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Penguins Penguins Report: 10/15/01

Monday, October 15, 2001

Compiled by Dejan Kovacevic

LOOKING AHEAD

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

NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched C Wayne Primeau (foot), D Janne Laukkanen (knee), D Hans Jonsson (foot), C Toby Petersen and RW Krzysztof Oliwa. Petersen sat out practice Saturday and was held out of the lineup yesterday because of dehydration. C Mario Lemieux returned after missing two games because of a strained hip muscle. The Sabres played without LW Eric Boulton and D Dmitri Kalinin.

Another game for the Penguins, another hot goaltender for the opposition. Yesterday, it was the Sabres' Martin Biron, who made several tight, one-on-one stops among his 25 saves. "It's not just me. It's the whole team's confidence is growing," Biron said. "To hold Pittsburgh to one goal is really a great achievement, but it takes everybody. Our guys are keeping the other team to 20 or so shots every night, and they're giving me the chance to be aggressive against the shooter. That's how I'm comfortable, when I can come out after the shooter." Biron's victory was his first against the Penguins, raising his career mark to 1-4. In his first season out of Dominik Hasek's shadow -- Hasek was traded to the Red Wings in June -- Biron has allowed only nine goals in five games.

Lemieux suggested Biron might have benefited from spending much of the past three years as Hasek's backup: "He's going to be a good one. He had the advantage of practicing with the best for many years. And you can see a lot of the same tendencies. Out there, in the way he plays, the way he carries himself."

Biron had offered many compliments for Penguins G Johan Hedberg's work during the Stanley Cup playoffs this past spring, and he expressed confidence Hedberg can rebound from his subpar start: "I thought he made some pretty good saves, especially in the first. It's just something that happens, part of the job. There are highs and lows."

D Josef Melichar gave the Penguins' bench a bit of a lift in the game's waning moments when he dropped the gloves for a spirited fight with Sabres LW Rob Ray, a veteran enforcer with nearly 3,000 career penalty minutes. "He told me I speared him, and he said I was scared of him," Melichar said. "I'm not scared of him. When your team is down, you need to fight for everything. You have to stick up for yourself." Melichar more than held his own for roughly 20 seconds and, as the combatants were separated, he motioned to his forehead. "I just wanted to remind him that I got him up there two times."

RW Alexei Kovalev said he doesn't expect to miss any playing time as a result of his leg-on-leg collision with Sabres D Alexei Zhitnik at 10:30 of the third period. Kovalev had deked his way past Zhitnik into the Buffalo slot, and the upper part of his left leg struck Zhitnik's knee. Kovalev returned for his next shift, and he played the rest of the game with a visible mean streak. Kovalev knocked Zhitnik out of a playoff game this past spring with a huge open-ice check, but he declined to speculate if Zhitnik's check yesterday might have been an attempt at revenge. "He stuck his knee out," Kovalev said. "He's the only one who can say if he meant to do that."

Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff, on the good fortune of LW Slava Kozlov, who twice scored from behind the Penguins' goal line by banking the puck off Hedberg: "He's good at banking shots in. He should have been a hoops player."

D John Jakopin made his first appearance with the Penguins and logged 8:35 of ice time and a plus-1 rating. He was acquired off waivers from the Panthers the day before the Oct. 3 opener but was a healthy scratch for the first three games. To make room for Jakopin, Ian Moran was moved from defense to fourth-line center between LW Kevin Stevens and RW Dan LaCouture. "Obviously, losing is not what I wanted," Jakopin said. "But it felt good to be out there. You have to get out there to get the feel of the team."

On the game's final faceoff, with 2.5 seconds left, D Darius Kasparaitis blasted the puck toward the Buffalo net and nailed Sabres D Jay McKee in the backside. But when McKee turned to look at Kasparaitis, he saw Kasparaitis raise his hand to indicate it was unintentional. "You wouldn't really expect something like that to be on purpose," McKee said. "I was just fortunate I turned around where there was plenty of padding."

It's not easy finding bright spots in the Penguins' 0-4 start, which makes their work on faceoffs stand out that much more. For the third time this season, they won more than they lost, taking 37 of 68. Lemieux led the way with a 17-6 showing, including 7-0 in the first period, much of which the Penguins spent short-handed. Among other notables, C Milan Kraft went 9-4, C Robert Lang 9-14.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
SATURDAY'S RESULTS

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (0-4-1) lost, 7-3, at Cleveland. C Shane Endicott scored his second goal, RW Jason MacDonald and D Brooks Orpik his first each. D Brendan Buckley had two assists. G Sebastien Caron stopped 8 of 12 shots. G Robbie Tallas replaced him and stopped 19 of 22.

WHEELING (0-1) did not play.

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