Saturday, December 30, 2006

Some Pens Notes....

The Penguins ended their losing streak in style last night by knocking off the Toronto Maple Leafs, something that they rarely do. I don't have the stats in front of me right now, but I believe they had beaten the Penguins 8 of the last 10 times they have met.

The win didn't come without a cost. Nils Ekman was lost during the first period to a pretty ugly elbow injury. The team has still not made an official announcement on how severe the injury was, but I am thinking that points to it being a bad one. As I mentioned in the comments last night, Michel Therrien wouldn't make much of a comment on the injury and just said that they hadn't talked to the docs yet. The team is planning to re-evaluate him at some point in the future, but with an off day today, I don't expect any kind of formal announcement until tomorrow at the earliest. This is unfortunate for two reason, the first being the Pens lack of skilled wingers to compliment their centers, the second being the fact that Nils was having a great game playing with Dom Moore and Jordan Staal. It was one of the better outings for Nils in quite a while, and now he could potentially be out for a long while, if not the season.


Sidney Crosby notched 3 assists last night pushing his season total to 41 and his overall point total to 58, 6 ahead of Marian Hossa. Evgeni Malkin also reclaimed the lead in the rookie-scoring race by picking up 1 goal and 1 assist in last night's game. He now leads LA's Anze Kopitar by 1 point.


Did Ronald Petrovicky insult Michel Therrien in some way? He has been a healthy scratch 32 times since being recalled from a conditioning stint in Wilkes Barre Scranton on November 18th. Is there a place for him on this team? Doesn't seem like it. It is nice to have him in the cupboard if needed, but the acquisition of Chris Thorburn seems to have made him obsolete. I can see some one picking him up later in the season to play a third or fourth line role in the playoffs.

He is a great energy guy and could definitely be an asset. I think that he will get some work while Ekman is nursing his elbow injury.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pens Gear Up for Leafs and Mario Agrees to a Sit Down...

The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost 5 in a row for the second time this season. They have been up and down throughout the year...winning streak, losing streak, winning streak, and another losing streak. Throughout the process, they have hung in the Atlantic Division race, as well as the playoff chase. However, if they would like to stay in those races, consistency is going to have to come. Gaining 10 points, only to lose 10, doesn't gain you a lot of ground.

The Penguins are trying to stop their latest streak against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Mellon Arena tonight. Games in Pittsburgh against the Leafs almost feel like they are being played on the road, especially this close to the holidays. The Toronto faithful travel south in mass for these games. They are also not shy about representing their team, celebrating wildly when Ole Blue gets on the board. This is not the opponent that you want to see on the schedule when you are trying to pull out of a skid, but the Penguins will have to make the best of it tonight.

It is thought that Michel Therrien may use his top two players on the same line tonight. Malkin and Crosby have been practicing together, but Therrien would not confirm the combo.

Dominic Moore will return to the line-up after having been a healthy scratch for 2 out of the last 4 games.

Marc Andre Fleury gets the start for the Penguins and JS Aubin will go for Toronto.


Mario Lemiuex has agreed to sit down with local politicians to discuss a revamped plan B. Lemieux, who has been the face of the franchise during most of the process, has brought Ron Burkle in to the fray. He has asked that any meeting be attended by himself, Burkle, team President Ken Sawyer and consultants David Morehouse and Chuck Greenberg.

This is the best news to come out since the Isle of Capri lost their bid for the stand alone slots license in Pittsburgh.

"We appreciate the positive tone of your recent public comments and look forward to seeing what has been described as a plan that is significantly better than the original 'Plan B,' " Lemieux and Burkle wrote in their letter to local politicians agreeing to a meeting.

Gov. Ed Rendell has said that he would like an arena agreement in place by March 31, but Lemieux and Burkle said in their letter that the team needs an answer "well in advance" of that deadline.

I can only look at this news as positive. The two sides are sitting down with the intention of coming to an agreement. I just hope that both sides are willing to negotiate in good faith...especially when the situation has been pretty slimy for the better part of 7 years.

These situations tend to foster 11th hour agreements, let's hope that is the case here. Mario Lemieux does not want to be the man who moved the Penguins out of town, and the men currently in office don't want the blood on their hands either. That being said, the team could still move, but I am still feeling better by the day.

I will keep you posted...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Can Stella, I Mean the Penguins Get Their Groove Back??

It seems like something has been missing for the Penguins over the last couple weeks. After winning 4 in a row earlier in the month, they have now lost 4. The team has drifted 7 points behind the Atlantic Division leading Devils. The team has gotten into the horrible habit of putting together winning streaks only to match them with equally long losing streaks. The Penguins have to be looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, "I lost me mojo."

Back to back games against the Devils and Thrashers is no way to get on tracked but they are going to have to make the best of it. After dropping last night's game in New Jersey, the Penguins will have to find a way to contain Kovalchuk, Hossa and Kozlov. Something that they have had difficulty with in the past.

