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Penguins Penguins Report: 3/28/01

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

LOOKING AHEAD

Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks, 7:38 p.m. tomorrow, Mellon Arena. TV, radio: Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh; WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).

NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched LW Rene Corbet (ankle), RW Alexei Kovalev (suspension), RW Krzysztof Oliwa (hamstring), D Ian Moran (thumb), G Garth Snow (groin), D Frantisek Kucera and D Bobby Dollas. C Jan Hrdina, who had missed two practices in a row because of an injured toe, played and skated on the first line. The Sabres played without LW Denis Hamel (knee), D Richard Smehlik (rib), C Chris Taylor, LW Eric Boulton, LW Vladimir Tsyplakov, RW Maxim Afinogenov and D Brian Campbell.

Penguins GM Craig Patrick last night said there is a chance Snow could start tomorrow against the Blackhawks. That would mark Snow's first appearance in a game since Feb. 7, after which he was placed on injured reserve because of a severely strained groin. After the game-day skate yesterday, Snow told team trainers he is experiencing no problems and is ready to return. "I feel great," he said. "But the decision has to be made by the team when I come back." The club will perform tests on Snow's strength and flexibility to make sure he can withstand the rigors of a game. With only six games remaining in the regular season, Snow is running out of time to show that he is healthy and sharp enough to handle being the starter for the Stanley Cup playoffs. "I can't say for sure how many games I'll need to get in because it's not up to me, whether it's three or four or how many," he said. "You just have to get out there and play."

G Johan Hedberg last night made it through the first period without giving up a goal for the first time in his five starts for the Penguins, stopping all five pucks the Sabres sent his way. To be sure, that's a bug he was delighted to shake, although it hadn't seemed to bother him much, anyway, as evidenced by his ability to shake off slow starts. "Some guys have that as a gift, but I've had to work on it my whole career," Hedberg said. "I've come to a point now where I can let them go much easier than I could in my first few years. Back then, it would bother me. But now, especially with this team, I know that if I give up two or three goals, my team still has a chance to win."

On the heels of a three-point performance Sunday against the Devils, RW Aleksey Morozov went without a goal last night despite playing well. He'll have one more game on the second line tomorrow before Kovalev returns from his suspension, and he wants to make the most of his chance. "It means nothing if you play one good game and then not play well for 10 games. I need to have a lot of good games. It's really important for me now because I'm playing on the second line, a scoring line, and I get to spend some more time in the offensive zone. That's the kind of game I like to play. I love this game. Right now, I need to do my best."

The Sabres' strong play in recent weeks -- they are 6-2 in their past eight games -- might not net them much of a reward in the postseason. If they finish fourth or fifth in the Eastern Conference, it likely will earn them a matchup against the Flyers, and that doesn't figure to work to their advantage. Buffalo is 0-3 against Philadelphia this season and has been outscored, 8-1. But ask the Sabres about this, and they'll reply with a shrug. "We don't really worry about looking to see who we're going to play," LW Dave Andreychuk said. "We're just most concerned about getting on a little roll and playing our best hockey going into the playoffs."

Sabres G Dominik Hasek said yesterday he won't make up his mind about representing the Czech Republic in the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City until this summer. Hasek does seem to be leaning toward it, though. He was instrumental in bringing the Czechs the gold medal at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, and he made it clear he would like to see a repeat. "I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It's a great tournament, the best in the world. You have to be one of the best players in the world just to be there."

The capacity crowd of 17,148 marked the Penguins' 39th sellout in a row, home and road games included.The streak started against the Sabres Dec. 26 in Buffalo, the Penguins' last game before C Mario Lemieux's comeback. Two of the Penguins final three regular-season home games are sold out, with only 350 tickets remaining for the April 4 finale against the Lightning.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
MONDAY'S RESULTS

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (32-30-8-2) did not play. In the Baby Penguins' past three games, G Rich Parent has stopped 86 of 87 shots.

WHEELING (21-39-8) did not play.

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