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Old 02-12-2007, 01:59 PM   #981
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mosca View Post
And; Gretzky was a whiner.


Tom
One of the biggest whiners out there in his day.
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:20 AM   #982
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
One of the biggest whiners out there in his day.
Exactly...but as I said, that's perfectly fine to them, because it's Wayne Gretzky. Mosca's point about Crosby maturing is one of the things that frosts my ass - these people who continually bash him act like the kid can't grow up and become more mature. There's already been plenty of evidence of that maturation process this season alone - there hasn't been one player who has shown any displeasure with his actions, unlike last season. He's already become the leader of the team, and it will be made official when he is given the "C" next year. He's more than earned it.
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:22 AM   #983
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Enforcer? Yeah right! Good joke title though...

Pens' Armstrong adds 'enforcer' to resume

By The Tribune-Review
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Colby Armstrong has been forced to fill quite a few roles in his brief NHL career, from power-play specialist to penalty killer. But he never figured that he'd add the title of enforcer to his repertoire. In his last four games, he has been involved in two scrums, the first when he was jumped by Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray after a check on Canadiens captain Saku Koivu. The second was Saturday night, when the 6-foot-2, 188-pound flyweight stood toe-to-toe with 6-foot-7, 250-pound Toronto heavyweight defenseman Hal Gill.

"It was kind of a weird thing that happened," Armstrong said. "We've got to stick up for the guys, and everyone's willing to battle for each other and stay on the same page and it's a good feeling."

And, if anyone thinks for one minute that Armstrong is intimidated or will change his style of play after the recent altercations, they're dead wrong.

"Whatever it is, I have to keep doing it," Armstrong said. "I just have to play that way and play in your face and, if that's going to happen, it's going to happen. But, hopefully, the guy will be a little smaller next time."


? A quick look at the NHL stats shows that the Penguins have the seventh-worst penalty killing in the league. But that unit may be one of the major reasons why the team is 11-0-2 in its last 13 and has moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. During that 13-game points streak, the Penguins have killed off 50-of-60 (83.3 percent) penalties, a percentage that would tie them with defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina for 12th in the league. In addition, the power play, ranked fourth in the league, is converting at a blistering 32.4 percent (24 for 74) during the run. Six times in that stretch, the Penguins have scored more than once on the man-advantage, and four times had at least three power-play goals.

? "We're a young team and there's a lot of teaching. You win or you lose and there's always been a philosophy that we're going to do a lot of teaching with that young group, and that's part of our plan and those guys expect it."
- Penguins coach Michel Therrien on the progress the team has made this season

Digits

6 - Number of assists by rookie forward Jordan Staal, fewest of any player with at least 15 goals.

14 - Number of days until the NHL trading deadline.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_492933.html
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:24 AM   #984
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Staal's scoring surprises Penguins -- and his big brother

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Eric Staal led the NHL in playoff scoring for Stanley Cup champion Carolina last season and, at age 22, is one of the league's best young players. By the end of the season, he might not be the leading scorer in his family.

Jordan Staal, the 18-year-old who went into the Pittsburgh Penguins' training camp not expecting to make the team, is enjoying a breakout season even as more-publicized teammate Evgeni Malkin gets more attention among NHL rookies.

With three goals Saturday night against Toronto and four in his last two games, Staal is edging closer to Malkin, who leads all NHL rookies with 27 goals but is now only four ahead of his teammate. And the count in the Staal family household is Eric 24 goals, Jordan 23.

"I told him I'm coming for him," Jordan Staal said Monday. "But I didn't expect it to be this close. It's kind of neat we're both doing so well and hopefully I'll catch him."

While NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby, Malkin and fast-improving goalie Marc-Andre Fleury are being credited for the Penguins' turnaround season, it may be Staal who has been the difference-maker.

When the Penguins drafted Staal No. 2 overall in June, turning down numerous trade offers for the pick, there were no real expectations he would play in the NHL this season. He didn't turn 18 until Sept. 10, and he hadn't played above the junior level.

