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Penguins Penguins Report: 11/30/02

Saturday, November 30, 2002

By Dave Molinari and Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writers

SCOUTING REPORT

Matchup: Penguins vs. Boston Bruins, 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, John Grahame for Bruins.

Penguins: Are 0-3 vs. Bruins in past three meetings at Mellon Arena after 15-2-4 run. ... C Kent Manderville has five goals in 28 career games vs. Boston, his most vs. any opponent. ... Have 7-2-1-1 home record and rank No. 1 in NHL in home power-play success at 31.7 percent.

Bruins: Are 8-1-1 in past 10 and have outscored opponents, 41-16, in that span. ... RW Glen Murray has team-best 14 goals, including current four-game goal-scoring streak. ... Lead Eastern Conference with 76 goals, 3.6 per game.

Hidden stat: Bruins have allowed two or fewer goals in 15 of their 22 games.

NOTEBOOK

The Penguins scratched C Mario Lemieux, LW Martin Straka (hamstring), RW Shean Donovan (foot), D Michal Rozsival (shoulder) and D Josef Melichar (shoulder) for their game last night in Buffalo. The Sabres played without D Alexei Zhitnik (foot), D Henrik Tallinder (shoulder) and RW Rob Ray. Zhitnik's injury leaves a gaping hole on Buffalo's blue line because he can be a force at both ends of the rink. "He's probably one of the top defensemen in the league," Penguins Coach Rick Kehoe said. "There are so many things he can do back there. He can play against [opponents'] big lines, he can hit, he can skate, shoot. He's one of those guys who, when he's out of the lineup, you have to change things a little bit."

Dick Tarnstrom of the Penguins entered last night's play leading the points race among NHL defensemen, with a 24-22 edge over Sergei Zubov of Dallas. He also took a six-game scoring streak, two shy of the best by an NHL defensemen this season, into the game vs. Sabres; Zubov got points in eight consecutive games Oct. 17-Nov. 1. Before last night, Tarnstrom had gotten all but six of his points on the power play, where he has become a fixture at the left point on the No. 1 unit. "On the power play, he's been tremendous," Lemieux said. "He's always making the right decision."

Nearly three years after being traded from Buffalo to Tampa Bay, Penguins C Wayne Primeau retains an obvious affection for the city and the franchise. "They're the ones who drafted me, they're the ones who gave me an opportunity to play in this league," he said. "There were a lot of enjoyable times when I was there." And predictably, he was pleased when businessman Mark Hamister recently stepped forward to purchase the Sabres, whose future had been in doubt after previous owner John Rigas lost control of the club because of business practices that led to the filing of criminal charges. "It would have been really sad to see the team leave Buffalo," Primeau said. "Hopefully, with the new ownership, they'll be able to stick around and the fans will continue to come out and support them."

Penguins D Hans Jonsson did the near-impossible against Philadelphia Wednesday -- he was a minus-1 in a 7-2 victory -- and had a miserable first quarter of the season. Kehoe, though, said this week that he believes Jonsson might finally be starting to get his game in sync. "The last couple of games, there are signs of [Jonsson] starting to play the way he did," he said. Kehoe attributed Jonsson's jittery play, hardly the norm for a 29-year-old veteran, to his inability to secure a spot among the Penguins' top six defensemen when they have more than a half-dozen healthy. "Sometimes that happens to guys when they're in and out of the lineup," Kehoe said. "They don't want to make a mistake instead of just going out and playing their game."

Boston LW Sergei Samsonov has missed much of this season with a bad wrist -- he was held out of the Bruins' 4-2 victory against Montreal yesterday, and seems far from a lock to play tonight -- and acknowledged to the Boston Globe a few days ago that his condition might require surgery. "It's a possibility," he said. "It could be that I play through the season, then take a month off to see how it feels, and then have surgery if it's necessary. But, yes, it's possible -- as a last resort. If I can play through a whole season, then, obviously, I would think twice about surgery." Samsonov is in the final year of a contract worth $2.2 million this season.

There's no good time to be injured, but for Donovan it might be a a particularly bad time for his foot to be broken, from a personal-stats perspective. For while he is best-known for his defensive work and penalty-killing, he has seven goals in 20 career games against the Bruins, roughly three times his pace against the rest of the league. Donovan has 56 goals in 465 games against the NHL's other 29 members.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON (7-11-1-1) did not play.

WHEELING (8-13-1) lost to Johnstown, 4-1, at Wheeling Civic Center. RW Steve Crampton scored his fourth goal. G Mike Valley stopped 33 of 37 shots.

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