Marc Andre Fleury will get the start in goal. He is coming off of a strong performance against his idol, Marty Brodeur, but will have to be on top of his game again tonight. Atlanta's snipers will be firing rubber at him from all angles. Sometimes you need your goaltender to pull you out of these mini slumps and that is what they need from Fleury tonight.

Michel Therrien was starting to get a bit more consistent with his line shuffling during the winning streak, but he has since begun to tinker with them on a nightly basis again. After splitting Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi last night, he will put them back together tonight. The lines will looks something like this:

Crosby, Recchi, Malone
Malkin, Christensen, Armstrong
Staal, Ekman, Ouellet
Talbot, Ruutu, Thorburn

Let's hope that these combinations can get gel and generate some offense. They couldn't seem to get anything sustained going against Brooder last night and will face another great goaltender in Kari Lehtonen tonight.

The schedule gets no easier for the Flightless Bird in the coming weeks, as they face Toronto, Carolina, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay twice. All of these opponents give the Penguins major headaches.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays!!!

Here is something I wrote for Hockey Buzz...I wanted to share it with you all! Hope that you all have a very happy and safe holiday. Thanks so much for the support here and checking the Pittsburgh Penguins Report.

The Twelve Days of Christmas...For a Penguins Fan!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

A New Areeeeeena!


On the Second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

2 Scoring Wingers!

On the Third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

3 Franchise Players! (Sid, Evgeni and Fleury)

On the Fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

4 Top 6 Centers (Did I mention we need scoring wingers!)

On the Fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

5 wins over Philly! (More on the way??)

On the Sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

6 Pts for Sidney (a career first, but not the last)

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

7 first round draft picks (all on the roster!)

On the Eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

8 owners bidding (maybe it just seems like it)

On the Ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

9 hours practice on the shootout! (Why can't we win!)

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

10 Morozov Rumors

On the Eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

11 Staal Brothers (Oh there's only 4??)

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

12 Gonchar Hookings

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lemieux Shopping the Team to Other Cities??

It seems that Mario Lemieux's level of frustration has reached a boiling point and he would now consider selling the team to other cities. Lemieux does state that he is still willing to negotiate an arena agreement here in Pittsburgh, but is bound to IOC for several more weeks. Here is a statement released on the Penguins official website.

Recent developments, including Wednesday’s decision by the PGCB, and the recent termination of the purchase agreement by Jim Balsillie have convinced us that it is time to take control of our own destiny. Accordingly, starting Thursday, the team is off the market, and we will begin to explore relocation options in cities outside Pennsylvania. After seven years of trying to work out a new arena deal exclusively in Pittsburgh, we need to take into consideration the long-term viability of the team and begin discussions with other cities that may be interested in NHL teams.

As soon as we are no longer restricted by our agreement with Isle of Capri from negotiating an arena deal here, in the next few weeks, we will also begin discussions with local leaders about a viable Pittsburgh arena plan.

We will have no further comment at this time.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PITG/Northshore Gaming Wins Pittsburgh License

The Isle of Capri has lost their bid to PITG/Northshore Gaming. Forest City Station Square has also been passed over.

Plan B here we come?

I hope that this is not the day that hockey in Pittsburgh died. I am sure that the team will be willing to have some sort of negotiations with the local politicos, but I can't see them being very receptive to making major financial contributions when they have a privately funded arena on the table.

The Penguins will most likely address the media this afternoon.

More later...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Final: Blues 4 - Pens 1

The Penguins probably played their worst game of the season tonight. No offense to the St. Louis Blues, but coming off of 11 straight losses, this is a game that the Penguins should have won.

There did not seem to be a sense of urgency and the team looked very flat. Actually, I don't think that either team played particularly well, but the Blues were able to finish a handful of their chances.

The power play was a disgrace again, going 0-8 on the night. Special teams could have made a big difference, unfortunately they did, for the Blues.

St. Louis also scored a short-handed goal, something that is becoming common place for the Penguins. That is something that they need to get control of right away. I believe that they have allowed a shorty in their last 5 or 6 games.

Michel Therrien was not pleased with his team's performance and made it known. "Unacceptable, as far as I am concerned we have some loyal fans, building is full, our fans support the team," Therrien said. "To come and have a performance like this is unacceptable."

He referred to the squad as a "not mature team."

"We were behind the 8 ball right from the start," Therrien said. "They were not too quality scoring chances, but the puck is in the net."

Therrien also said that the play of Marc Andre Fleury "has got to be better."

The team has to be careful that they do not go into one of the tailspins that afflicted them earlier in the season. At one point they won 5 games in a row, only to go on and lose 5. They had a bit of a winning streak going over the last week and now have lost 2 in a row.

The schedule doesn't get any easier for them as they go on the road for two tough games against Atlanta and New Jersey. The Thrashers are no doubt going to be looking for revenge after losing to the Penguins in overtime in their last meeting and Marty and the Devils are never a walk in the park.

Michel Therrien will most likely work this team very hard in practice to get them ready for Thursday night. Hopefully it will snap them out of their current holiday funk.


I will be standing by to get you guys the Slots decision as soon as possible tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for the Isle of Capri.

