Penguins coach Michel Therrien laughed yesterday when asked if there was a chance Dany Sabourin could overtake Marc-Andre Fleury as the team's go-to goaltender. He was not touching that topic with a 10-foot hockey stick.
Still, Therrien continued to praise Sabourin, who started last night against Philadelphia, his eighth appearance this season, after earning a shutout Monday at New Jersey. Sabourin entered the game 3-1-1 and ranked sixth in the NHL with a 1.86 goals-against average and 10th with a .926 save percentage.
"That's the great news for us, the way that Dany's playing," Therrien said. "He's a top-10 goalie in the league and he deserves to play and is earning his ice time the way he's playing. He gave us no choice but to put him out there again, especially after a shutout.
"It's not a matter that we lost confidence in Marc-Andre Fleury. We know exactly where he's going to be, but right now Dany Sabourin's playing really well."
Fleury, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, likely will start tonight on the road against the New York Rangers. He is 4-5 with a 3.45 goals-against average.
Sabourin had a strong training camp with the Penguins in 2006, but was lost to Vancouver on waivers before the start of that season. He re-signed over the summer after playing sparingly behind Canucks star Roberto Luongo.
"That's one of the reasons I came here, to get some more games and playing time and make the most of it," Sabourin said.
Whitney remains out
Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney returned from a short leave to attend his grandmother's funeral, but was still bothered enough by a groin injury that he did not play.
"It feels a lot better," Whitney said after being one of the first players on the ice and one of the last off for the morning skate. "There's much less pain than there was even before practice [Monday] in New Jersey. Every day, it's getting better."
Therrien has said he will not risk putting Whitney back in the lineup until he is pain-free, and Whitney concurs.
"It's something that if you reinjure it, you've got another five days [out], so you've got to be careful," Whitney said. "Hopefully, [tonight] I'll be ready."
Quick visit home
The Penguins were in Pittsburgh less than 48 hours after their eight-day, four-game, 4,100-mile road trip. They left after the game last night for the one tonight against the Rangers.
"It was nice to be back home," Therrien said. "I got to do laundry."
The Flyers aren't getting a laundry break. Their game tonight in New Jersey concludes an eight-game road trip that began Oct. 24.
"It's tough," Flyers winger Simon Gagne said.
"Sometimes, at the end of the season, those road trips, you look at them [in hindsight] and say we could have had a point there or two points there that makes a difference in the standings at the end. We want to finish it strong. We don't want a road trip like this to hurt us in the standings."
Burlington, Vt., station WCAX-TV reported that former Penguins winger John LeClair has a court appearance Tuesday in that state on an Oct. 24 drunk driving charge. LeClair has not played in the NHL since he was waived by the Penguins in December. ... For the second year in a row, the Penguins surprised those standing in the Student Rush line by having three players -- Maxime Talbot, Georges Laraque and Adam Hall this time -- bring them pizza.
Thanks to Flyers winger R.J. Umberger, who is from Plum, the Plum High School hockey team attended the morning skate and had access to do interviews for a student film project. ... All but two players, wingers Gary Roberts and Petr Sykora, participated in the Penguins' optional morning skate. ... In addition to Whitney, the Penguins scratched wingers Colby Armstrong and Jarkko Ruutu. The Flyers scratched winger Riley Cote.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.