If Staal hadn't played as well as he did the first two weeks of the season, with four goals in his first eight games, he might well be playing junior hockey right now.

"Coming into the season, I was only kind of hoping to make the team," Staal said. "For it to turn out like this is pretty amazing. I'm just happy to be here and hopefully I can keep it up."

What impresses his mentor and housemate, 500-goal scorer Mark Recchi, is that Staal is doing all of this while playing out of a position. A center throughout his career, he was moved to the wing because the Penguins already had Crosby and Malkin in the middle.

"He's amazing. He's gone beyond all expectations," Recchi said. "He's had to learn how to play a new position, and he's doing it as an 18-year-old in the NHL, yet he's been unbelievable. He's a force out there, a powerful skater, he holds the puck and he's already one of the best penalty-killers in the league."

The 6-foot-4 Staal's long reach has made him a force on the Penguins' penalty-killing unit, and his league-high five short-handed goals are a team record. He is a plus-14, an exceptional figure for a rookie and only one off Crosby's plus-15 for the team lead.

"I just don't like giving up goals," Staal said.

Scoring them is different.

"Once I made the team, I got more confident the longer I was around ? and it just went from there," Staal said.

If it weren't for Malkin and his rookie-best 63 points, Staal might be getting consideration for the rookie of the year award.

Just as Crosby has bunked the last two seasons at team owner Mario Lemieux's house, Staal is staying at Recchi's home this season. It's the kind of housing arrangement seldom seen in other sports ? no doubt Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger never considered taking a room at star guard Alan Faneca's, for example ? but it is more common in hockey.

Staal likes the living arrangements, especially since he was anticipating living this winter at a family's home in Peterborough, his junior team last season.

"Mark has been helping me out the whole year, with the little stuff off the ice, helping me keep my mind off stuff and, when I'm on the ice, more focused," Staal said.

Big brother Eric also helps out, too, though Jordan doesn't expect as many calls in the next few months as the Penguins and Hurricanes compete for playoff position.

With 29 victories, the Penguins have 17 more than at this time last season. They also are 11-0-2 in their last 13 games heading into Wednesday's home game against Chicago.

"He's not giving me a whole lot of feedback," Jordan Staal said, smiling. "He knows I'm coming for him."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_492877.html
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:29 AM   #985
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Malone's demotion leaves Pens' top line in limbo

By Keith Barnes
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where Penguins winger Ryan Malone fits in after being demoted from the top line during Saturday's 6-5 overtime win in Toronto remains a mystery.

With Malone skating as Sidney Crosby's left wing, the Penguins' top line has not scored an even-strength goal in six games. Failing to convert even-strength opportunities forced coach Michel Therrien to make a change between the second and third periods against the Maple Leafs, as he switched out Malone for third-line forward Erik Christensen.

It immediately paid dividends for Malone, as he broke a six-game goal-less drought at 1:59 of the third period playing with Maxime Talbot and Colby Armstrong. He was also on the ice when Talbot scored the game-tying goal to send the game to overtime.

"When he brings his 'A' game, he's an outstanding hockey player," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "There's nothing I'm going to say in the newspaper that's going to make him a better player because he knows the effort he has to bring to make him a consistent player."


Whether or not Malone will stay with Talbot and Armstrong when the Chicago Blackhawks visit Mellon Arena on Wednesday remains undetermined.

"I decided between the second and third to do something to try to get momentum for our team," Therrien said. "We were playing pretty solid and the Talbot line with Armstrong and Malone ended up scoring two goals, but we'll see for Wednesday."

It's been a season of frustration for Malone.

? He missed 17 games with a broken forearm.

? He had two streaks of at least 10 games without a goal.

? He had one multiple-point game in his last 24.

? Then, less than a month ago, he met with general manager Ray Shero to quash trade rumors.

