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Penguins Penguins Report: 2/5/02

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Compiled by Dejan Kovacevic


Matchup: Penguins vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7:08 p.m. today, Entertainment and Sports Arena, Raleigh, N.C.

TV, radio: Fox Sports Net; WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).

Probable goaltenders: Johan Hedberg for Penguins, Arturs Irbe for Hurricanes.

Penguins: Are 0-1-1 vs. Carolina, including 2-2 tie Nov. 6 at Raleigh. ... RW Alexei Kovalev has four goals, eight assists in past eight games. ... Have allowed power-play goal in each of past four games.

Hurricanes: Are 1-2-5 in past eight, boosting NHL-high number of overtime games to 20. ... RW Jeff O'Neill has seven goals, 17 assists in past 24 games. ... Faceoff winning percentage of 55.43 is No. 1 in league.

Hidden stat: Penguins have scored fewer power-play goals, 26, than Hurricanes C Ron Francis has scored or set up. He leads NHL with 30 power-play points.


The Penguins practiced for 50 minutes yesterday at Southpointe, less than half the time Coach Rick Kehoe used the previous day to shake out the rust from the All-Star break. Nearly half the session was spent on special teams. All players except C Mario Lemieux participated. Lemieux, who played in the NHL All-Star Game Saturday in Los Angeles, will rejoin the team this morning in Raleigh. D Andrew Ference, who participated in the YoungStars Game Friday, returned to practice.

RW Stephane Richer, who has missed five games because of a neck injury, practiced with no difficulty for a second consecutive day and informed coaches he is available to play tonight. "I don't really feel 100 percent, but it's something I'm going to have to deal with," he said. "We need all of us right now." C Robert Lang, who missed the past two games because of oral surgery, will play tonight. D Hans Jonsson, out three games because of a fractured finger, lasted only 15 minutes in practice, 25 less than the previous day. He is out indefinitely.

Jonsson's injury prompted the Penguins to recall D Mike Wilson from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins demoted Wilson Nov. 16, only 12 games into the season, because they were unhappy with his lack of physical play. In his first two weeks in the minors, Wilson was booed by the crowds in Wilkes-Barre, but he eventually found a groove and pleased Coach Glenn Patrick enough to get a second chance. In 35 games for the Baby Penguins, Wilson had two goals, seven assists, a plus-3 rating and 33 penalty minutes. "Glenn told me Mike's been working hard and that his play is consistent," Kehoe said. "He was the best defenseman down there, and he deserved it." Wilson, who will dress tonight, said management made it clear to him yesterday it expects to see him put his 6-foot-6, 229-pound frame to more belligerent use. "They told me to work hard, play consistent and play mean. They want me to play tough." Wilson blamed his lackluster start in Wilkes-Barre on the drop in quality from the NHL to the AHL. "It's such different hockey, all scrambly ... not everyone is where they're supposed to be. It probably took me two or three weeks to adjust to that style, but I did. Hopefully, it won't take me that long to adjust back to this level."

The Hurricanes will be without RW Martin Gelinas (concussion) and RW Tommy Westlund (back). D Bret Hedican, who missed three games because of back spasms, is expected to return. G Tom Barrasso, who missed parts of two games after his groin was strained a week ago, also will return, but only as Arturs Irbe's backup.

The previous time the Penguins faced Carolina, they absorbed perhaps the most humiliating home defeat in franchise history, losing, 7-0, Dec. 16. Many players yesterday said that game seemed no more than a distant memory, but at least one of them plans to keep it foremost in his thoughts tonight. "I remember it," D Darius Kasparaitis said. "I think if you forget things like that, you shouldn't be part of this team. We got embarrassed big time. They made fools of us. We didn't play hard. I think that makes this game big for us, just to have a chance to come out and show our character."

G Johan Hedberg is impressed with the Hurricanes' depth at all positions: "They've got a great lineup, a really good overall team. They have a lot of skaters playing well, and their goaltending is really strong." But are they a full touchdown better than the Penguins? "No, they're not seven goals better than us. They had a great game, and we had a terrible game. That was just embarrassing."


WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (12-29-9-3) beat Norfolk, 3-2, at First Union Arena. LW Martin Sonnenberg and RW Tom Kostopoulos each scored his 16th goal, LW Tomas Surovy his 13th. G Sebastien Caron stopped 34 of 36 shots.

WHEELING (24-21-1) did not play.

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