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Penguins Report, 1/7/00

Friday, January 07, 2000

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer


Tonight's game: Toronto Maple Leafs at Penguins, 7:38 p.m., Mellon Arena.

TV, radio: Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh; WWSW-FM (94.5), WWSW-AM (970).

Penguins: Are 1-1 vs. Maple Leafs, with 3-1 victory Nov. 23 at home and 3-2 overtime loss Dec. 4 in Toronto. ... LW Martin Straka has had a plus or even rating in all but three of his 28 games. ... Are 7-7-2 all-time vs. Maple Leafs G Curtis Joseph.

Maple Leafs: Are 7-2 in past nine games, including 3-2 overtime loss Wednesday to Rangers. ... C Mats Sundin has scored on 25.8 percent of his shots, third-best ratio in NHL. He has 17 goals on 66 shots. ... Power play is ranked fourth in league at 19 percent.

Hidden stat: Penguins are 0-13-1 when scoring fewer than three goals this season.


Kasparaitis returns tonight: D Darius Kasparaitis, out of the lineup since getting sucker-punched by Islanders LW Gino Odjick eight days ago, will play against the Maple Leafs tonight. "That will help us," Coach Herb Brooks said. Kasparaitis said that the headaches he had experienced for several days after Odjick's punch are gone. The NHL suspended Odjick eight games for the incident.

Injury update: G Tom Barrasso, who had been skating and practicing with the team all week while recovering from a back injury, sat out the session yesterday at Southpointe. It was unclear, however, if that represented a setback. Barrasso, out since Dec. 18, had a magnetic resonance imaging test performed on his back Tuesday, one which Brooks suggested turned out a positive result. The only other player to miss practice was D Peter Popovic, who is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury. ... Brooks said that LW Tom Chorske, out since Dec. 18 with a shoulder injury, is "maybe a week away" from rejoining the lineup.

Time to adjust: RW Alexei Kovalev took exception to the notion that the Penguins lost to the Devils, 3-1, Wednesday night because they failed to dump the puck past New Jersey's neutral-zone trap. "That's not the reason we lost," Kovalev said. "What happened was we didn't come through the neutral zone as a group. We were too spread out, and New Jersey had to play against only one or two guys instead of all of us."

Hillier demoted again: G Craig Hillier, the Penguins' top pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, has been demoted from the team's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre to Johnstown of the ECHL for the second time this season. The Baby Penguins are borrowing G Ryan Bach, 26, from Louisville of the AHL for an undetermined period.

Room to breathe: Penguins officials say the team is right on budget with its player payroll -- roughly $31 million -- but GM Craig Patrick made it clear that should he wish to make a transaction that might stretch the payroll, an exception is a possibility: "We have flexibility for that, if there's something out there we think we need."

Tickets available: As of yesterday afternoon, the Penguins had 1,500 seats remaining for the game tonight.


Wednesday's results

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (8-22-5) lost, 5-3, at Philadelphia. D Sven Butenschon scored twice, RW Valentin Morozov once for the Baby Penguins, who lost their sixth game in a row. G Ryan Bach made 25 saves.

WHEELING (11-18-3) did not play.

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