The Mellon Arena fans just started an Isle of Capri chant, making it known who they want to win the slots license.


Sidney Crosby just fed a seeing eye pass across to Evgeni Malkin, who made no mistake firing the puck into an empty net.

Unfortunately, there must have been a law passed making it illegal to hit Bill Guerin, as he was left alone in the face off dot to score the 4th St. Louis goal.


Jocelyn Thibault is in the game after Marc Andre Fleury surrendered a short handed goal to make it 3-0. Unfortunately, the comes after Evgeni Malkin missed on a mini break away the other way.


When the Blues scored at the :44 second mark to open the scoring, it marked the 5th occasion this season that they had cashed in during the opening minute of play.


The Penguins have now taken the lead in shots, but were not able to cash in on a 4:00 minute power play opportunity. Alain Nasreddine took a high stick to draw the penalty. He had to head into the locker room for some stitch work.

Period 1 in the books...


The Penguins received the ever popular mock cheer when they notched their first shot at the at the 9:41 mark.


At the 6:35 mark of the first period, the Penguins do not have a shot and are down 2-0.

They are having trouble getting anything going offensively and are making the Blues look great.

Let the line shuffling begin??


Reporting live from Mellon Arena as the teams get ready to take ice for warm up.

The Penguins have made a minor trade with the Boston Bruins, acquiring defenseman Wade Brookbank for future considerations. The 6-4, 225 pound Brookbank was assigned to Wilkes Barre-Scranton.

Brookbank has played 68 NHL games with the Bruins, Canucks, and Nashville Predators.


Marc Andre Fleury will start in net.

Mario Addresses The Media...

The Penguins called a press conference so that Mario Lemieux could address the ownership situation. Here are some of the highlights.

Mario looked very somber and his body language showed him to be a bit uncomfortable.

"Obviously I am disappointed that we couldn't close the deal last week," Lemieux said. "We were all shocked and disappointed."

Mario repeatedly talked of how important the decision is on Wednesday and how Isle of Capri is the best fit for the region and the franchise.

He also addressed the speculation about Balsillie still being in the running by saying when asked if the deal was really dead, "Yeah it is." "We got the letter Friday, the deal is over."

Mario would not address speculation as to why Balsillie pulled out or which issues caused the disagreement with the NHL.

"I am not sure what he was told," Lemieux said. "His conversations with the comissioner are is up to one of them to discuss the issues."

Mario went on to say, "We are moving forward without Jim Balsillie, it is our franchise again."

"We will determine the fate," Lemieux said.

When the questions started about plan B, Mario said that they had been trying to work something out for 7 years and been turned away. It wasn't until they had signed with IOC and could not have any discussions that the politicians came forward with plan B.

"I have never heard of a government turning down $290 million dollars," Lemieux said.

Mario said that there isn't a time table for making a move. They are just waiting for the decision Wednesday before regrouping and coming up with a plan.

Wednesday is D day for the Penguins, Mario Lemieux and the fans. That is not to say everything is lost if the IOC does not win, it will just push the team that much closer to the brink.

Updating on the fly...hope all comes through

Saturday, December 16, 2006

UPDATED: Breaking News: Balsillie Drops Out....

Ken Sawyer addressed the media after the first period. He didn't have much more info than what was already known, but he did confirm that Balsillie has rescinded his offer to purchase the team.

"There were no issues with the team," Sawyer said. "It was strictly an issue of not being able to come to an agreement with the league."

Sawyer went on to mention that the Penguins knew that Balsillie was having issues with the league, but never thought that it would cause the deal to fall apart.

The agreement between the Lemieux Group and Balsillie was fine, and everything had been agreed too. The sticking point is definitely with the league. There is much speculation that the reasoning for the disagreement stemmed from the specifics of Plan B, the alternative arena plan if the Isle of Capri does not win the stand alone slots license on Wednesday.

Sawyer would not comment on the fact that not having flexibility to move the team caused the deal to crumble, only saying, "You will have to ask Mr. Balsillie that question."

Balsillie had not been in communication with Sawyer or Mario Lemieux since Wednesday, when the team was in Harrisburg to testify in front of the Gaming Board.

When asked how Lemieux was taking the news, Sawyer said: "Mario is taking it in stride, but is disappointed."

Sawyer would not comment on any next steps that the team will take, only saying that they are hoping for an Isle of Capri win on Wednesday. If that were to fall through, they will have to evaluate everything and come up with a plan.

Sawyer would not speculate as to what the next move would be in finding a new bidder for the franchise.

It is strange that Balsillie pulled out now, with the slots decision days away. There is definitely something weird about the entire situation. It seems that we may never know how this situation played out, but Jim Balsillie will not be the next owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

All we can do at this point is hope for a decision in favor of the IOC. That will take a lot of the issues away, and the team can focus on just finding a buyer. The rest will have worked itself out and the Penguins will be here to stay. The alternative...time will tell.


Jim Balsillie pulls bid to purchase the is reportedly over a stalemate regarding terms of a consent agreement. Could this be because the league was trying to put stipulations in place that said he could not move the team...who knows. This is very shocking...especially with the slots decision coming Wednesday.

