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Penguins Penguins Report: 10/7/01

Sunday, October 07, 2001

By Dave Molinari and Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writers


Penguins vs New York Islanders, 7:38 p.m. Wednesday, Mellon Arena. TV: Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh. Radio: WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970).


C Mario Lemieux sat out the Penguins' game against Anaheim at Mellon Arena last night because of a strained hip muscle. His status for the Islanders game is uncertain. The Penguins also played without C Wayne Primeau (heel) and Ds Janne Laukkanen (knee surgery) and Hans Jonsson (ankle), all of whom are expected to be out until next month. D John Jakopin was their only healthy scratch. Anaheim played without D Antti Jussi Nieml, RW Dan Bylsma, LW Denny Lambert, RW Jim Cummins (ankle), G Jean-Sebastien Giguere (groin) and D Niclas Havelid (knee).

The Penguins' streak of 33 consecutive home sellouts, which dated to Lemieux's comeback game Dec. 27, ended last night, when a crowd of 15,411 showed up at Mellon Arena. That's 1,547 below capacity.

The partnership of LW Paul Kariya and RW Teemu Selanne formed the core of Anaheim's team for most of its time in the NHL, until Selanne was traded to San Jose in the spring. But while the Mighty Ducks have had time to adjust to Selanne's departure, the Penguins faced them for the first time since he left last night, and some players were having a difficult time getting used to the idea that he's gone. "It's hard to see that team without Selanne," D Darius Kasparaitis said. "And it's easier for other teams to play against them, because when they had Kariya and Selanne, you always had to worry about two guys." That sounds harsh, but upon further reflection, Kasparaitis acknowledged that LW Jeff Friesen, one of the players Anaheim got in the Selanne deal, is a top-shelf talent. "He's a pretty nifty player," Kasparaitis said. "Pretty aggressive. He isn't afraid to get hit. I think he's going to make a big difference to that team." Anyone who questions Friesen's credentials has only to check with G Johan Hedberg, who knew him from their days together in San Jose's organization. "He's really strong, fast," he said. "He likes to go to the net a lot, take the puck and just put his shoulder down and go to the net. He's not a big passer or anything. He's more of a guy who comes with speed and goes hard to the net. He can be a finisher. He's certainly got all the tools to be a scorer."

D Mike Wilson made his Penguins debut last Wednesday and had a pretty strong showing in a 3-1 loss to Colorado but apparently decided that he needed a fresh start. Last night, he exchanged sweater No. 6, which he had worn against the Avalanche, for No. 4.

Veteran RW Stephane Richer played last night after missing practice Friday after his left foot was injured from a fall down some stairs. After first joking that he had other reasons for taking off Friday -- "wanted to celebrate Mario's birthday" -- Richer blamed the problem on a left ankle that twice has been surgically repaired. He said a new skate boot aggravated the injury and credited Penguins coaches with allowing him occasional time off. "They've been good to me," he said. "I'm an old man."

Anaheim Coach Bryan Murray told the Los Angeles Times that he believes the Mighty Ducks "will be a better team after Christmas," and his upbeat outlook seems to be contagious. "There definitely is a new attitude here," D Oleg Tverdovsky said. "We have some new guys, some experienced guys that brought that attitude. Things are more positive."

In a professional-sport rarity, the game was neither telecast nor broadcast on radio to the visiting team's audience. True, southern California isn't exactly a hockey hotbed, but it's supposed to receive an NHL game somehow. Last night, though, Fox Sports Net 2 in Los Angeles was busy broadcasting Pac-10 football, and XTRA-AM was likewise occupied. So the Mighty Ducks broadcasters sat in the press box and watched. The game, however, was made available on the NHL package to satellite-dish subscribers in southern California.

The NHL's high-tech system of keeping stats for the past few seasons has been widely praised, but it does have some built-in weaknesses. Its reliance on, well, technology, for starters. The Penguins' off-ice officials were forced to keep stats by hand last night when an undetermined computer problem shut down the system.

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