremendous support from the Pittsburgh Penguins," he said.

The program is also achieving its goal, Smith believes.

"When these kids come in here, they don't say, 'Oh, there are a lot of black kids in here,' or, 'Oh, there are a lot of white kids in here,' " Smith said. "What they're saying is, 'Wow, I get to play hockey.' "

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_499494.html
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:05 AM   #1527
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Crosby's scoring lead slipping

By Karen Price
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sidney Crosby still leads the NHL in scoring with 108 points, but his advantage over San Jose's Joe Thornton was down to just four points after the Sharks' game Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Thornton, who won the Art Ross Trophy last season for the most points in the NHL with 125, had registered two consecutive three-assist performances before recording a goal and an assist last night. He is on a 10-game scoring streak with 29 points in his past 16 games.

Crosby, who's led the NHL in scoring since mid-December, is pointless in his past three games and has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his past 16 games.

The 19-year-old center has gone three games without scoring just one other time in his career -- Nov. 27-Dec. 1, 2005.

No goalie controversy here

Coach Michel Therrien smiled when asked if his decision on which goaltender to use during the playoffs is becoming more difficult the better Jocelyn Thibault plays.

"There's still a long way," he said.

When pressed further, Therrien said, "I like Marc-Andre (Fleury). He's been our No. 1 guy, and he's got our confidence. And he's playing well. We're not in a position to make those decisions right now, but it's important for us that guys are performing well. It's important going into the playoffs. We'll see at that time, but Fleury's playing really well for us, and Thibault's playing well for us."

Staal approaching 30 goals

Jordan Staal is one goal shy of No. 30 after his game-winner yesterday against the Thrashers. If Staal reaches 30 goals, it will be the first time since 1984-85 that the Penguins had two rookie 30-goal scorers in one season (Evgeni Malkin leads all rookies with 31 goals).

In 1984-85, Mario Lemieux had 43 goals and Warren Young had 40.

Dropping like flies

It was a rough first period for several Penguins players. First, center Maxime Talbot was high-sticked across the face by Thrashers defenseman Andy Sutton and left the ice bleeding with a broken nose.

No penalty was called on the play. Talbot returned shortly thereafter, but then winger Colby Armstrong was hurt when he turned his leg to block a shot by defenseman Alexei Zhitnik and was hit in the unprotected area on the inside of his right knee.

Armstrong went to the dressing room but also returned before the period was over.

Playoff tickets on sale Monday

A limited number of individual game tickets for the first two games of the Stanley Cup playoffs will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. About 2,000 tickets will be available for each game, and purchases will be limited to four tickets per person. Tickets will be available at Mellon Arena at the Gate One box office and through Ticketmaster.

Scratches

The Penguins scratched defensemen Mark Eaton and Joel Kwiatkowski and forwards Chris Thorburn, Ronald Petrovicky and Nils Ekman. Eaton is expected to play today against the Boston Bruins after missing 11 games with a knee sprain. The Thrashers scratched Steve McCarthy, Jon Sim and Derek MacKenzie.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_499489.html
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:06 AM   #1528
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Penguins Notebook: 2 games vs. Bruins big hurdle
Sunday, March 25, 2007

By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Penguins' regular season has been reduced to seven games, and their next three -- beginning with one against Boston at 12:38 p.m. today at Mellon Arena -- are against opponents assured, mathematically or realistically, of sitting out the Stanley Cup playoffs.

While having two games against the Bruins sandwich one in Washington would seem to give the Penguins an opportunity to make a bid at claiming first place in the Atlantic Division, assuming they'll pile up points at will in the next five days could be an error.

"They're not going to be easy games, at all," right winger Colby Armstrong said. "The second you start to think that is when you're in trouble."

That's particularly true of the two they will play against the Bruins, who have given them fits in recent seasons. The Penguins have lost five games in a row, including a 5-4 shootout loss Jan. 18, at the TD Banknorth Garden, which they will visit Thursday night, and they have not fared much better at home. They are 1-6-2 in their past nine games against Boston at Mellon Arena and dropped a 4-3 shootout loss there Nov. 22.

Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney noted that the Bruins have a solid power play and some quality forwards -- guys such as Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron -- and, speaking from experience, added that a team does not necessarily lack motivation because it is out of playoff contention.

"They'll be ready to play, I'm sure," he said. "We gave teams trouble last year when we were out of it."

Playing with pain

Maxime Talbot understood there was nothing malicious about it, that he was just a victim of circumstances.

Not that it was much consolation after his nose was broken yesterday when Atlanta defenseman Andy Sutton smacked him in the face on the follow-through of a pass less than three minutes into the first period of the Penguins' 2-1 victory. Talbot immediately went to the locker room -- "It was pretty bad," he said. "It was bleeding a lot" -- but was back in the game a few minutes later.

Armstrong knows a bit about having his nose broken, but said there was no precedent for the pain he experienced after being struck on the inside of the right knee by a shot about nine minutes into the game.

"It hurt more for the first couple minutes than any other pain I've had before," he said.

That would explain why he stayed in the locker room for nearly four minutes of playing time. He assumed all his normal duties upon returning, however, and reported no major problems.

"I played the rest of the game," he said, "and felt fine."