Here is the Post Gazette story on the matter. More after the game tonight...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pens Beat Flyers for 5th Consecutive Time...

Sidney Crosby posted the first 6 point game of his career and led the Penguins to their 5th consecutive win against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins have dominated the Flyers this season, and I cannot remember anything comparable.

The game seemed like it could potentially be a boring one at the start, but that changed quickly when Chris Thorburn beat Antero Niittymaki with a laser from the high slot. Crosby quickly added another for his first point of the night. The rout looked to be on, but Philadelphia quickly answered to tie the game at 2.

Sergei Gonchar, who also had a monster game, finished the first period scoring with a power play goal through traffic. The Russian d-man was firing on all cylinders tonight and was letting the puck fly anytime he could.

The second period could have been dubbed the Crosby Show as he set up 3 more goals in less than 5 minutes. It was magical, if Sidney Crosby touched a puck; it ended up in the net. "We were just having one of those nights where everything was going in," Crosby said. "It happened so fast, especially in the second."

The Flyers started to creep up on the Penguins a bit, but they were never really in the game. This was the penguins and Sidney Crosby's night, almost from the drop of the puck.

Michel Therrien was very pleased with his team, especially his young superstar. "What a night, tonight we saw a performance by a special player," Therrien said. "It was unbelievable...Sid was phenomenal tonight."

Evgeni Malkin was held off of the score sheet; though the team scored 8 goals. Therrien isn't that worried about him. "He had a rough night...we will evaluate the game and sit down with him, show him video," Therrien said. "He'll get better, he is a rookie...not bad for a rookie," Therrien said as he chuckled. Malkin was getting targeted by Philadelphia all night...he took some big hits.

Overall the Penguins played a very good game. There were a few breakdowns that the Flyers punished them for, but they don't matter as much when everything is going in for you. Let's hope that the Penguins ride this momentum into another big division match up against the New York Islanders on Friday night.


The Penguins have always invited local mite teams to play on the Mellon Arena ice during intermissions, but they have recently revamped the whole scenario. They now show video of the kids in the locker room and allow them to talk on the jumbotron, calling the segment: Intermission Puck Pals. I think that it is great to allow the kids this opportunity. It has to be a thrill...even if they never go anywhere with the game; they will always treasure that moment in time.


There were a couple of weird goaltending scenarios during the game tonight. First, Marc Andre Fleury did not come out to start the second period of play; Jocelyn Thibault was between the pipes. About 6 minutes in, Fleury replaced him and finished the game. Turned out that Fleury had the plastic covering come off of his skate boot and needed to have it repaired.

The Flyers replaced Antero Niittymaki with Martin Houle only to see him allow 2 goals on 3 shots in the span of 2 minutes 12 seconds. They tried to put Niitymaki back in the net, but quickly switched back to Houle, only to send Niittymaki back out on the next whistle. The reasoning for the play: The new rule mandating that you cannot change your players after an icing call. The Flyers had just iced the puck and had to stick with Houle until the next stop.


The 3 Stars of the Game:

#3 Ryan Malone: 1 G 3 A
#2 Sergei Goncher: 2 G 3 A
#1 Sidney Crosby: 1 G 5 A

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crosby V Ovechkin Redux - Introducing Evgeni Malkin

The league obviously thinks very highly of the match up tonight on the VS Network between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. They have been hyping it for over a week, even having the 2 team up for a conference call last Monday. I am sure that these two young men will step up on the national stage, they always seem to play great against each other. When one of them does something amazing, the other answers with something even more amazing. The games between the two last season were definitely must see TV, and I am sort of surprised that this isn't one that NBC would have snapped up, even though their coverage doesn't begin until later in the season.

There is a new variable to consider this year, and his name is Evgeni Malkin. I think that his first game against Alexander Ovechkin could be his true coming out party, sort of like Sidney Crosby had his when he blew Jose Theodore's water bottle off the top of the net last season in his first game against the Montreal Canadians.

Malkin has sort of been in AO's shadow since they were drafted. Ovechkin the consensus #1 and Malkin the consensus #2 even though he was a full year younger. The two have started to form a friendship and Malkin has done his best to make everyone forget that he was the consolation prize for the Penguins when they lost the draft lottery. His best has shown the world that he is on the same stage with Ovechkin, and he may still prove to be the better player, though time will tell.

Malkin is coming off one of the best performances of his young career and I am sure he wants to keep the momentum going. What better chance than on National TV against your countryman who was drafted one spot ahead of you. This is his opportunity to thrive...the spotlight will be on Crosby and AO, Malkin can relax and play his game. I think that Malkin plays a major part in a Penguins victory this evening.

In the immortal words of Mike Lange, Penguins radio play by play man, "shame on you for 6 weeks if you miss this one." What more can you ask for, three of the top young players in the National Hockey League will be digging their blades into the same sheet of ice this evening. The three could also form the starting line for the Eastern All Star team if voting stays consistent. Cancel your plans, do what you have to do to see this one.