"I just know that (the trade) stuff is all out of my control," Malone said. "I thought I've been playing pretty well -- points-wise it's maybe not the numbers that people expected -- but the team in winning right now and that's the most important thing."

In terms of point production, Malone has struggled on a line that features Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer with 87 points, and Recchi, a proven commodity who has 503 career goals.

Malone has only 18 points this season, good for 287th in the league heading into Monday's games, and has failed to get off a shot in three of his last five and six of his last 16 games.

"We're playing against some strong (defenses) and team's are playing us so tight now," Crosby said. "You get three great chances a game and you've got to take advantage of them. Yeah, you don't get as many now, but you've got to take advantage of them when you get them."

Christensen and Malone have the same number of points on the season, but Christensen has not gone longer than six games without a goal this season and has a shot in all but three of his 34 games.

The only problem he may have is shaking off the jitters of taking the wing alongside Crosby.

"I was nervous and I didn't expect it," Christensen said. "You're sort of going from one mind-set of having a simple game with Max and Colby and then you're put up with Sidney and Mark Recchi, and you're expected to do things a little different and my first couple of shifts I was real nervous."

Taking station on a wing alongside Crosby isn't as easy as it might seem. So far, the Penguins have tried seven different players on Crosby's wings, but only Recchi -- who has skated with a top overall pick four times in his career (Mario Lemieux, Pierre Turgeon, Eric Lindros and Crosby) -- developed a feel for how his most recent No. 1 plays.

"It's not hard at all," Recchi said. "It's pretty fun to be a part of; he's a special player and plays a simple game. He goes up and down, he darts the holes, he gives and goes, and I play a very similar way."

Still, the Penguins continue to hope for big things from Malone, whose blend of size and puck-handling ability are commodities other teams covet. More than anything, the Penguins want consistency from a player that scored 22 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons.

Then again, just because the top line hasn't been scoring at even strength doesn't mean a deal for a power forward to replace Malone is forthcoming.

"We're certainly going to look at all of our players before looking outside the organization," Shero said. "I think our production with Sid and Recchi in particular has been outstanding ... and I think it's a good sign that the rest of the team has stepped up to contribute."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_492930.html
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:42 AM   #986
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Goalie Thibault performs backup role to a T

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
By Dave Molinari
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jocelyn Thibault didn't ask for this role. Probably wasn't quite ready for it. Still isn't certain that it's ideal for him.

But he has accepted it. Embraced it, even.

And, in the process, has come to embody the team-first mentality that has contributed significantly to the Penguins' success this season.

There isn't much glory in being a backup goaltender, and usually not a lot of statistical satisfaction, either. Certainly, Thibault hasn't been spotted wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his personal numbers (2-5-2 record, 3.29 goals-against, .896 save percentage) around the locker room lately.

But he makes a total commitment to his craft every day, routinely staying on the ice for extra work after practice, and has given the Penguins fairly reliable work when called upon.

And, perhaps more important, Thibault has been a good partner for No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, offering advice and encouragement that have contributed to Fleury's excellent play.

"His job is to be a good professional, make sure he's ready and have a good attitude," coach Michel Therrien said. "And that's what he's doing."

Therrien hasn't named his goalie for the game against Chicago at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow at Mellon Arena, and his decision likely will hinge on which of two factors he deems most important at the time.

He likely wants to get Thibault some action soon, and using him against his former team has an undeniable appeal. Conversely, if Fleury spends the evening on the bench, he will go without any game action between a 6-5 overtime victory in Toronto Saturday and the Penguins' visit to New Jersey Friday.

Even if Thibault doesn't play against the Blackhawks, he's a good bet to get a start in the very near future. And probably several next month, when the Penguins will play 17 times in 31 days.

"With so many games coming up, I know I'll get the call," Thibault said. "I'll play some games."

His most recent start came in a 7-2 victory in Phoenix Jan. 27, when he turned aside 22 of 24 shots. That is the only time he has made it onto the ice in the past 13 games.

