OTTAWA -- Even with a subpar record a quarter of the way through the season -- eight wins over the first 21 games heading into their game last night against the Senators -- the Penguins are a playoff-caliber team, Ottawa coach John Paddock said yesterday.
"At this stage, they haven't [met expectations], but the [playoffs] aren't until April and I'm pretty sure they'll be in the mix at that time," Paddock said.
"There are probably growing pains where expectations are ahead of reality. They're still extremely young. I don't think there's anybody who doesn't think they're going to be right there the next few years. We hope it's not this year. It's just a matter of time, whether it's this month, this week, this year. They're a pretty special group building over there."
Franchise worth rising
In its Nov. 26 issue, Forbes magazine sets the Penguins' value as a franchise at $155 million, $17 million more than last year. That ranks them 22nd out of the 30 NHL teams.
Toronto is first at $413 million, the New York Rangers second at $365 million, and Detroit third at $293 million. Nashville is last at $143 million.
The magazine noted that team values included deals for new arenas. The Penguins have a lease in place for a new arena set to open in 2010.
Sydor almost played
Defenseman Darryl Sydor was one of just three Penguins who participated in a morning skate and an off-ice workout, but he was nearly switched from a scratch to a part of the lineup after defenseman Kris Letang developed a migraine.
The others at the morning skate were winger Mark Recchi and goaltender Dany Sabourin. They and Sydor were the three healthy players who did not play Wednesday.
Recchi, who skipped the pregame warmup, and forward Maxime Talbot (ankle) were the Penguins' other scratches.
Senators center Jason Spezza, comparing Penguins captain and leading scorer Sidney Crosby to Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk: "He's got a little better vision than those guys. He's a little craftier behind the net. He's real strong on his skates. Those other two are more explosive-off-the-rush guys. He plays the more traditional centerman, a playmaker." ... Ottawa winger Patrick Eaves separated his right shoulder Wednesday night, and Paddock said Eaves will be out for "quite a period." ... To fill in for Eaves, the Senators recalled Alexander Nikulin from their Binghamton minor-league club. He made his NHL debut against the Penguins. ... The Senators also scratched center Randy Robitaille (hand). ... For both teams, this was their second game in as many nights and at as many sites. The team charters landed at Ottawa about five minutes apart late Wednesday night following losses. Both teams also have games tomorrow night, making it three games in four days. ... About half the Senators participated in the team's morning skate. ... Fans who bring an unopened new toy or game or make a cash donation next Friday when the Penguins play host to Dallas will be eligible to win team memorabilia. The toys and money will be donated to the United States Marine Corps' "Toys for Tots" program for distribution to underprivileged families in the Pittsburgh area.