Some news could break on John Leclair today. I will keep you posted.


Marc Andre Fleury is expected to start in goal tonight. Let's hope that Michel Therrien keeps the lines together as he did against Atlanta. They seemed to gel a bit. More after the game...


Here is the chat transcript from last week's call....I took out the questions about the Briere hit, I think it was debated enough last week....overall it was an upbeat interview with the two young stars.

DAVID KEON: I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. With us we have Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, and Washington Capitals left winger Alexander Ovechkin. Thanks to both of them for taking the time to join us today, and thanks to Frank Buonomo of the Penguins and Nate Ewell of the Caps for arranging the call.

Sidney leads the Penguins and is tied for fifth in overall league scoring with 34 points on 10 goals and 24 assists in 22 games. With a record of 11-10-4 for 26 points, Pittsburgh is fourth in the Atlantic Division.

Alex leads the Caps and is 20th in NHL scoring with 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points in 26 games played. Washington sits third in the Southeast Division with a record of 11-9-6 for 28 points.
The two of them will meet next Monday, December 11, in Washington on Versus at 7:00 p.m. eastern time in the first of four head-to-head meetings taking place this season.

Thanks to both Sid and Alex for joining us today to answer your questions.

Q. I'd like to ask both players. How much do you guys get up when you face one another in a game? Do you guys consider that like a prime game for both of you just to show what you can do, or show each other what you can do?

SIDNEY CROSBY: I don't know. I think it's always a little bit more motivating. You know, from my side I think that it's built up so much that, in a way you want to respond and make sure you have a good game. But at the end of the night the win is most important. That's the way I looked at it. But there's no doubt there seems to be more emotion and intensity when we play each other.

ALEX OVECHKIN: I think Sidney is right. It's important for us, for our team, to win the game. Of course, Sidney and me want to score goals and have some points, but it's important for us to win the game.

Q. For both of you. You guys have been compared to each other a lot over the past couple of years. A lot of comparisons saying who's better. What are your feelings on finally getting to play together?

SIDNEY CROSBY: It will be nice. You know, like you said, there's always so many comparisons. But for me I think with my game I'm more much a playmaker and I think Alex is more of a shooter. It would be great to be passing to someone like that, so I look forward to that sure for.

ALEX OVECHKIN: Me too. He's a great player I watch lots of games he plays. He just give the pass, and guys just love to shoot, you know. So I’m looking forward to playing with him.

Q. Just wanted to know, for the both of you, how different is life in your second year now that you're not rookies anymore?

SIDNEY CROSBY: It's not a whole lot different. I think there are more familiar faces, which is nice, and not as many new buildings. So I think that's just nice part about not being a rookie.
You're not surprised by as many things. Just a little bit more comfortable and you know, other than that I don't think there's been a lot that's changes.

ALEX OVECHKIN: Yeah. I just feel for comfortable right now. We know the league and we know the rules and we now how good team -- you know, we know how to play against some teams. Just I think right now we know the league better than first year. For me right now I know the league and the team and I feel more comfortable.

Q. For Alex, how do you feel about your friend Malkin being involved in this rivalry now, too?

ALEX OVECHKIN: I'm really happy for him, because he is a great player and he's a great guy. He's a very good person and he's unbelievable player. His team is lucky team to have Sidney, Malkin. They were drafted and they are good players and probably will be best team in the league. But we have couple guys, too.

Q. This goes to Sidney. Tal k about the hype coming into last season, your rookie year, and all the, I guess, advice you got. What kind of advice do you pass on to Malkin this season?

SIDNEY CROSBY: To be honest, I think the main thing for me coming into last year was just to worry about playing hockey. I didn't really -- to be honest with you, I didn't really pass any advice to him.

I think everyone has their own way of handling things and dealing with it mentally. And for him he had been through so much just to get here, so I think hockey was the relaxing part for him. That's the way
I looked at it. You'd have to ask him how he handled it, but I think it was just important for him to come here and play hockey.

Q. Alex, what do you feel has been your biggest -- I guess your biggest thing you've had to get used to with the new rules and everything this season?


Q. Yes. What have you had to adjust to the most this year?

ALEX OVECHKIN: Playing hockey, enjoy. You know, because I think me and Sidney, lots of young guys who play, should enjoy the time, because it was our dream. It doesn't matter what rules. If it's old or new rules, we just want to play hockey and do best what we can.

Q. One question for Sidney and one for Alex. Sidney, first of all, I'm just wondering with you and Malkin, obviously the two of you are the face of hockey or the future in Pittsburgh, if not for the whole league. How have the two of you meshed together? And how has it been being with him so far this year?

SIDNEY CROSBY: It's been great to be able to play with someone that's that creative and has that much fun out there on the ice. It's a lot of fun. I think that myself I'm improving just from playing with him. He's a fun guy to play with and even just to be on the ice practicing with every day. He's still learning English so it's hard to communicate, but we're doing our best. And I think he's coming along as the season goes on, which is good. It's just been fine.
I think that myself and him we're lucky we have guys like Staal and Fleury. It's been a lot of fun so far.

