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Penguins Report, 4/14/00

Friday, April 14, 2000

By Dave Molinari and Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writers

Looking Ahead

Game 2: Washington Capitals at Penguins, 2:08 p.m. tomorrow, Mellon Arena. TV, radio: WTAE; WWSW-FM (94.5), WWSW-AM (970). About 2,200 tickets are still available; 3,000 remain for Game 3 Monday.

The Headline The Capitals have taken a bizarre step to discourage Penguins fans from packing the MCI Center. On the club's official Web site, the following message is posted on the page where playoff tickets can be purchased: "Attention PA residents, we are currently experiencing difficulty processing your orders. Please seek tickets elsewhere." Asked about the note, Capitals spokesman Andy McGowan replied, "Lighten up. It's just for fun. You can actually buy the tickets if you put in the order. It's just for fun." Such instructions, however, could deter some fans from making the four-hour trek. And it's a safe bet that wouldn't displease the Capitals much. In the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, Washington team officials were so embarrassed by the large number of Penguins devotees who filled the USAir Arena that they later sent a letter of apology to Capitals season-ticket holders. It should be noted, too, that on their Web site, the Capitals are encouraging their fans to go to Pittsburgh for Games 2 and 3. The address, if you're curious, is .

Penguins Notebook

Scratches: The Penguins played without G Jean-Sebastien Aubin (ankle), LW Rene Corbet (shoulder), LW Tom Chorske (shoulder), C Milan Kraft (hernia), RW Steve Leach, D Michal Rozsival and D Dan Trebil.

Injury update: Utilityman Ian Moran, who had been expected to sit out the early part of the series because of a dented bone in his ankle, said he felt "great" after the game-day skate and was in the lineup for Game 1. ... Corbet, out since March 21 because of a bruised shoulder, is a good candidate to return for Game 2 tomorrow, although Coach Herb Brooks would not commit to that. "I've skated hard the last week and a half, and I'm really close to coming back," Corbet said.

Clear the Floor: The "Burn the Floor" dance exhibition scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday at Mellon Arena was canceled. That show was one of the factors contributing to the unusual scheduling in this series, which will shift to Pittsburgh for Games 2 and 3.

Staying loose: Playoff pressure can get to be excruciating, but it wasn't showing on the Penguins during their game-day skate at the MCI Center. Players were laughing and animated on and off the ice, hardly symptoms of a team feeling serious stress. "We're a very loose dressing room to start with," RW Rob Brown said. "Guys are excited, and we don't feel any added pressure. We're going in as a seventh seed. If you look in the papers, no one's picking us to win, anyway. So we're just going to go out and play our game and, hopefully, it will be enough."

Brooks likes four-on-four: The four-on-four overtime format the NHL adopted for this season didn't work out particularly well for the Penguins -- they were 3-6-8 -- but Brooks still would like to see the concept extended to playoff games, too. Under current rules, teams play five to a side when playoff games go past regulation. "I think [four-on-four] is extremely exciting. I know they couldn't do it this year, because [the format] is already determined, but I'm sure it will probably be addressed next year. We're in the entertainment business, and we should understand that."

Lemieux on hand: Penguins owner Mario Lemieux was scheduled to attend the series opener last night. Fortunately for the Capitals -- given that so many of Lemieux's 155 career playoff points came against Washington -- the plan was for him to be in business attire, not a game sweater.

Staying the course: Brooks always has emphasized having his team's game in order over trying to prepare for the specifics of an opponent's game plan, and he doesn't expect to deviate from that approach much during the playoffs. "We will be a little more cognizant of some of their major tendencies, but the daily preparation is pretty much the same," he said. "We know pretty much what they're about, and they know what we're about. With the advent of satellites and [videotape] and everything else, there are very few secrets. We're not going to go in and give them a different wrinkle, and they're not. Nothing major. And if there is, you would make the necessary adjustment in the next game."

Capitals Notebook

Scratches: The Capitals played without RW James Black (fibula), C Jan Bulis (shoulder), LW Jim McKenzie, LW Mike Eagles and D Dmitri Mironov.

Injury update: RW Peter Bondra, who missed the final five games of the regular season with a bruised right shoulder, returned to the lineup and skated on the fourth line. ... Black and Bulis will miss the series.

Red ink everywhere: Even if the Capitals beat the Penguins and go on to win the Stanley Cup, they will not break even in their first year under new ownership. A report in the Washington Post yesterday suggested the team will lose $14 million to $17 million. Ted Leonsis, a former America Online executive who paid $100 million for the club last summer, said he is not discouraged: "It would be naive as a businessman to say I want to lose money. I want to earn a profit. But first, I want to run the team in a way that makes my family and the city proud." More than 20 of the NHL's 28 teams are believed to have lost money last season.

History never repeats: Coach Ron Wilson is a bit weary of hearing how the Capitals lost four of five playoff series to the Penguins in the 1990s, mostly because Lemieux can no longer hurt them on the ice. "It's got nothing to do with us," he said. "The biggest thorn in Washington's side is sitting in the owner's box. He doesn't play anymore. It's just a mindset. I guess writers have to find things to write about, and they just want to talk about the past. ... I don't like monkeys on my back, and I especially don't like other people's monkeys on my back."

No break for 68: The Capitals made it clear they won't cut Penguins RW Jaromir Jagr any slack because of his various injuries. "Jagr can take it," D Brendan Witt said. "He's not a guy you can just run out and crush. You have to use a lot of little slashes and get under his skin and agitate him and throw him off his game."

Not exactly Joe Namath: Wilson shrugged off any waves he might have caused earlier in the week by suggesting his team could beat the Penguins even if all seven games were at Mellon Arena: "I think Pittsburgh's saying the same thing. I don't think you go into a series and say, 'OK, we're going to lose.' That's no attitude to have. We're playing to win, and we expect to be playing for the Stanley Cup. That's no disrespect to Pittsburgh."

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