Slap shots

The game yesterday attracted a standing-room crowd of 17,132, the Penguins' 27th sellout of the season and 20th in the past 22 home games. ... Approximately 2,000 individual game tickets for the Stanley Cup playoffs will go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Fans may purchase a maximum of four per game. The 12-game playoff packages are no longer available. ... Here's a nugget the Penguins hope they can ignore: The NHL will conduct its draft lottery, which determines the order of selection for the 14 non-playoff teams, April 10 in its New York office.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07084/772411-61.stm
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:08 AM   #1529
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Dave Molinari on the Penguins: A weekly look inside the team, the issues, the questions
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sometimes finding the hot shooter about more than blowing on the dice

There was a point, Michel Therrien says, when Sidney Crosby questioned his place in the shootout rotation. When he wondered if it really was in the team's best interest to have him involved.

"At one time, he was not sure if he wanted to keep going," Therrien said.

Considering that Crosby failed to score on his first seven shootout tries in 2006-07, it was only natural that he experienced a crisis of confidence.

Fortunately for the Penguins, it also was only natural that Therrien would have unwavering faith in Crosby's ability and wouldn't consider removing him from the mix.

"Like I told him," Therrien said, "even if you're 0 for 100, you're still going to be there."

And so Crosby stayed and promptly converted on five of his next seven tries.

His most recent shootout goal came March 13 immediately after Jarkko Ruutu, filling a spot usually manned by Evgeni Malkin, had been denied by Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.

Ruutu's presence in that shootout surprised some, but not those who knew he was 2 for 4 in shootouts last season with Vancouver, had scored on a penalty shot against Toronto Jan. 20 and routinely fares well in post-practice shootouts.

"I don't regret [using Ruutu] because you have to reward guys who work hard," Therrien said. "I thought it was the right time to try it."

Ruutu got another chance against Ottawa a week ago and paid back Therrien's confidence by being the only player on either team to score.

That probably locked up Ruutu's spot in the rotation, at least in the short term, but he can't dream of matching Erik Christensen's job security. Christensen has staked out a spot as the Penguins' leadoff hitter in shootouts, by converting eight of his first 15 tries.

"I've been coaching that kid for three years, and I was impressed with him in the [AHL]," Therrien said. "You like to get that lead. That's the reason I like to put him first."

Although 16 of the Penguins' first 74 games went to shootouts, only one made it past the third round. Next time they're in one that does, guys such as Jordan Staal, Mark Recchi, Ruutu and Sergei Gonchar will be high on the list of candidates to take a shot.

Laraque can't scrap the league by himself

The easiest way to measure the progress the Penguins have made this season is to check their point total. They had 94 after beating Atlanta yesterday, an increase of 36 from the 58 with which they finished 2005-06.

But a more telling figure might be five.

That, barring new injuries, should be the number of NHL-caliber players who will be on the roster -- but not in the lineup -- when the Penguins open the Stanley Cup playoffs.

None will be a game-breaker or difference-maker; the advent of the salary cap eliminated any chance of a team having that luxury. The forwards will be third- and fourth-liners, the defensemen qualified to fill the role of a No. 5 or 6.

And while the precise makeup of that group won't be determined until the waning days of the regular season, a good case can be made that right winger Ronald Petrovicky should be in the lineup.

The acquisition of Georges Laraque at the trade deadline led to Petrovicky being bumped off the fourth line; he entered the weekend having dressed for just two of the previous 13 games, and those came when Laraque was unable to play because of back spasms.

Much was made before the deadline of how Laraque could deter opponents from taking liberties with some of the Penguins' skilled players. Regardless of whether that actually has been the case, there's no question that he is a force.

But there also is no question that putting Petrovicky in street clothes denies the Penguins the services of a blue-collar winger who skates well, is abrasive and forechecks vigorously.

Petrovicky made only a token contribution in the first half of the season, when he was getting over the effects of hip surgery, but has done some quality work when given a chance since the All-Star break. And in case anyone had forgotten, Petrovicky reminded them of what he can do while filling in for Laraque.

"All he did was help himself," assistant coach Mike Yeo said. "We know that if things don't go well, we have him there to put him in."

Petrovicky is predictably eager to get some game work, but declines to make an issue of the role in which he has been cast lately. "[Laraque] got sore for a couple of days, and I jumped in," Petrovicky said. "But that's part of it. When he got back, he got back in the lineup, and you leave it at that. It looks like that will be my role for the rest of the season."

That's far from certain and shouldn't be the case, anyway.

Any team that sticks around the playoffs for more than a few games is likely to suffer some lost-time injuries, so guys who are spare parts when the playoffs begin can be thrust into significant roles in a matter of days.

Petrovicky, though, shouldn't have to wait for that. He deserves a place in the lineup now, and the opportunity to stay unless he plays his way out.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07084/772392-61.stm
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:09 AM   #1530
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Scouting the Bruins

By The Tribune-Review
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Today's game

Boston Bruins (34-34-6) at Penguins (42-23-10)

When, where: 12:30 p.m. -- Mellon Arena

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (35-15-8, 2.92 GAA); Tim Thomas (30-25-4, 3.03 GAA)

Notable: The Bruins are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss Saturday at home to the New York Rangers. It was their fourth loss in a row. Their previous game was a 6-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in which the Canadiens scored five unanswered goals in the final 22 minutes. Following the loss, the Bruins brought up defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Petr Kalus from Providence. ... Marc Savard leads the Bruins with 21 goals and 70 assists for 91 points in 73 games. Rookie Phil Kessel, who earlier this season was diagnosed with testicular cancer, has 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points in 62 games. ... The Penguins and Bruins have met twice this season, with the Bruins winning in a shootout both times.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_499487.html
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