Q. You guys have been linked ever since last year started. Do you have any sort of a friendship away from the rink? Do you guys talk or compare notes at all away from the arena at all?

SIDNEY CROSBY: We don't really kee p really keep in touch other than when we see each other when we play each other. We've done a few things off the ice and ran into each other. But I think outside of that it's just a relationship where we see each other when we play.

Q. Alex, have you played golf since the hole-in-one?


Q. Calling it quits there?


Q. Can you turn back the calendar to this time last year. Compare the player you were then to the player you are now. And how much more improving can you do? That's for both of them.

SIDNEY CROSBY: I think for me, I think experience is something that, you know, I can look back and say that I'm more experienced a lot more knowledgeable about everything that has to do about playing the game. So I think I have a lot to learning and a long ways to go, but I think I can definitely bring that from last year. I'm just more aware. I think I've tried to become a guy that's going to shoot the puck more often when I get the chance just to keep guys honest. I'm always learning, always trying. Those are the a couple things I've tried to improve on this year.

ALEX OVECHKIN: For me, this year, I try to play more defensively. I have talk with my coach a lot and he tell me, "I don't care about how we play offensively. I care about how he play defensively." I know I play right now better defensively. I think all my teammates and all my coaches, they my fans, see it and they know I try to play more defensively like last year.

Q. For Sidney, today they announced the roster for the Canadian World Junior Team, and amazingly you were still eligible for that. How distant does that seem to you now a few years into the NHL? What did the experience of playing for the national team do for you as a player

SIDNEY CROSBY: It's an amazing experience. I think it is for anyone. I think for me I was lucky enough to play on the team I did my second year. We were just so deep and so good.
And I think I improved over three weeks or a month just from playing with those guys. They were NHL caliber guys. If you look at the guys on that team there's an awful lot that are in the NHL already.
That was a special group, and having Coach Sutter coach our team was great as well. The on-ice part was an experience in itself, and I became a better player for it. And being part of the whole experience as far as having Canadian fans follow that it was so big and something I grew up watching. I wanted to be a part of it. It was a special experience, and no doubt it helped me a lot.

Q. Sidney, if you could tell me one thing you admire most about Alex's game, and Alex I'm going ask you the same question about Sid.

SIDNEY CROSBY: I'd say his goal-scoring ability. I don't think you can really teach anyone that. It's just a knack. It's an ability. You know, he definitely has that. So it's exciting to watch when someone can score goals like that.

ALEX OVECHKIN: Well, I think how he control the puck. How he find his partners. It's unbelievable.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The State of The Pittsburgh Penguins...

The Penguins dropped another heart breaker to the New York Rangers last night. They had built a 2-goal lead and played some very inspired hockey during the first 45 minutes of the game. That all changed quickly.

Marc Andre Fleury, who looked like he was on his way to posting a shut out, allowed a deflection goal. The goal could have beaten anyone in the league, but it seemed to deflate him. He quickly allowed another, and the rest is history...regulation ended and the Penguins could not get it done in the shoot-out.

The Penguins hot start is still masking how bad they have been lately, at least in stretches. In case anyone is keeping track, the flightless bird has won only 4 of 17 games. Granted several of the losses have come in shootouts or overtime, but that is not going to get it done. They have played well in spurts, but they have had difficulty putting together complete games.

What are the major deficiencies on this team? Where can they improve? Well, let's start with the scoring.

They have gotten little offensive support from their wingers this season. In fact, Mark Recchi is the only winger who has more than 6 goals, that sort of production is not going to win games. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have no one who can truly finish for them and that aspect needs immediate attention from general manager Ray Shero. Certain guys have played well on the wing in spurts, such as Recchi, Nils Ekman and recently Eric Christensen, but the team will suffer without consistent scoring from the wing. Crosby would be leading the league by a 10-point margin if he played with a true finisher.

This cannot all be blamed on the players. Most of them have skated on different lines as often as every other shift. Michel Therrien is not allowing guys to build chemistry. Sure, it is Malkin's fault when he throws the puck to an area where a winger should be and it results in a turnover, but he would have an idea as to where a guy was really going to be if he skated with him frequently enough. Then again, after watching him for the first 1/4 season, even my hockey IQ tells me that all you need to do is get into open space and he will get you the puck. Why his wingers aren't doing it, I don't know. The line shuffling is going to be the downfall of Therrien if it continues.

Ray Shero's marquee acquisitions during the off-season were Nils Ekman and Jarkko Ruutu. Ekman, who was used to playing with Joe Thornton and Johnathan Cheechoo in San Jose, stated the season on Sidney Crosby's wing only to be taken out of that role on opening night. Many nights he was used in a checking role, and only recently has been getting top 6-ice time, which has helped him to look better. Ruutu, who is a great agitator with some scoring touch, was thrown into a 4th line role and not given much more than 6-7 minutes a game. When Shero made the signing, he mentioned using him with skilled players to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle, hasn't happened. Do not think the GM is turning a blind eye to these two situations.

