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Penguins Penguins Scouting Report

Thursday, April 26, 2001

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer


Game 1: Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7:38 p.m. today, HSBC Arena.

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

Probable goaltenders: Johan Hedberg (4-2, 1.60 GAA) for the Penguins. Dominik Hasek (4-2, 2.05 GAA) for the Sabres.

Penguins: Have won four games in a row in Buffalo, outscoring Sabres, 17-9. ... C Mario Lemieux has three-game goal streak, tied for longest in NHL. ... Are 2-1 on road in these playoffs, allowing only three goals in those games.

Sabres: Have scored on 6 of 18 power plays, a 33.3 percent success rate which ranks first among active teams. ... D Alexei Zhitnik's goal and five assists rank him second among defensemen in playoffs. ... Are least-penalized team still alive in playoffs, averaging 10.7 minutes per game during Round 1.

Hidden stat: Members of Penguins' top two forward lines combined for 205 goals in regular season, 13 fewer than entire Buffalo roster.


The Penguins practiced for an hour yesterday at Mellon Arena, performing mostly fast-paced drills and finishing with distance sprints. All players participated, and the team is at full health heading into Game 1.

D Bobby Dollas left the team yesterday, frustrated by a lack of playing time. Dollas, 36, was acquired from the Sharks March 13 in the deal which also netted G Johan Hedberg. He appeared in five regular-season games but did not dress for any of the first-round playoff games against the Capitals. If a defenseman were to be injured now, the player likely to join the lineup would D Frantisek Kucera. D Ian Moran has seen duty at forward and on the blue line.

C Mario Lemieux has not faced Buffalo G Dominik Hasek since coming out of retirement -- Martin Biron was in goal for the only regular-season meeting between the Penguins and Sabres after Lemieux returned -- but he has scored on just one of his past 31 shots against Hasek, a total that includes a penalty shot March 23, 1996. The goal Lemieux got during a 2-0 Penguins victory Dec. 28, 1996, is one of just three he has in 10 games against Hasek. The most recent before that was on Nov. 17, 1992. "He's the best in the world, and he's very tough to play against because he doesn't have a set style," Lemieux said. "He's always challenging the shooter. That makes it tough for a shooter." Does Lemieux have a plan to beat him? "Not really, because he doesn't have a certain style. He's everywhere in net. When you think you've got him beat, he's showing up again. I think for us the key is going to be to create traffic in front of him. If we do that and he doesn't see the puck well, that's to our advantage."

RW Jaromir Jagr, on beating Hasek: "You've got to have two shots. One for Dominik, one for all the other goalies."

Coach Ivan Hlinka, on the same: "I believe this team can score some goals against him. He is not God."

Although the Penguins and Sabres developed a bit of a rivalry in recent years, particularly during their time together in the Northeast Division, this will be just the second time they have met in the playoffs. The first was a preliminary-round series in 1979, and the Penguins upset Buffalo on George Ferguson's goal 47 seconds into overtime of Game 3 at Memorial Auditorium. Ferguson's goal was just the second overtime winner in franchise history.

D Darius Kasparaitis is looking forward to the challenge of facing Sabres C Chris Gratton, who leads all NHL players in these playoffs with five goals. "Guys like Gratton, you have to hit him, have to drive him crazy," Kasparaitis said. "He's one of those guys who plays hard, sometimes behind the rules."


The Sabres practiced yesterday at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. All players participated except D Richard Smehlik (ankle), who appears unlikely to play in Game 1.

Don't expect Coach Lindy Ruff to allow Buffalo to stray from its defense-first posture, least of all against a team such as the Penguins. "We can't change what makes us successful, and that's being a good defensive team with well-rounded scoring," D Rhett Warrener said. "They're good offensively, and they're playing better defensively. We worry about our game now and hope that it's good enough."

G Dominik Hasek, on the challenge of shutting down the Penguins: "It's almost impossible. You know they're going to score some goals. But the question is how many."

Ruff plans to match C Curtis Brown against Penguins C Mario Lemieux. "They've got great team speed," Ruff said. "And we've got to make it tough for them to use that." Brown had two goals in the first round against the Flyers, including one in overtime.

Hasek said he has gotten calls from his homeland for tickets, given that he is facing six Czechs on the Penguins' roster: "Many people are coming, and many are looking for American visas today." Buffalo has four Czechs: Hasek, Smehlik, LW Vaclav Varada and RW Miroslav Satan.


Wednesday's result
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (5-2) played Game 3 of its second-round Calder Cup playoff series with Philadelphia at the First Union Spectrum. The Baby Penguins won the first two games.

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