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Penguins Penguins summon Kraft

Saturday, May 05, 2001

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Penguins' search for an offensive spark took them to northeastern Pennsylvania yesterday.

Milan Kraft

They summoned center Milan Kraft, who leads the American Hockey League playoffs in points (16) and goals (12), from their minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

Kraft figures to be in uniform -- and perhaps in a fairly prominent role -- when the Penguns face Buffalo in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series at 1:08 p.m. today, but precisely where he will fit in isn't known.

His recall was announced several hours after the Penguins' practice, during which Coach Ivan Hlinka had four complete lines -- Jan Hrdina-Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka-Robert Lang-Alexei Kovalev, Kevin Stevens-Wayne Primeau-Aleksey Morozov and Steve McKenna-Dan LaCouture-Krzystof Oliwa -- with Rene Corbet and Josef Beranek as spare forwards.

Kraft has worked alongside players such as Corbet and Beranek before, but Beranek, who left practice early, is injured and said he is not ready to return.

Kraft is a candidate to move Hrdina from the No. 1 line because his offensive skills might mesh with those of Lemieux and Jagr, and because Lemieux has proven willing to work as the defensive forward on his line.

Hlinka also might slide Kraft into Primeau's spot on the third line. If that were to happen, Primeau, who has played well in this series, presumably would move in between LaCouture and Oliwa.

The decision to recall Kraft evidently was made on short notice, because he went through a workout with the Baby Penguins yesterday in his normal spot on the No. 1 line between Greg Crozier and Eric Meloche.

Had Baby Penguins Coach Glenn Patrick, whose team will open its Western Conference final against Hershey tonight, been aware that he was about to lose his best player, he likely would have realigned his forwards to give Crozier and Meloche a chance to work with their new center.

Kraft, the Penguins' first-round draft choice in 1998, had seven goals and seven assists in 42 games with them before being assigned to Wilkes-Barre Jan. 14.

He had 31 goals and 23 assists in 39 regular-season games with the Baby Penguins and chipped in four assists to go with his 12 goals in 11 playoff appearances.

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