Penguins Notebook -- Sabourin starts, but is injured

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TORONTO -- Coach Michel Therrien, who has juggled his forward combinations aggressively during the first week-plus of the Penguins' season, made a more surprising switch last night.

He opted to start Dany Sabourin, not Marc-Andre Fleury, in goal against Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.

It was just Sabourin's 15th regular-season appearance in the NHL and his first game action since a 6-5 exhibition loss to Buffalo 15 nights earlier.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Therrien said. "Your backup goalie, especially his first game, you want to play him on the road.

"He's been working hard in practice. I believe he's sharp. I believe it's time for him to get a game."

While getting Sabourin some work apparently was Therrien's major motivation in using him against the Maple Leafs, the decision also reflected some dissatisfaction with the work of Fleury, the team's No. 1 goalie.

He played the first three games of the season, going 1-2, with a 4.15 goals-against average and .869 save percentage.

"We expect more from Marc, and Marc does, too," Therrien said. "He's young, and the consistency has to be there in his game from one period to the next. He's making some key saves, but sometimes he [lets in] some shots that I'm sure he would like to see again.

"This doesn't mean that we don't have confidence in him. He's looking to do better, there' no doubt. And he'll get better."

Fleury did not have to wait long for his opportunity for redemption. He replaced Sabourin at 15:07 of the opening period after Toronto's Darcy Tucker struck Sabourin in the head during a scrum in the crease, opening a cut that required several stitches. The Maple Leafs scored on two of six shots before Fleury entered the game.

Forget the side effects

Maple Leafs winger Jason Blake, a perennial Penguins nemesis in his days with the New York Islanders, was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia recently, but the illness is not having a major impact on his career.

Neither is the medication he is taking to combat it.

Blake is taking a daily pill to deal with his ailment and, while he acknowledged yesterday that it does cause a few obvious side effects, such as enlarged bags under his eyes -- "That's OK," he said, chuckling. "I'm married, so I don't care" -- he is trying to ignore any others that might come up.

"Even if there are [side effects], I pretty much told [the doctors] not to tell me because I don't want to know," he said. "I just want to play. I'm just trying to put everything on the back burner and just play hockey."

Slap shots

Penguins winger Georges Laraque did not play last night because of a sore groin. ... The Penguins are off today and will not play again until New Jersey visits Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m. Wednesday.... Mario Lemieux, the Penguins' primary owner, accompanied the team here.


Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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