The defense started the season playing very well, but the loss of Mark Eaton set them a ways back. The guys were able to hang in there for a while, but have since been exposed. Josef Melichar takes at least 2 horrible penalties per game and doesn't hit anyone. Sergei Gonchar is either one of the best players on the ice, or one of the worst...lately it's been the latter. Rob Scuderi is good on the penalty kill and not much else. Ryan Whitney has cooled off considerably and Brooks Orpik is up and down. As much as the Wilkes Barre-Scranton recalls want to help, there is a reason that both Alain Nasreddine and Micki Dupont haven't found work in the NHL over their careers. They need Eaton Shero should also use Eric Christensen or Ryan Malone to get a stay at home d-man to help solidify the squad.

The goaltending has been all things this season. Both Jocelyn Thibault and Marc Andre Fleury have been magical at times, but they are no longer stealing points for this team. Occasionally, goaltending is effected more by how many goals a team scores, than by how many they allow. The Penguins were able to generate offense early this season, and were winning games 4-2 and 5-3. Those have now become 3-2 and 2-1 losses. The goaltending has still been solid, but it looks a lot weaker when there is a goose egg on the board. The team has got to make up for an occasional bad goal. These goalies are not able to make mistakes right now and if they do, it is resulting in a loss. If a goalie feels like 1 or 2 goals against are going to lose the game for him, he is more apt to make a mistake trying to overcompensate for his team.

The special teams are one of the worst parts of the Penguins game right now. They are not scoring on the power play, but they are allowing the opposition to do so at an alarming rate. Remedy number 1: Shoot the puck and get it through to the net. As I have said before, the Pens have to lead the league in having their shots blocked. Also, when you get that shot through, have a couple guys crash the net...rebounds mean nothing right now. Remedy number 2: Block some shots, and they need to stop running around like the keystone cops. There are occasions this season when the Benny Hill Music should be played while the Pens are trying to kill a penalty.

Though I have just pointed out these problem areas, the team is not far away from being a winner. There is a lot of youth and inexperience but they are developing. These kids will learn how to win, and with Sidney Crosby leading the way, they cannot go wrong. I am not ready to concede the playoffs this year, but I think they will be more prepared for a run next season.


The Penguins have not ruled out suspending John Leclair if he doesn't eventually report to Wilkes Barre Scranton or retire. Though GM Ray Shero is trying to find a good fit for him, the Penguins are not going to be content paying a salary while he sits at home. This is starting to take an interesting turn, one that I didn't see coming when this saga started last week.


Ray Shero announced that Jordan Staal would not play in the World Junior Championships for Canada. They had invited him to camp, but the Penguins have declined the

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pens Game Day Notes...

Micki Dupont will make his Penguin debut this evening in New York. He was scratched on Tuesday night against Florida. Could he have been the difference for the power play? I guess we will find out tonight. Dupont was a fringe player in the old NHL, but he seems tailor made for the league these days. He is quick, has great offensive instincts and can carry the puck. I am looking forward to seeing him in action this evening.

Jordan Staal will be back in the line-up tonight. Coach Michel Therrien said that wanted to sit him down for a game because his play had dipped a bit over the last month. They know that he is young and don't want to burn him out. They say they have a development plan for him and are sticking to it.

John Leclair has been re-assigned to Wilkes Barre-Scranton again. Ray Shero said that Leclair would like to stay in the league somewhere, and they are helping him to do that. He was shuffled again to make room for Michel Ouellet, who came off of the injured list. Leclair has been home with his family and is considering reporting to the Baby Penguins. Shero seems to think that his reporting will become inevitable. Time will tell. I still think he will end up being traded to offer cash relief to the team that takes him. He can still be a valuable commodity on the power play, a role that the Penguins didn't use him in often this season.

The lines will be shuffled again tonight. Seems that Michel Therrien has flipped Eric Christensen and Colby Armstrong. Christensen will play with Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi, while Armstrong will flank Evgeni Malkin and Nils Ekman. When will it all end!!

Fleury will be back in net tonight. He has got to get back to where he was early in the season. Not that he has been very bad lately, but he isn't stealing points for the team like he was in October/early November. MA will put it together, he is too talented. The team defense has also been lacking lately and it is a lot harder to play well in net when you have opposing players practically on top of you.

More post game...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pens Still Leading All Star Charge......Getting Ready for Florida...

The latest Eastern All Star Ballot check shows that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still holding on to the top two spots under forwards. Marc Andre Fleury has fallen to second place behind Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller. Here is the top 10 for each position...

