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Penguins Penguins Report: 3/20/02

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

--Compiled by Dave Molinari

SCOUTING REPORT

Matchup: Penguins vs Phoenix Coyotes, 8:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.

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

Probable goaltenders: Johan Hedberg for Penguins. Sean Burke for Coyotes.

Penguins: Are 2-5-0-1 in past eight home games. ... Have gone 4-16-0-1 against Western Conference opponents, including 1-9 at Mellon Arena. ... LW Jan Hrdina has become NHL's most accurate shooter, with 21 goals on 94 shots (22.3 percent).

Coyotes: Beat Penguins, 5-2, at AmericaWest Arena Dec. 1. ... Were on 7-0-2-1 roll before playing in Boston last night. ... Four of 10 goals rookie C Krystofer Kolanos had before last night were winners.

*Hidden stat: Penguins have scored first goal in just 27 of 69 games.

NOTEBOOK

D Darius Kasparaitis joined his soon-to-be-former teammates for a final practice yesterday, going through a 35-minute workout at Southpointe. About 15 minutes after it ended, Kasparaitis learned that he had been traded to Colorado. RW Alexei Kovalev was excused from the workout because of all the ice time he has logged in recent games, and assistant Joe Mullen was the only member of the coaching staff who went onto the ice during a mostly forgettable practice. "It seems like every deadline [day)] practice has been [with] one coach out there," D Ian Moran said. "They're never really good practices, because guys are thinking about other things."

Regardless of how they felt about moves the Penguins did -- and did not -- make before the trading deadline yesterday, the Penguins clearly are relieved that it is behind them, that all the speculation about personnel matters became moot when the deadline passed. "Everybody in the back of their minds knows the deadline is there, that there's the possibility anybody can get traded," LW Jan Hrdina said. "We're all going to feel a little better, but I don't think it was a distraction or anything like that." G Johan Hedberg said, "it will be good to have it done," and Moran added that, whether players acknowledge it or not, the deadline occupies much of their thoughts at this time of year. "There's an uncertainty," he said. "No matter what anyone says, it's definitely something you've been thinking about. Once the deadline's gone, it's a feeling where, you know what your team is, and you just have to battle from there."

All four players the Penguins picked up last weekend -- D Jamie Pushor, C Shean Donovan, LW Jeff Toms and C Kent Manderville -- had changed teams at least once before, so they have a little experience settling into new surroundings. And Manderville, who has made stops in Toronto, Edmonton, Hartford, Carolina and Philadelphia, believes it shouldn't take long to get acclimated to his new surroundings, although there is an added complication. "When I went to Philadelphia, I knew a few guys already who I had just played with in Carolina, Keith Primeau and Adam Burt. Here, I've never played with anybody, but I think it will be OK. Everybody is used to the NHL lifetstyle and knows what it entails. You're always the new guy sometime, so I don't think it will be that much of a change."

A year ago, Phoenix was involved in a major salary dump, dealing away high-priced players like LW Keith Tkachuk and not re-signing first-line C Jeremy Roenick. The prevailing sentiment around the NHL last fall seemed to be that the Coyotes wouldn't be particularly competitive because of their fiscal problems, but that hasn't been the case. The Coyotes entered their game at Boston last night holding down sixth place in the Western Conference, ahead of such free-spending teams as St. Louis and Dallas. "With moving guys like Tkachuk, and letting Roenick go, you would think that they'd be rebuilding," Moran said. "But they have young guys who have really stepped up."

Although Donovan has been on the payroll for less than a week, he recognizes the magnitude of the challenge confronting the Penguins if they hope to get back into contention for a playoff spot. "We know how important every point is," he said. "Coming down the stretch, we play a lot of teams that are fighting with us." Hrdina described the four-game homestand that begins tonight as "a huge stretch for us," and C Randy Robitaille pointed out that, while other Eastern playoff contenders have sputtered lately, the Penguins don't have the luxury of letting any more points slip away. "We know the other teams are going to win some games," Robitaille said. "We're running out of games. There are only so many points left to grab, and only so many spots in the playoffs, so we can't afford to lose hockey games right now."

Toms, who made his Penguins debut during their 4-2 victory Monday in Atlanta, did not get a highly detailed job description when he arrived, but didn't seem to think one was necessary, either. "Just go out and play, and we'll assess the situation after," Toms said. "Craig [Patrick] just wants me to move my feet out there and try to create some scoring opportunities."

Moran thought he might have to return home from the West Coast late last week when his wife, Britta, who is expecting the couple's second child, began to have contractions. It turned out that his concerns were unfounded, but Moran hopes that he and his wife will be told during a doctor's visit today that the baby will arrive sometime during the four-game homestand that begins tonight. "Hopefully, something will happen in the next 10 days, because once the beginning of April comes, we're gone for basically the rest of the season," Moran said. "I'd like to be around [for the birth], but it might be out of my control."

While money was the major factor in the Penguins' decision to trade Kasparaitis -- and while the franchise clearly doesn't have the resources available to teams like Detroit, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers -- Kasparaitis believes that doesn't necessarily mean they will be unable to compete with clubs based in larger cities. "Small-market teams are going to be affected by that, but maybe they can work through with young players, make the young players play better," Kasparaitis said. "It's not always the team that has the most money that wins. Look at the Rangers. Good management and experience helps a team win a lot of hockey games."

Former NHL player and former Penguins assistant coach Mike Eaves was hired as Wisconsin's hockey coach, returning to the school he helped lead to the 1977 national championship. He replaces longtime coach Jeff Sauer, who retired last week.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
MONDAY'S RESULTS

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (20-37-12-3) did not play. Three Baby Penguins were issued lengthy AHL suspensions for their parts in a fight-filled, 4-0 loss Sunday to Syracuse at First Union Arena. D Steve Parsons was given 12 games, RW Jason MacDonald six and C Darcy Verot two. The team has eight games remaining, meaning Parsons' suspension will carry over into next season.

WHEELING (33-29-3) did not play.

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