Thibault, who turned 32 Jan. 12, said this is the first time in his career he has been a clear-cut No. 2, but insists he is not upset or bitter about the niche he has been assigned.

"I understand the situation," he said. "I try to work as hard as I can every day ... to get back to where I was."

Unless Fleury is injured, that isn't likely to happen with this team, because Fleury is establishing himself as part of the Penguins' long-range nucleus. Fleury, though, can appreciate what it's like for someone like Thibault to be relegated to the supporting cast.

"I'm sure it is [difficult]," he said. "When you're a goalie, you want to play. He's handled himself very well, especially with me."

Therrien also praised the way Thibault interacts with Fleury -- "He's good with Marc-Andre. I think he's helped Fleury a lot" -- and Thibault underscored the strength of their partnership with lavish praise for Fleury's play, progress and potential.

"He's a great kid and I have a great relationship with him," Thibault said. "He's so talented. It's scary how good he is. He's getting so much better, more consistent.

"The talent has always been there, but he's a lot more under control, a lot more sound. He makes a lot more saves with his body. He doesn't seem as spectacular as he was last year or two years ago, but he's so much more effective."

How long they will work together is impossible to predict. Thibault's contract is up after this season, and it's conceivable that an offer to take over as the No. 1 somewhere else could lure him away.

Especially since he's no longer feeling the effects of two major hip surgeries in recent years.

"I'm 32, and I feel good now, feel healthy," he said. "I've improved a lot since last year, as far as getting my game back in shape.

"Sometimes, you get caught wondering what will happen, but I don't know. I'm so caught up in this season right now. Obviously, we're in a playoff situation."

And, even as the No. 2 goalie, Thibault can expect to play a significant role in helping to keep them there.

NOTES -- Jordan Staal became the youngest player in NHL history to record a hat trick when he scored three goals in Toronto. ... Former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk, now an analyst on Blackhawks' telecasts, is scheduled to work tomorrow's game. ... Maple Leafs winger Kris Newbury is expected to be out about a week after taking a fierce beating from Penguins right winger Ronald Petrovicky in a third-period fight. The two had a 10-minute phone conversation Sunday. "I told him it wasn't his fault," Newbury told reporters yesterday. "He felt bad about what happened."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07044/761687-61.stm
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:44 AM   #987
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Here is a GREAT column about a Kansas City reporter who doesn't want to see the Pens leave town. He nails a lot of things, especially as it pertains to our fan base and the fact that you probably couldn't find 3 people in KC who know anything about the sport.

Commentary: Confessions of a Kansas City thief

Stealing another city's team is emotional stuff; here's one writer who hopes it doesn't happen to Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
By Joe Posnanski, The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This one's confusing. There is no doubt that it would be thrilling to have the Penguins -- and the hottest young player in hockey, Sidney Crosby -- move to Kansas City.

It would be the most exciting thing to happen to this sports town since a not-quite-finished Joe Montana was brought in for his swan song. It would be great for this town.

Personally: For a Kansas City sports writer staring at the cold and bleak winter sports months, the Penguins would be like manna from heaven.

But here's the thing: I really don't want to steal the Penguins.

This is the bewilderment Kansas City faces now. To steal or not to steal? That is the question. You know the story: The Penguins, one of the most popular franchises in the National Hockey League, are still trying to negotiate their way out of the oldest and most rundown arena in major professional sports. Mellon Arena opened in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, which soon moved out because it was a lousy building even then. The Penguins moved in. They have been trying to get out of there since the Reagan administration.

Yes, this fight has been going on for years, and the latest negotiations have reached Chris Berman-volume levels. The Penguins are now in the threatening stage -- and they are threatening to move to Kansas City's new arena, where they can play rent-free. The city of Pittsburgh has so far responded to these threats quite maturely by calling the Penguins ungrateful and by rehashing the "Cows run in the streets of Kansas City" jokes that should have expired the same year as the "You can't see the sky in Pittsburgh" jokes.

