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Penguins Report: So Far, So Good

Wednesday, 11.26.2008 / 11:55 AM / Features
By Sam Kasan
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Penguins Report: So Far, So Good
One of Pittsburgh’s early goals this season was to get off to a fast start. The Penguins accomplished their goal in record style. Through 20 games this season, their 12-5-3 mark for 27 points ties the third-best start in franchise history.

“I think the general feeling in here is that we could be a lot better,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “A lot of those leads, we let slip away late in the games. On the flip side, I think we’ve come back a lot in the third period which you don’t normally do in this league too.”

Pittsburgh’s 27 points through 20 games tied the 1995-96 club that also went 12-5-3. The only two teams to have a better start were the 1994-95 team (14-4-2-30) and the 1992-93 squad (13-4-3-29).

Pittsburgh overcame slow starts the past two seasons to earn a postseason berth. In 2006-07 the team started 10-7-3. Last year, the Penguins were 8-10-2 through 20 games and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

“I wasn’t here last year but they said they had bad start,” forward Miroslav Satan said. “I think our start is pretty good. We want to build on that in the middle part of the season.”

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Orpik said. “It’s always good to get a good start to the season because later on in the season those games you give away at the beginning come back to bite you.”

The Penguins understand the importance of earning as many points as possible in the early stretch so they aren’t fighting for their playoff lives as the season winds down.

“You want to get as many as you can,” Satan said. “The first half of the season is a little easier to get points. In the second half, teams are starting to battle for playoff positions. It seems like games get more intense as the season goes along, especially towards the end when everybody needs points basically. That’s when it’s toughest to get points.”

During an 82-game season, it’s difficult to bring it every night. However, captain Sidney Crosby will accept nothing less and warned that the Penguins can’t afford any let downs.

“It’s not easy all the time but that’s why we get the awesome opportunity to play in the NHL,” Crosby said. “I think we want to make sure we’re at our best in every game. There are games where guys are going to play better than others. Our job is to pick each other up when some guys aren’t having the best night.

People don’t decide to go to work three days out of seven. I don’t think it’s fair for us to show up three out of four (games). - Sidney Crosby
“You don’t want to waste any games. People don’t decide to go to work three days out of seven. I don’t think it’s fair for us to show up three out of four (games). You have to show up. You owe that to your teammates and the team in general, and to the fans. There’s no excuse for that.”

Pittsburgh will be tested in the next couple of weeks when five of its next six games will all be on the road, including playing eight of its next 11 away from Mellon Arena.

“We wanted to start well,” Crosby said. “We’ve got to be better than we were the last few games. No better way to start than on the road. We’ll get ourselves regrouped here and make sure that we’re playing the right way.”


> The Penguins altered their defensive pairings at Wednesday's morning skate in preparation of their matchup with the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum at 7 p.m.

Orpik remains with Kris Letang. However, the other two pairings are now Rob Scuderi-Alex Goligoski and Hal Gill-Philippe Boucher. Previously Gill and Scuderi were together, as were Goligoski and Boucher.


> The Penguins will face the Islanders in a key divisional battle. Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 in its five games against Atlantic Division opponents, including a 4-3 shootout win against the Islanders on Nov. 8.

“They’re a good team,” Pascal Dupuis said. “They’re a team that’s going to battle night after night. We just got to bring our best game.”
     
 

 
     

The Penguins will meet a hot Islanders team. New York has won five of its past six games. Rookie goaltender Joey MacDonald won all five games in that stretch and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in his past seven games.

“MacDonald is playing really well for them,” Orpik said. “That’s the story with everyone in this league. If your goalie is playing well, it gives everyone in front of him confidence and it looks like they’re playing with confidence right now. It starts with their goalie.”

Pittsburgh scored a late third-period goal to escape defeat when the two teams met earlier this month. The Penguins then won the game in a shootout but they can't always expect to have the same result.

“You just watch the way they’re playing now, as opposed to the way they were playing last time we played them, they have a lot more confidence going their way,” Orpik said.

“They’re a team with some momentum,” Crosby said. “Even the last time we played there, we had a great third period but we didn’t play well the whole game. I think we want to make sure that we’re playing well for 60 minutes, 65 minutes or whatever it takes. That will be a good test for us against them.


> Penguins goalie Dany Sabourin will be sporting a brand new mask against the Islanders. The late debut is a result of the mask arriving…well, late.

“We always get a new one at the beginning of the season,” Sabourin said. “I just got a new one now because they were late a little bit. That’s the only reason why I got it now.”

Sabourin wears his sense of humor on his mask. The most intriguing images on the mask are two frogs – a humorous tribute to his and a few fellow teammates’ French-Canadian heritage.

It’s a joke in the dressing room because we’re French. - Dany Sabourin
“It’s a joke in the dressing room because we’re French,” Sabourin said. “I don’t know all the stories about the French and the frog but we always joke about it. It’s good to include that on my mask.”

Sabourin was briefly a leading goaltender NHL for his spectacular play. His goals against average (1.66) ranked first in the league, while his save percentage was second (.935). However, in order to qualify in the rankings you need to have a certain percentage of minutes played. So while, Sabourin was atop the rankings on Monday, he now is completely off the board. That is, until he plays again on Wednesday night.

"I feel good right now," Sabourin said. "I had the chance last year (to be a starter) and I learned a lot. I feel a lot better this year. I'm pretty happy right now with how it's going."





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