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Penguins Penguins Report: 4/27/01

Friday, April 27, 2001

Compiled by Dave Molinari and Dejan Kovacevic

LOOKING AHEAD

Game 2: Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, 3:08 p.m. tomorrow, HSBC Arena. TV, radio: WTAE-TV; WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).

PENGUINS NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched LW Dan LaCouture, LW Steve McKenna, D Frantisek Kucera, RW Krzysztof Oliwa and G Jean-Sebastien Aubin for Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against Buffalo at HSBC Arena last night.

Coach Ivan Hlinka, whose Czech Olympic team won a gold medal at the 1998 Games largely because of the play of Sabres G Dominik Hasek, offered an unusual perspective on how the Penguins should deal with Hasek in this series. "Score some goals," he said, smiling. "And if you don't, you just kill him."

The Penguins, not surprisingly, are a popular choice in Western Pennsylvania to win this series. Just as predictably, the Sabres seem to be a near-unanimous pick on the Niagara Frontier, and Buffalo appears to be viewed as the favorite by a majority -- although hardly an overwhelming one -- of observers from around North America. "If most people consider us an underdog, that's great for us," D Bob Boughner said. "We just want to go out and battle every night and try to win games, whether people pick us or not. But a lot of people probably look at us [as if] we've got a couple of superstars and, after that, they don't think much of the rest of our team. I honestly believe that. ... But we really don't get too caught up in that."

D Darius Kasparaitis has a knack for infuriating opponents, which often makes them lose focus and discipline, but he believes that becomes increasingly difficult as the playoffs move along. "It's going to be hard, because people play more disciplined hockey," he said. "They're not going to let their emotions or feelings hurt the team. ... Hopefully, I can do that, but it's going to be tough."

Had the Penguins not traded LW Matthew Barnaby to Tampa Bay for C Wayne Primeau during the All-Star break, the interaction between Barnaby and his good buddy, Sabres RW Rob Ray, might well have developed into a sideshow this series. It almost certainly would have been entertaining -- remember, those are the guys who, during their days together in Buffalo, came up with the "Cornelius" nickname for Lyle Odelein -- but might have deteriorated into a distraction. "I'm glad that's not going on," said Boughner, who played with Barnaby and Ray in Buffalo. "That's like 'Days of Our Lives.' " Primeau, who began his career with the Sabres, pointed out that Barnaby and Ray are "still very close" and that, while Barnaby still owns a residence in western New York, Ray "pretty much owns Buffalo."

Hlinka praised the play of third-line LW Kevin Stevens, who was the Penguins' most physical forechecker during Round 1, and said that, because of his playoff experience, his contribution is not limited to what he accomplishes on the ice. "He's doing the job for us in the locker room," Hlinka said.

SABRES NOTEBOOK

The Sabres scratched LW Erik Rasmussen (shoulder), D Richard Smehlik (foot), C Chris Taylor, LW Eric Boulton and RW Rob Ray last night.

Rasmussen had been scheduled to work with C Curtis Brown and RW Vaclav Varada on the line assigned to play against the Jan Hrdina-Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr unit. Brown described Vladimir Tsyplakov as "one of the unsung heroes" of Buffalo's first round victory against Philadelphia because of the way he filled in for Rasmussen then, but losing Rasmussen removed a valuable physical presence from the unit. "[Rasmussen] will go and look to finish every single check," Brown said. "And he can do that. That's his game."

Brown said the Penguins "turned some heads" when they adopted the left-wing lock late in the regular season, but Buffalo C Stu Barnes, a former Penguin, said it's only logical that world-class talents such as Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr should be able to perform effectively in their own zone. "Historically, they haven't been a team that's played a lot of [defense], but the flip side of it is that the guys who are so good offensively, like Mario and [Jagr] and [the No. 2 line], they're so smart and understand the game so well that for them to play defensive really makes sense, when you think about it. They understand the game a lot better than a lot of people do, and to be able to go back and play in their own end really doesn't surprise me, because they're so smart out there."

The Sabres are playing without their captain, feisty C Michael Peca, who has missed the entire season in a contract dispute, but his absence doesn't seem to be much of a issue anymore. When asked if he had considered the impact Peca's presence might have had on this series, Coach Lindy Ruff responded, "Not at all. The focus is on the job at hand."

Barnes went from the Penguins to Buffalo in exchange for Barnaby March 11, 1999, and his ties to the Penguins have loosened a bit over the past few years. Still, facing them adds a little spice to this series for him. "Anytime you play against your old team, it's a lot of fun," he said. "I had in a great time in Pittsburgh, got to play a lot of hockey and had a lot of fun. It's going to be exciting." Barnes was close friends with Rob Brown and Tyler Wright but is not particularly tight with anyone on the Penguins' current roster. Still, he said, "you see the guys in the hallway before games, or even out on the ice during games, and you say, 'Hi.' It's a good bunch of guys."

Washington players and officials suggested during Round 1 that the Penguins, particularly Lemieux, might be receiving preferential treatment from the referees. Ruff, however, said he believes the officials have, in general, performed well this spring. "I watched all the Pittsburgh-Washington games, and I thought the officiating has been very good in the playoffs," he said. "All you're looking for is a fair shake and what penalty is going to be called, and that it be called both ways. I don't know if you can complain too much from watching their previous series. And I thought that, really, in our series against Philadelphia, when it ended, we both pretty well had an equal number of power plays."

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT

Thursday's result

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (6-2) did not play. The Baby Penguins can complete a sweep of Philadelphia in Game 4 of their second-round Calder Cup playoff series tonight at the First Union Spectrum. "It's hard for a team to come back from being down three games to none in a series," Coach Glenn Patrick told the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. "We have to come out hard and try to finish them off." C Toby Petersen has four goals and three assists in the playoffs.

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