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Penguins Penguins Report: 10/27/02

Sunday, October 27, 2002

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

LOOKING AHEAD

Penguins vs. Washington Capitals, 7:38 p.m. tomorrow, Mellon Arena. TV, radio: Fox Sports Net; WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).

NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched C Randy Robitaille (foot), LW Martin Straka (back), D Andrew Ference (abdomen), D Josef Melichar (shoulder) and D Hans Jonsson. Jonsson was a healthy scratch for the second time this season after posting a minus-3 rating in his past two games. D Janne Laukkanen returned after being scratched for two games and turned in his most inspired showing of the season. The Sabres scratched RW Maxim Afinogenov (concussion), LW Rob Ray and D James Patrick.

For the second consecutive game, the Penguins fell only hundreds short of their first sellout of the season. Boosted by a game-day sale of 1,500 tickets, they drew a season-high crowd of 16,188, which was 770 shy of capacity. In their previous home game, Oct. 19 against the Lightning, they drew 16,106. There are 3,500 tickets remaining for the game tomorrow against the Capitals.

The Penguins' attendance struggles pale next to those in Buffalo. The Sabres rank last in the NHL with an average of 11,741. No crowd has been larger than 12,633. Team officials blame that on a tumultuous off-season in which owner John Rigas was arrested on fraud charges, prompting the league to take over club operations and search for a buyer. Progress is being made. Two groups, one headed by Thomas Golisano and another by Mark Hamister, are involved in intense talks with the league, each determined to buy the franchise and keep it in Buffalo. Both have roots in western New York, a key requirement the league has for any buyer. "We believe Buffalo is a very strong hockey market," Commissioner Gary Bettman told the Buffalo News Friday. "We believe if people focus on how important the Sabres are to the community, they will support the franchise."

The Sabres started the season 2-0 but are 1-4-1 since then, and it's about to get tougher. The game last night marked the start of a six-game road trip spanning 12 days. After Pittsburgh, they go to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Columbus and Carolina. C Stu Barnes, team captain, suggested Buffalo's sagging offense -- seven goals in the past four games -- could benefit. "It might be just the thing we need, to go out and play simple road games for a while," he said. "Most teams, I think, if they had their choice, would have a road trip like this early on."

Other rookies are getting more attention around the league, but few have more responsibility than Sabres D Henri Tallinder. A second-round pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, he is logging more than 20 minutes per game, second-most among rookies, and is working all special teams. He has no points but a plus-3 rating in his eight games. "There's not a thing you can say bad about him," Coach Lindy Ruff said yesterday. "I don't know if I can pick out a moment where he's been beat one-on-one."

No matter what was going to happen to the Sabres last night, it wasn't going to be more humbling than allowing a goal to Devils D Ken Daneyko, which Buffalo did Friday in a 2-1 loss. Daneyko snapped an NHL-record goalless streak of 255 games with a long snap shot past Sabres G Martin Biron in the first period. That gave him 35 goals in 1,218 games. As Tim Graham of the Buffalo News wrote: "Whenever Daneyko scores a goal, it's just not your night. Pick up your belongings, head for the exit, turn off the lights on your way out."

The Penguins honored the Quecreek miners in an on-ice ceremony before the game. Five of the nine who survived the July mining accident in Somerset County attended: Blaine Mayhugh, Ron Hileman, Bob Pugh, John Unger and Dennis Hall. They were presented with Penguins sweaters, then sat together in the Igloo seats to watch the game.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
FRIDAY'S RESULTS

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (3-3) lost, 4-1, at Binghamton. D Ross Lupaschuk scored his third goal. G Sebastien Caron stopped 30 of 34 shots.

WHEELING (2-5) lost, 4-3, at Toledo. RW Mike Preston scored his third and fourth goals, C Mike Nelson his first. G Mike Valley stopped 26 of 30 shots.

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