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Penguins Penguins Report: 4/10/02

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

By Dave Molinari

SCOUTING REPORT

Matchup: Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.

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

Probable goaltenders: Jean-Sebastien Aubin for Penguins. Martin Biron for Sabres.

Penguins: Lead season series, 2-1, including 3-1 victory Nov. 24 at Mellon Arena. ... Have been outscored, 67-45, in the first period this season. ... RW Aleksey Morozov has been stuck on 19 goals for six games, picking up just one assist in that span.

Sabres: Are 4-0-1 in past five games. ... Enforcer Rob Ray is eligible to play after completing five-game suspension. ... LW Miroslav Satan ranks among league leaders in power-play goals (15), short-handed goals (5).

Hidden stat: Sabres are one of two teams that hasn't allowed short-handed goal at home, but have given up six on road.

NOTEBOOK

RW Alexei Kovalev (hip), D Josef Melichar (shoulder) and D Michal Rozsival (groin) participated in the Penguins' 30-minute workout at Southpointe yesterday, but Coach Rick Kehoe said Kovalev is the only one with a reasonable chance of being in the lineup against Buffalo tonight. "He was moving out there," Kehoe said. "It's just a matter of how it's going to feel when he gets up [today]." Kovalev said after practice that he "probably would" have played if the game had been last night but deferred a decision until today. "We'll see how it feels," he said. "If it doesn't bother me more than after [yesterday's] skate, I'll play. But if it's going to be a problem, I don't want to force it."

The Penguins will not hold the customary game-day skate this morning and don't plan to have one before facing Toronto Friday or visiting Boston Saturday.

RW Shean Donovan, whose left elbow was badly gashed after a collision with New York D Brian Leetch in the Penguins' 3-2 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Monday, was put on medication to minimize the risk of infection immediately after being injured and was held out of practice yesterday as a precaution. Donovan said "There's no sense going around, rubbing it all over the place for a practice," Donovan said. He intends to be in the lineup tonight.

LW Dan LaCouture is the only Penguin to appear in 79 games to date and is the only one with a chance to dress for all 82 this season. Of course, after seeing the Penguins lose 305 man-games because of injuries, LaCouture isn't assuming that he'll make it through this week without an injury of some sort. "You can't take anything for granted," he said. "You never know what's going to happen. With the way the injuries have gone this year, you just can't bank on it." LaCouture plays a high-paced, rugged style but said durability never has been a problem. "I play the game hard," he said. "But it seems like my body's been able to handle a lot this year and the past few years." And if LaCouture is healthy when the regular season ends, he might have a little more hockey in his immediate future: He is considering an invitation to compete for Team USA at the world championships in Sweden.

Exasperating as some of the Penguins' stretch-drive defeats have been, Melichar noted that points lost at this time of the year count no more than those that got away earlier in the season. And that a team's success is determined by how it performs over 6 1/2 months, not a single three-hour span. "You're not going to win one game and make the playoffs," he said. "It's the full season. You have to go every game, play hard each game and try to win each game. We let a couple of those games go by."

With the Penguins out of playoff contention, the only major issue to be resolved in the final few games of the regular season is precisely which slot they will fill in the NHL draft lottery. Getting a high choice could have a significant impact on the franchise but isn't the subject of much discussion in the locker room. "I don't pay any attention to that," C Jan Hrdina said. "That's management's job."

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