Still, I understand exactly where the Pittsburgh people are coming from. We all understand the feeling of being spurned. Barely a dozen years ago, my Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. Go back another decade, and people in Kansas City watched the Kings go to Sacramento, and before that the Scouts go to Denver, and before that the Athletics go to Oakland.

It stings. As a fan, you lash out. For years after the Browns moved, I despised everything about Baltimore. I refused to eat crab cakes. I mocked Edgar Allan Poe poems. I gave away my H.L. Mencken books. I booed Cal Ripken Jr. In this newspaper, I picked the Baltimore Ravens to lose every game 55-0, which spurred countless angry Ravens fans to write in and ask, "What the heck is your problem?"

One of those Baltimore letters stood out. It was from a woman who seemed wounded by my Baltimore vitriol. I don't have the letter any more, but I must have read it 20 times. She seemed guilt-ridden. She wrote: "It's not our fault that the Browns moved here. We would have preferred they did not move -- we remember the Colts moving to Indianapolis. It's not our fault. Why blame us?"

Why? There is no logic in the heart of a spurned sports fan. I know a woman in Minnesota who will never watch another NBA game because she hasn't forgiven the Minneapolis Lakers from leaving (for the record that was 1961). Most of us know someone who has never quite gotten over the baseball Giants leaving New York or the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. It still makes me slightly sick to see football people in Arizona wearing St. Louis Cardinals uniforms and football people in St. Louis wearing those Los Angeles Rams uniforms -- though, of course, the Cardinals originally moved from Chicago and the Rams originally moved from Cleveland. It's confusing.

This stealing another city's team is emotional stuff. We all understand this. This is why I believe that despite what you may hear from angry Pittsburghers, Kansas City has not really gone after the Penguins. There have been no season-ticket drives, no public rallies and no letter campaigns. Sure, Kansas City offered a sweetheart of an arena deal. But that's not being aggressive. That's just being smart. Kansas City has a new arena and needs an anchor tenant. The Penguins talk about moving. What else are you going to do?

All in all, Kansas City has stood back and respectfully waited for Pittsburgh to work out its problems. Other cities would not have been quite so nice. The simple truth is that the Penguins are perfect for Kansas City. Sure, many people -- maybe even most people in town -- may say they don't care about hockey, they don't understand the rules, they won't pay to watch it. But this is because they have not seen Sidney Crosby play. He is so good, so much fun to watch, so much of a hockey prodigy that people in town would line up twice around the building to see him score. Kansas City -- like just about every other town on earth -- is always looking for the "thing to do." Seeing Sidney Crosby and the Penguins play in a beautiful new arena would be the thing to do. You are talking about a guaranteed hit.

So what happens now? Nobody really knows. Talks continue in Pittsburgh. The NHL powers work behind the scenes to keep the Penguins in town. Kansas City waits quietly and politely. Information is impossible to find. A friend from Pittsburgh called the other day to (rather bitterly) tell me that he heard Kansas City was just being used as a pawn to help the Penguins get their new arena.

"That's great!" I said.

"What?"

He couldn't understand. I want Pittsburgh to work out its problems. The Penguins have been in Pittsburgh since the year I was born. The fans there suffered through the Ed Johnston years and celebrated during the Mario Lemieux mini-dynasty. They lived and died with Syl Apps and Mike Bullard and Rick Kehoe and Lowell MacDonald and a bunch of other names that don't mean a thing to us. They have filled that cracking arena for 20 years. The fans don't deserve to lose the Penguins.

Now, reality is reality, and if the Penguins are going to move anyway, then it would be best if they moved here. But I hope that Pittsburgh works things out. And if it does work out, the NHL will owe a big favor to Kansas City. A big favor. And next year, it looks like the Nashville Predators -- who play to empty seats every night -- might flee their town.

