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Penguins Penguins Report: 11/25/01

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Compiled by Dave Molinari and Dejan Kovacevic


Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils, 7:38 p.m. Tuesday, Mellon Arena. TV, radio: Fox Sports Net; WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).


The Penguins scratched D Andrew Ference, LW Kevin Stevens, D John Jakopin, C Mario Lemieux (hip) and LW Martin Straka (leg) for their game against Buffalo at Mellon Arena last night. Ference was one of four Penguins to record a plus-minus rating of minus-3 in their 5-0 loss in Nashville Friday, as well as one of nine Penguins to appear in each of the team's first 22 games. The Sabres played without LW Eric Boulton, D Dmitri Kalinin (thumb) and D Rhett Warrener (groin).

The game last night attracted a capacity crowd of 16,958, the Penguins' third consecutive sellout and their sixth in 12 home dates this season.

The Penguins entered the game needing a victory to even their all-time series with the Sabres, who had a 50-49-32 edge. The Penguins have been able to narrow Buffalo's lead largely on the strength of their play at home in the past decade; they were 17-3-4 in the previous 24 games against the Sabres at Mellon Arena.

Coach Rick Kehoe gave the Penguins, who have played three games in the past four days, today off. They are scheduled to practice tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Southpointe.

Dallas has been active in the trade market lately -- the Stars acquired D Dave Manson from Toronto and wingers Martin Rucinsky and Benoit Brunet from Montreal last week -- and had two scouts at the game last night. Edmonton and Columbus also were represented.

The most intriguing of the new forward lines Kehoe formed for the weekend was the one of C Kris Beech, LW Dan LaCouture and RW Billy Tibbetts. All three play at a high tempo, creating the possibility of a much-needed energy line. "Billy and I can make a lot happen, and Beechie's a young guy," LaCouture said. "If you've got three guys out there working hard, you can make something happen. Every team needs a line like that, a group that's going to bring you energy, keep it simple and do the things the coaches want." Kehoe agreed: "We'll be looking to them for a lift at times. Maybe there will be times when we're struggling and, all of a sudden, their line comes over the boards and gets some offense going. That's what we're looking for. Plus, we've got to get some guys who are going to the net a little more. That's stuff we know Danny and Billy will do." Their debut was considerably less than impressive, though, as they were on the ice for all three of Nashville's even-strength goals Friday.

The Penguins are not now, nor have they been for many years, a physical team. But that doesn't mean they couldn't do more in the way of basics, LW Kevin Stevens said. "I think the biggest thing for our team is to finish checks. You don't have to kill people or bury them, but at least make sure you finish a guy after he passes the puck so he can't jump around you and join the play. That's what we need more of. You don't have to be 6-3 to do that, and I think we can do it a little better."

Buffalo entered the game with a two-game winning streak, and the Sabres' 4-2 victory against Toronto Wednesday, which came in the wake of four consecutive losses, might go down as a pivotal point in their season. "Hopefully, we've learned our lesson," Sabres C Stu Barnes told The Buffalo News. "We can't dwell on the past and the games that we let slide. The other side of that is, we can't forget about them. We have to take it as en example and say, 'If we play like this, we're going to win,' or, 'If we play [poorly], we're going to lose.' It's a step in the right direction."

Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff criticized C Curtis Brown and C Chris Gratton a few days ago for their lack of offensive production. Brown had five goals and six assists in 24 games before last night, while Gratton had three goals and five assists in 24. "The bottom line is, you're getting paid to produce," Ruff said. "You're not getting paid to produce chances, you're getting paid to produce goals. That accountability has to lay on the shoulders of the guys I've mentioned. Curtis plays against top lines, but he's been here throughout my tenure. I expect him to produce. Gratton is another guy. He's been involved in the power play since Day 1. If you're going to be involved in the power play, you have to put some numbers up."


WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (3-15-3-2) lost, 3-2, in overtime at Rochester. C Shane Endicott scored his 10th goal, D Peter Ratchuk his fifth. G Sebastien Caron stopped 32 of 35 shots.

WHEELING (8-8) won, 5-3, at Johnstown. C Dylan Gyori and C Chris Wells each scored twice, giving Gyori 10 for the season and Wells six. RW Ken Tasker scored his second. G Joel Laing stopped 37 of 40 shots.

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