Penguins Notebook: N.J. coach, Armstrong swap praise

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A couple Penguins who spent time with Brent Sutter have strong impressions of the first-year New Jersey Devils coach. And vice versa.

Penguins winger Colby Armstrong played junior hockey for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. Sutter was owner, general manger and coach of that team the past eight years.

"We had a young team when he came in," Armstrong said yesterday before the Penguins and Devils played at Mellon Arena. "He helped us to be the players and men we are today. I have a lot of respect for him. I was 16 years old. He had a big impact on a lot of guys when we were young."

Sutter helped to develop Armstrong into a first-round NHL draft pick. He was taken 21st overall by the Penguins in 2001, weeks after Red Deer won its first WHL title.

"Colby was a very good junior," Sutter said. "The only thing that [kept] Colby from playing in the National Hockey League earlier than he did was his size."

It was not lost on Armstrong that Sutter was one of six brothers who played in the NHL and all had a reputation for being tough.

"You hear a lot about their family, the brothers, how hard-nosed and tough they are," Armstrong said. "It was definitely a little intimidating the first time going in there and meeting him."

Armstrong is one of the jokesters in the Penguins' locker room. Sutter said the teen version of Armstrong was just as vocal.

"He hasn't changed," Sutter said. "He's a good kid."

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby spent a lot less time with Sutter, but it was a success. Crosby was a 17-year-old on a team of mostly 19-year-olds for Team Canada in 2004-05 when it went 6-0 and won the World Junior Championships.

"It's a little different in a short-term tournament," Crosby said. "You really need to work fast. He did a great job preparing us. We only had a couple weeks. He's fair, and a great coach."

Crosby already was pegged as a future star then, and Sutter saw nothing to dispute that.

"Probably the hardest-working player on the ice," Sutter said.

"He's so gifted and everything else that goes with it, but the thing that separated him was he played every shift like it's his last."

Court proceedings

The first court appearance for Jordan and Eric Staal in Cook County, Minn., was held yesterday after several postponements. Lawyers represented the players, who did not have to travel to Grand Marais, Minn.

The charges stem from July, when Eric's bachelor party got too rowdy.

Prosecuting attorney Tim Scannell said in an e-mail interview that the Staals "should be filing their plea agreement next week." Scannell said the other 12 men charged in the case have pled.

They were arrested in the wee hours July 21 after partygoers did not respond to several requests from police to quiet down. Jordan Staal, 19, was charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction and underage drinking. Under a plea agreement, he could pay fines totaling $737 for petty misdemeanor, disorderly conduct and underage drinking.

Slap shots

Penguins winger Georges Laraque (groin) missed his second game. Defenseman Alain Nasreddine was a healthy scratch. ... New Jersey scratches were defensemen Sheldon Brookbank and Richard Matvichuk. ... Sutter missed the Devils' practice the previous two days because of the flu.


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


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