Penguins Training Camp: Sabourin reaches his goal to be back with Penguins


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It is a good thing Dany Sabourin isn't one to burn bridges.

Sure, the lanky goaltender was disappointed to be the final roster cut at the Penguins' training camp a year ago after having a strong preseason.

But he did thumb his nose at the Penguins when he got picked up on waivers by Vancouver the next day for the chance to back up Vezina Trophy finalist Roberto Luongo in 2006-07.

"I didn't control it," Sabourin said Friday in, of all places, the Penguins' locker room at Southpointe after the team's first day on the ice at training camp.

He regained some control in July when he became a free agent. When the Penguins were among the first to call, he jumped at the chance to re-sign with them.

With his history under coach Michel Therrien at training camp last year and, before that, with minor-league affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and with a one-way contract, Sabourin is the top candidate to survive the cuts this time and serve as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup. The other goaltenders in camp are rookies David Brown and John Curry, and free-agent signee Ty Conklin. Jocelyn Thibault, the backup last season, was not re-signed and has joined Buffalo.

"My goal was to play here last year, but, when I got picked up by Vancouver, I was happy to go there and get my first full year in the NHL," Sabourin said. "It was a good experience for me to be on a team with Luongo. I gained a lot of experience."

That didn't translate into a lot of playing time.

He was 2-5 with a 2.63 goals-against average in nine regular-season appearances, including his first NHL win, a 3-2 overtime game Feb. 20 against Anaheim. He played briefly in two playoff games, including five saves over the first 3:34 of overtime in Game 5 of the Canucks' second-round series against eventual Stanley Cup champion Anaheim when Luongo was temporarily ill.

"I wanted to play more, but it was a great year just for me to get the experience and get the first win and all that stuff," said Sabourin, who will turn 27 Thursday.

Sabourin split the lockout season of 2004-05 between Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre, where he played for Therrien and got to be friends with Fleury.

He made his NHL debut playing one period for the Penguins during 2005-06, but spent most of that season with Wilkes-Barre, where he broke Fleury's team record with 27 wins and was named an American Hockey League first-team all-star.

"He grew with us," Therrien said. "We were all disappointed to see him leave and go to Vancouver last year. We're all excited he's back with us. We know what he's capable of doing."

At 6 feet 4, 200 pounds, Sabourin is an imposing figure in goal. He is convinced he is playing even bigger after his season with Vancouver.

"I got to learn the timing in the NHL, plus get my first win under my belt and some playoff experience," he said.

Like a lot of hockey players, Sabourin has bounced around to get to this point.

He was a fourth-round draft pick by Calgary in 1998 and has played for Johnstown of the East Coast Hockey League, for Wheeling of the ECHL, a couple other AHL teams and, for a month, in Las Vegas four seasons ago.

"I've worked really hard to get where I am now," Sabourin said.

Which is a spot a lot of players in the NHL would like to be -- on an up-and-coming team full of potential, not to mention teammates he is familiar with.

"I'm really happy with where I am right now," Sabourin said.

"We have a good team now. I know the guys in the organization. I like the group. At the same time, I think I'm going to have a chance to play more."

That is, as long as he survives the cuts.



NOTES -- Rookie goaltender David Brown, who did not skate Friday because of illness, participated in practice but not the scrimmage yesterday. ... Erik Christensen's goal from the right circle with 29 seconds left gave the White team a 2-1 win in the scrimmage. Jeff Taffe also scored for the White. Ryan Stone scored for the Black. ... After individual game tickets went on sale at 10 a.m., the home opener sold out in less than 30 minutes.


Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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