Penguins Notebook: Longer practices a 'luxury'

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With three non-game days between Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers and a home date with New Jersey tomorrow, the Penguins had a practice yesterday that was longer than usual and included some drills they haven't run much the past several weeks.

"We want to take advantage of these days we have without playing," center Maxime Talbot said. "It's great to get out and skate and get a feel for it."

The organized portion of the session at Mellon Arena lasted 65 minutes, but many players were on the ice for closer to 90.

The Penguins, who have lost five of their past six and seven of their past nine, had a day off Sunday and have another chance to skate today before playing three games in four nights starting tomorrow. They have not had more than two days between games since mid-October.

"That's a luxury," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "The month of November we haven't had too many, quote-unquote, real practices, where you battle, where you can work on specific things. It's something that we need and something that's good for us."

The game tomorrow is a contest to get out of the Atlantic Division cellar. The Penguins and Devils are tied for last with 18 points each.

Family matters

The Staal family -- Penguins forward Jordan, 19, Carolina center Eric, 23, New York Rangers defenseman Marc, 20, and Jared, 17, who plays junior hockey for the Sudbury Wolves -- always have been reluctant to draw comparisons with the Sutter brothers.

Devils coach Brent Sutter echoes that. He doesn't think he and brothers Brian, Duane, Darryl, Rich and Ron will be giving up their place in the hockey world anytime soon.

"There's been a lot of brothers who played hockey, but there's never been six," said Brent Sutter. "You can look at it whatever way you want to look at it, but I don't like getting into any comparisons whatsoever."

The Sutters combined to produce 1,320 goals and 1,615 assists for 2,935 points in 4,994 NHL games.

"It's great to see there's three of the [Staal] boys in the NHL right now. They're obviously all good players," Sutter said. "We played a long, long, long time, so I don't even like comparing, but I'm very happy for them."

Forward thinking

Other than the top line of center Sidney Crosby with Petr Sykora and Ryan Malone, coach Michel Therrien juggled his forward combinations, something he does regularly.

The second line had center Evgeni Malkin with Erik Christensen on one side and Colby Armstrong and Mark Recchi alternating on the other, raising the question of whether Therrien might choose between Armstrong and Recchi to be in the lineup tomorrow. Therrien was not available for comment.

Sweating the new sweaters

Although they are still wearing the original Rbk EDGE practice sweaters, the Penguins have been wearing a newer version the past two games designed with slightly different materials and treatments so they won't hold in perspiration as much.

Several Penguins who were asked agreed they like the newer model, including Eaton, who describes himself as a heavy sweater.

"The new ones are a lot better," Eaton said. "They breathe a little better. Sweat doesn't all drain in your gloves."

A few said they are still put off by the new uniform's sock system, which they say promotes pooling of perspiration in their skates.


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