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PENGUINS SET FOR DEBUT ON MELLON ARENA ICE

Saturday, 10.08.2005 / 12:00 AM / Pittsburgh Penguins
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PENGUINS SET FOR DEBUT ON MELLON ARENA ICE

The Pittsburgh Penguins can’t wait to come home.

Their fans can’t wait for it, either.

Saturday’s game at 7:30 p.m. at Mellon Arena against the Boston Bruins marks the Penguins’ first regular-season home game since April 4, 2004 – a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals.

The Penguins opened their season with road games at New Jersey and Carolina and picked up one point in the standings. They fell to the Devils and took the Hurricanes into overtime before losing in a shootout. Probably no one is happier to return home than Mario Lemieux. In two preseason games at Mellon Arena, the Penguins captain torched opponents for eight points.

“It’s always a lot of fun to play in this building, especially when we have a full house and the fans are into it,” he said. “We should see that Saturday.”

While fans will pack Mellon Arena to see No. 66, they will have their eyes on No. 87 Sidney Crosby as well. It will be the NHL regular season home debut for the first-overall pick.

“I will always remember my first NHL game,” Crosby said. “The first home game is more exciting because you have the crowd on your side.”

The game marks the Pittsburgh home debuts for Sergei Gonchar, John LeClair, Ziggy Palffy, Ryan VandenBussche, Andre Roy, Jocelyn Thibault, Steve Poapst, Lyle Odelein and rookie Maxime Talbot. In addition, Mark Recchi, who was signed as a free agent, will wear a Penguins uniform at Mellon Arena for the first time since the team traded him to Philadelphia in 1992.

Crosby will have more of a chance to relax on Saturday. Media coverage should be toned down from what it was Wednesday in New Jersey for his NHL debut. Nevertheless, many media types will flock to Mellon Arena to witness another Crosby milestone.

“He’s really good at it for an 18-year-old – the way he handles everything and making sure he gives some of his time to the media,” Lemieux said. “He’s a pro at it.”

So far, Lemieux is impressed with Crosby’s skills – he has lived up to all the hype.

“I knew he was a great player,” Lemieux said. “He just turned 18. Once he gets a couple years in the league, he’s going to be tremendous.”

Crosby has recorded assists in both of Pittsburgh’s games. He set up Recchi for the Penguins’ lone goal Wednesday. On Friday, he fired a beautiful cross-ice pass to Palffy, who flipped the puck into the net to knot the game at 2-2 late in the third period.

The Penguins, who travel to Buffalo on Monday at 7 p.m., will start Thibault in net Saturday night as they go for a victory on home ice.

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