Player NHL Club Votes

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh 401,365
Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh 217,146
Daniel Briere Buffalo 214,295
Alex Ovechkin Washington 203,138
Maxim Afinogenov Buffalo 200,776
Chris Drury Buffalo 156,788
Jaromir Jagr NY Rangers 151,576
Erik Cole Carolina 141,551
Ilya Kovalchuk Atlanta 97,011
*Thomas Vanek Buffalo 92,103


Bryan McCabe Toronto 245,976
Brian Campbell Buffalo 242,852
Zdeno Chara Boston 205,981
Jay Bouwmeester Florida 203,581
Henrik Tallinder Buffalo 202,637
Tomas Kaberle Toronto 194,850
Sheldon Souray Montreal 190,516
Wade Redden Ottawa 116,108
Brian Rafalski New Jersey 96,009
Dan Boyle Tampa Bay 78,211


Ryan Miller Buffalo 253,024
Marc-Andre Fleury Pittsburgh 208,492
Martin Brodeur New Jersey 185,679
Cam Ward Carolina 57,826
Andrew Raycroft Toronto 57,677
Kari Lehtonen Atlanta 57,482
Henrik Lundqvist NY Rangers 52,035
*Cristobal Huet Montreal 51,363


Game Notes:

Ryan Malone will make his return to the line-up. He will play on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Nils Ekman. This will be a very good opportunity for him to show that he can be a top 6 winger. He has not lived up to expectations in this role in the past. He will be working through some rust, but hopefully the line will mesh. This is also an opportunity for Nils Ekman, who has been playing a greatly diminished role than when the season started.

Micki Dupont, who was recalled yesterday, will not dress tonight. I imagine that Therrien is giving his existing defensive core a one last chance, though Alain Nasreddine will suit up this evening.

There has been no word on John Leclair. I have to imagine that the only reason he went unclaimed through re-entry waivers is that some team who may have wanted his services didn't want to pick up the additional salary without losing some of what they already had on the books. One of three things is going to happen: 1. Leclair retires 2. He sits on the bench and plays periodically 3. A minor trade is made to offset the incoming 690,000(pro-rated) salary and the Pens pick up a player that can fill in on 4th line or in the AHL.

I do not agree with sitting Jordan Staal if he is healthy. I would much rather he had sat out a game when he was fighting off the flu last week. He needs to be used nightly to develop, and if team management thinks his performance has flat-lined, they should send him back to Peterborough. I personally would like them to let him play in the World Junior Championships. He has not been filling a huge role over the last 10 games and it would give him a chance to play on a national stage. He would probably be used in all situations for Canada and a medal has never hurt anyone's confidence.

As I mentioned yesterday, Thibault will start tonight.

More after the game....

Monday, December 04, 2006

Info On the Pens Roster Moves...

As was reported earlier, the Penguins have recalled Alain Nasreddine and Micki DuPont. They also sent Noah Welch down to Wilkes Barre-Scranton. I wanted to share some thoughts on the moves....

Let's start with the demotion of Noah Welch. For some reason, he just can't capture the magic this season. He has often been out of position in the defensive zone and has not been the physical presence that he was last season. I am not sure what has stunted his growth and hope that some time, as a number one D-man in the AHL will do him good. That is how he initially got his call up this season, being demoted after camp and playing well in the A....Coach Todd Richards did send him a message earlier in the season when he sat him out early in the Wilkes Barre-Scranton season. His two-way contract played into the decision, but his play was a major factor in my opinion.

I am an Alain Nasreddine fan and think that he will bring something to the line-up that has been lacking since Mark Eaton went down. He is a solid stay at home type who knows how to play the game. He has been around for a long time and is a leader. The Penguins young core, many of which played with Nasreddine in WBS, respects him. He wore the C with the Baby Pens last season and Head Coach Michel Therrien loves him. He will definitely bridge the gab until Eaton is healthy.

Micki Dupont is being brought in to help the anemic power play. He is a right-handed shot who can carry the puck and play the point effectively. He is not the best defensive player on the planet, but can be an asset in the new NHL. Which is why Ray Shero brought him this summer. I am hoping that he can jump start the power play a bit...hopefully it will have the effect that Kris LeTang did early in the season.

As you all know, John Leclair has cleared re-entry waivers. I am not sure what the next move is at this point. The Penguins are not at the roster limit today, but Ryan Malone and Michel Ouellet will be coming off of injured reserve soon. Something is going to have to break.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Roy Claimed By Bolts, Johnny Vermont on Re-entry Waivers

As I alluded to the other day, Tampa Bay has claimed Andre Roy on Re-entry waivers. The lightning felt that he was an element that they have been lacking since their cup run and jumped at the chance to grab him.

"It was never our intention or our desire to lose Andre Roy in the first place," Tampa GM Jay Feaster said. "Having lost him, we never regained that tough, physical, gritty element that Andre brings. Now, for the first time, the new CBA has helped us in that through re-entry waivers we have been able to bring back a very important player to our hockey team at a salary and cap hit that make sense."

I previously mentioned a similar quote from head coach John Tortorella. The Bolts seem thrilled to have Roy back and he seems just as happy, "Jay called me and he said welcome home," Roy said. "I told him that he is right because Tampa is my home and you have no idea how happy I am to be coming back."

John Leclair on Re-entry Waivers
The Penguins are passing John Leclair through re-entry waivers and the saga seems as if it will come to an end tomorrow at noon. I still say that he ends up in Philadelphia. There are some other teams interested, but they are the lowest in the standings that have shown an interest.