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MALKIN, CROSBY HOPE TO INCREASE CHEMISTRY TUESDAY

Monday, 10.23.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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MALKIN, CROSBY HOPE TO INCREASE CHEMISTRY TUESDAY

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have enjoyed instant chemistry on the ice.

They will get a chance to enhance their relationship Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the New Jersey Devils visit Mellon Arena.

It’s the Penguins’ last home game until Nov. 8 as the team embarks on a four-game road trip this weekend. All fans in attendace will receive a Highmark Penguins team calendar.

For tickets call 1-800-642-PENS or 412-642-PENS or visit pittsburghpenguins.com. The         contest will be the Penguins’ first on national television this season as “Versus” (formerly OLN) will carry the telecast. The Penguins will appear seven times on Versus and four times on NBC this season.

On the radio, 105.9 The X will start its radio broadcast with a pregame show at 6:30 p.m. The broadcast may be found live through streaming audio on pittsburghpenguins.com as well. Tune in for Penguins Hotline following every game on 105.9 The X and the Penguins Radio Network. Join in the conversation with host Bob Grove by calling the Penn Telecom toll-free line at 1-866-922-2874.

Crosby and Malkin, who have enjoyed success on the first power-play unit, were paired together on a line in Monday’s practice – Crosby in the middle with Colby Armstrong on the right and Malkin on the left, filling in the spot vacated by injured winger Ryan Malone.

“That doesn’t mean they are going to play together all the time,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien cautioned. “Yes, there are times during Malkin’s three games that they played together during the course of the game. If we are going to put them together in games a few times, I think it’s a good thing for them to practice together.

“It was tough losing Malone, but I have a confidence that [this combination] will work for Sidney. We really like they way they play when they are together,” he continued. “They make it really tough on the other teams because they have skill and a lot of speed. I like what I saw from those two guys together, no doubt.

“It seems they think the game the same way. With time, they are going to get better and better.”

While Malkin practiced at the wing, Therrien stressed there was no permanent change in position ahead for Malkin.

“He’s not going to be recognized as a left wing. Yes, right now we want to use him as a left wing to get a chance to get used to the NHL and he is playing really well and we like the way he is playing,” he said. “Nobody said he is going to be a left winger. We’re trying to find a guy to play on left wing and we figure that’s the best guy. But, I could change my mind tomorrow night.”

Jordan Staal, another Penguins rookie, moved up to Malkin’s No. 2 center spot between Nils Ekman and Mark Recchi. Staal has three goals on the year – all short-handed. He had two shorties (including a penalty shot) in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Columbus.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last NHL player to score his first three goals in short-handed situations was Bill Gardner of the Blackhawks in the 1981-82 season. Coincidentally, Gardner and Staal both played their junior hockey at Peterborough.

Also, Staal, age 18 years, 41 days, is the youngest NHL player to score two or more goals in one game since Dec. 21, 1943, when Bep Guidolin, age 18 years, 12 days, scored twice for the Bruins in an 8-5 win over the Maple Leafs.

In addition, Staal is the youngest NHL player ever to score a pair of short-handed goals in one game, breaking the mark set by Radek Dvorak with Florida on Dec. 12, 1997 (age 20 years, 278 days), and he’s the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot, smashing the record formerly held by Florida’s Nathan Horton (age 18 years, 224 days on Jan. 8, 2004).

“We are still evaluating some of our younger guys. I think Jordan is playing with a lot of confidence and scoring some big goals for us,” Therrien said. “He knows the system a lot better. I want to give him a really good chance to see where he stands in playing on the top three lines.

“With the loss of Ryan, that gives him a great opportunity to play on the top three lines,” he continued. “We want to give him more responsibility offensively. His ice time will increase, so we’ll see how he reacts to that.”

Therrien has been impressed with the 18-year-old’s maturity and play.

“He is smart player. He’s not one of those guys you have to explain 100 times,” Therrien said. “You show him, explain it and he’ll go out and do it. He’s really smart on the ice; he’s in good position; he’s playing a mature game for an 18-year-old kid and he’s so strong.”

Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in goal for the Penguins (4-3). He has started every game so far this season for Pittsburgh. He has a 2.76 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.

“He’s playing well. To be quite honest, the schedule in October is not that demanding. He still has some times between games,” Therrien said. “He only played one back-to-back game. He is playing really well. He’s solid. This is the reason why his performances are there. We’re going to keep playing him as long as he’s going to play well.”

 

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