Penguins Notebook: With too much time off, Penguins stuck in neutral

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Throw in a formal open week, and the Penguins' early season schedule could pass for something a football team would play.

They have just four games between Oct. 3, when the North American phase of the NHL season began, and Oct. 16. That's hardly the game-every-other-day setup players prefer under most circumstances.

"If it were up to me, I'd definitely have a few more games than we have now," forward Jordan Staal said.

That doesn't mean the schedule-maker bears any responsibility for the 1-2 start -- "That's just an excuse for losers," coach Michel Therrien said -- but having so much time off does nothing to help them shake the sluggishness evident in the first three games.

The Penguins' game at 7:08 p.m. tomorrow in Toronto will be their first since a 3-2 loss Wednesday to Montreal at Mellon Arena, and just their second since back-to-back games against Carolina and Anaheim last weekend.

"There are pros and cons," center Sidney Crosby said. "If you're struggling, sometimes it's nice to have a few days to regroup. If you're on a roll, sure, it's nice to get a few in a row."

Winger Gary Roberts, whose participation in training camp was limited by an injury, believes he actually benefits from having so few games early in the season.

"It gives me an opportunity to get my work in off the ice, get my legs under me and get going," he said.

Regardless of how often they play at any particular point in the season, the Penguins know they'll finish with 82 games, just like every other club. And that any points they squander now, whatever the reason, might haunt them as the playoff race is winding down.

"Points get tougher to get later in the season, so it's important for us to stay focused and get our work done here," Roberts said. "Be prepared for every game."

Just another day at the office

Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi was hobbled when he took a shot off the inside of his foot midway through the second period Wednesday. But he returned to the game and was back on the ice for practice yesterday.

"It happens to guys all the time," Scuderi said. "You take one off the inside of your skate, where there's not much protection. But fortunately, X-rays [didn't detect a fracture], so it's fine. Just a little sore."

Maple Leafs struggling

While the Penguins are disappointed by their poor start, Toronto seems flat-out exasperated by its early season struggles.

Coach Paul Maurice put the Maple Leafs through an intense workout Tuesday, one day after a humbling 7-1 loss to Carolina at the Air Canada Centre dropped their record to 1-2-1, and made no effort to downplay the significance of last night's game against the New York Islanders.

"It's not going to matter how I answer those questions [about what's wrong with the team]," Maurice told reporters. "We need to redeem ourselves, for ourselves. In that dressing room, no one wants to see what happened [against Carolina].

"For the sake of our confidence, we have to be a better hockey team."

Slap shots

Defenseman Alain Nasreddine, a healthy scratch for the first three games, was sent to the Penguins' minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre on a conditioning assignment. ... Winger Georges Laraque did not practice because of a sore groin and is listed as day to day. ... The Western Hockey League Board of Governors approved the sale of the Kamloops Blazers to a five-man group that includes Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor of the Penguins. They and their partners will take control of the franchise after the sale closes in a few weeks.



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