For the record: I wouldn't feel badly at all about stealing the Predators. Nashville doesn't care about them anyway. Like I said, it's confusing.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07044/761651-61.stm
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Old 02-14-2007, 12:50 AM   #988
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Pens' Ekman doing push-ups

By The Tribune-Review
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Winger Nils Ekman hasn't been cleared for contact just yet, but on-ice push-ups with his teammates are now an acceptable part of Ekman's recovery from a dislocated elbow suffered on Dec. 29 against Toronto.

"You have no idea how hard it is for me to do some push-ups right now," he said. "I've been doing push-ups for a week or so. I've gone up from five the first time to 15 three times. (Tuesday) was my first day on the ice with the team. I'm getting better not day-by-day but week-by-week. I'm just hoping I can participate in full-contact practices soon. They're baby steps, but it shouldn't be too long."

Ekman had six goals and nine assists for 15 points in his first 32 games with the Penguins, including a hat trick on Nov. 8 against Tampa Bay. He scored 21 goals last season with San Jose.

"There are a lot of games left coming down the stretch," Ekman said. "I'm positive now because it feels like I'm getting closer. When you feel like you're almost ready, it's a great feeling, because when you're away from hockey you miss it so much. You just want to play."


? Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL in scoring, but he hasn't scored a goal in seven straight games, which matches the career-long, seven-game drought Crosby endured a year ago as a rookie. The Penguins aren't sweating it.

"He'll score lots more," linemate Mark Recchi said. "He does so many things, that doesn't even matter, especially when we're winning like this. He's still getting points, still drawing penalties, still being effective for us."

Digits

17 - Wins for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in 71 career games entering this season.

27 - Wins for Fleury this season.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_493122.html
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Old 02-14-2007, 12:53 AM   #989
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Penguins' scoring touch big part of hot streak

By The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins are conjuring up memories of some of the franchise's finest teams.

Although coach Michael Therrien has a defense-first reputation, Pittsburgh has ascended to the upper reaches of the top offensive teams in the league.

The high-flying Penguins teams of the 1990's featuring Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and company regularly were at or near the top of the league's offensive statistical categories. This season, the Penguins are not only poised to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since Lemieux and Jagr last skated together in 2001, they're also scoring goals with a frequency not seen since the two shared the same line.

"When you're scoring four or five goals a game, you have a good chance of winning games," forward Erik Christensen said. "It's tough to win games only getting one or two a game, but when you're getting four or five, you can afford to make a few mistakes."


The Penguins are second in the league in goals per game behind only Buffalo. To put the 186 goals Pittsburgh has scored through barely more than two-thirds of a season into perspective, consider that the Penguins averaged 192 goals in the three years after Jagr was traded.

"It's always better knowing I can give up a bad goal ... and the guys will score six to get the win," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It seems like they are always there to come back and win the game."

The Penguins are averaging 3.38 goals on the season; they last had comparable numbers in 2000-01 (Lemieux's comeback year from retirement) and 1996-97 (the year Lemieux initially retired). But while the goal production for the season is impressive, the rate during the team's current 11-0-2 streak is blistering.

Heading into Wednesday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Penguins are averaging 4.46 goals during 13 consecutive games in which they earned at least a point. That stat doesn't count three shootout victories.

"We definitely came together and have a lot of guys stepping up," forward Ryan Malone said. "The young guys are leading the charge. You can't say enough about how fast they've developed. It's a great situation to be in, that's for sure."

Malone was referring to his top scorers: rookie scoring leader Evgeni Malkin (27), league scoring leader Sidney Crosby (25) and Jordan Staal (23), who range in age from 20 to 18.

The Penguins are also getting solid production from all four lines.

"A month ago, before the streak happened," center Max Talbot said, "(Therrien) came in and said we need everyone to contribute; it's not only Sidney's line or the power play that needs to score. And I think that's what we started doing. Right now, every line can score goals. It's definitely fun right now scoring goals."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_493144.html
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Old 02-14-2007, 01:03 AM   #990
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Default Re: Pens Tidbits

Crosby's goal-scoring touch has gone ice cold

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
By Dave Molinari
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sidney Crosby has met numerous standards of excellence in his first two seasons in professional hockey, and set quite a few others.

