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Penguins Penguins Report: 11/18/01

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Compiled by Dejan Kovacevic

LOOKING AHEAD

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

NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched C Mario Lemieux (hip), LW Martin Straka (leg), D Janne Laukkanen (knee), RW Stephane Richer and D John Jakopin. Lemieux is expected to return for the game Wednesday. Laukkanen also could return for that one, as it appears his only issue at this point is finding a spot in the lineup. Straka is out until late February. Richer was a healthy scratch for the second time in as many games, largely because the Penguins wanted to counter the Rangers' enforcer-laden lineup by dressing LW Krzysztof Oliwa. LW Dan LaCouture played despite a bruised right eye from being struck by a puck thrown from the Mellon Arena crowd Wednesday. He did not wear a visor. The Rangers played without C Jeff Toms (finger), LW Zdeno Ciger and D Darren Van Impe.

Sentiment is mounting around the NHL that Hurricanes G Tom Barrasso is a strong candidate to make the U.S. Olympic team. With Predators G Mike Dunham already on the roster and Rangers G Mike Richter a sure bet to be added, that leaves only one spot. Richter made it clear Barrasso's play would indicate he should be the third, but he also made a thinly veiled suggestion that Barrasso's personality could be an issue. "I don't know what their thought process is," Richter said of the men who pick the team, including the Penguins' Craig Patrick and Herb Brooks. "They're not only looking at players who can play, obviously, but they're also looking at teammates who can get along. How it fits into their plans, I couldn't tell you. But first and foremost is finding players who can play, and Tom Barrasso can play the game. He's got a lot of experience. He's proven to be a winner with two Stanley Cups, and he's obviously come back and played well early this year after taking time off. I imagine they're considering him. I don't know."

The Penguins are 3-4-2 without Lemieux this season, 98-109-32 since he joined the NHL in 1984. His teammates have had plenty of chances to get used to playing without him, but that doesn't mean he isn't missed each time. RW Alexei Kovalev stressed that Lemieux was instrumental in those hat tricks he recorded Tuesday and Wednesday, even though he was in obvious pain and had just two assists in that span. "Because of Mario, I had so much success when I came back," Kovalev said. "He draws so much attention to himself, and that's maybe why I was getting so much space." Kehoe was impressed Lemieux managed to play in those games: "He was hurting the other night, but that's the type of athlete he is. He's the type of guy who wants to play. He figured he could give it another shot, even in back-to-back games. But now, it's time to give him a little break."

It's likely G Jean-Sebastien Aubin would have squeezed another start or two out of that 25-save, 5-1 victory Tuesday in New Jersey had he been something less than honest with the coaching staff. The following day, Gilles Meloche, goaltending coach, asked Aubin how he was feeling, and he replied he was a little sore. From there, the Penguins decided to stray from their policy of sticking with a goaltender who earns a point and used G Johan Hedberg Wednesday against the Islanders. And because the Penguins tied, 3-3, Hedberg was back in the net last night. "We didn't change the policy. That's still there," Kehoe said. "Seabass was a little sore, and he's looking out for the team, also. He wanted to be 100 percent. You've got to give him credit. He's thinking about the team, which is good. And the way things are, he'll be back in there."

The standing-room-only crowd of 17,027 marked the Penguins' fourth sellout in 10 home dates. That included one particularly clever fan in F level who hung a banner aimed at Rangers C Eric Lindros, victim of that unforgettable check by D Darius Kasparaitis in Pittsburgh three years ago: "Eric, moving to N.Y. won't cure your Kasparaitis."

LW Patrick Foley, the Penguins' sixth-round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, missed all of last season at the University of New Hampshire because of injuries and already is hurt six games into this season. Widely considered one of the NCAA's most punishing forwards, his shoulder was separated in a game last week and he could be out several weeks. He had one goal in six games.

Latest statistics on the Penguins' past three first-round picks: LW Konstantin Koltsov (1999) has a goal and two assists in nine games with Spartak of the Russian Elite League. He has rejected the Penguins' invitation to come to North America each of the past two off-seasons. D Brooks Orpik (2000) has a team-best plus-5 rating for the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. RW Colby Armstrong (2001) ranks third on the WHL's Red Deer Rebels with eight goals and 11 assists.

Rangers Coach Ron Low did not attend the game because of his brother's funeral in Winnipeg. Assistant coaches Walt Kyle and Ted Green worked the New York bench.

Richer was recognized by NHL executive Jim Gregory before the game for playing in his 1,000th game Nov. 3 against the Lightning.

The Penguins' players will help raise money for the Autism Society at the team's annual booster club dinner at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Green Tree Radisson.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
FRIDAY'S RESULTS

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (3-12-3-1) tied Hartford, 3-3, at First Union Arena. C Michal Sivek, LW Tomas Surovy and D Peter Ratchuk each scored his fourth goal, Surovy's tying the score with 1:12 remaining. G Sebastien Caron stopped 22 of 25 shots.

WHEELING (6-7) lost, 5-4, at Reading. C Dylan Gyori scored his fifth and sixth goals, RW Mike Hurley his fifth and C Chris Wells his third. G Joel Laing stopped 30 of 35 shots.

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