They cover everything from productivity as a teenager on the ice, to poise and professionalism off it.

And today, when the Penguins face Chicago at 7:38 p.m. at the Mellon Arena, he'll have an opportunity to establish another. One he would rather keep off his permanent record.

Crosby has not scored a goal in seven games, matching the longest dry spell of his NHL career.

There's a rather large asterisk on that streak, considering he got the deciding goal in the Penguins' 5-4 shootout victory in Philadelphia Thursday, but the NHL does not include shootout statistics with conventional ones.

So, Crosby is considered to be goal-less since he got one in the Penguins' 7-2 victory at Phoenix Jan. 27. That equals the drought he experienced Oct. 15-Nov. 1 in 2005, his first month in the league.

His inability to score lately hasn't eroded Crosby's lead in the NHL points race; he still was 14 ahead of Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier before the Lightning played Phoenix last night.

More important, it hasn't had a significant impact on the Penguins' record. They are 6-0-1 since he last scored.

"That makes it a little bit easier to take, there's no doubt," Crosby said. "When you're having trouble scoring and the team's losing, it's a lot harder to take."

Crosby's contributions to the Penguins aren't limited to his goal-scoring, even though he ranks second on the team with 25. He has accumulated nine assists in the past seven games, running his league-leading total to 62, and is a presence opponents dare not ignore every time he goes over the boards.

"He does so many other things to make our team good," said right winger Mark Recchi, Crosby's linemate.

Crosby got a new left winger in the third period of the Penguins' 6-5 shootout victory in Toronto Saturday, when Erik Christensen replaced Ryan Malone, but Malone was back on the top line at practice yesterday and is expected to be there against the Blackhawks.

Crosby said he does not believe he has been pressing since the shots stopped going in, preferring to characterize his mind-set as "bearing down" to make sure he takes advantage of any opportunities that come along.

If he actually is squeezing the stick a bit tighter than usual, his teammates don't seem to be noticing.

"I know he wants to score, and I know he wants to do good things, but he doesn't give you that impression [that he's pressing] off the ice, or even on the bench," Recchi said.

Even though goal-scoring isn't the cornerstone of his game the way it is for, say, Alexander Ovechkin, Crosby acknowledges that he's cognizant of his drought, even though those around him say it isn't affecting other facets of his play.

"He's like every guy who has scored goals throughout his whole life," Christensen said. "He's noticing it, I'll bet, but it doesn't seem to bother him."

That's probably because Crosby recognizes that slumps -- and how many players would be willing to swap a vital organ for a nine-points-in-seven-games "slump?" -- are an occupational hazard for even the most accomplished players.

"That's what you go through," he said. "You can pretty much say that I've gone through a situation like this every year I've played. You have games where you just can't miss and other [stretches] like this where you have an open net and the puck bounces over your stick, or you just get some unfortunate breaks."

All concerned appear certain his luck will turn soon. Until it does, Crosby's teammates don't seem to mind shouldering some of the offensive burden he usually carries.

"Obviously, he is our best player and we all know that, but there are going to be nights when other guys are going to have to step up in the scoring," Recchi said.

"He's still going to play well, because he always does, but he might get checked a little tighter that night. Maybe get an assist or two, kind of kept in check a little bit. That's when everybody else has to step up."

So far, the Penguins have done that, and getting important goals from other parts of the lineup suggests that, if they get into the playoffs, they could be a more formidable opponent than some might realize.

Then again, Crosby's co-workers are convinced that any discussion of his goal-scoring slump will take place in the past tense before much longer.

"It'll come," Recchi said. "And when it comes with him, it's going to come in bunches."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07045/761950-61.stm
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