Penguins Notebook: Reuniting Armstrong, Crosby pays quick dividends

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It's quite a leap from sitting in the press box to playing on the Penguins' top line alongside center Sidney Crosby. It took only a handful of days for winger Colby Armstrong to do just that.

"That's pretty crazy," Armstrong said yesterday after working with Crosby and Ryan Malone at the morning skate before to the Penguins' game against Atlanta at Mellon Arena.

Armstrong rejoined the lineup for the loss to New Jersey after being benched for three consecutive games and six of the previous eight. By early in the game the next night, a wild, 6-5 shootout win at Ottawa, Armstrong was elevated to the top line and picked up two assists.

He scored the Penguins' third goal last night after a set-up by Crosby.

"I know Colby really well, and, before he got back in the lineup, I thought he had the right attitude," coach Michel Therrien said. "He was sharp in practice. He was quick. You could see those little things in practice that eventually are going to happen in a game, and that's exactly what happened.

"After a few shifts [Thursday], I liked the way he was moving, so we decided to make a switch. It turned out pretty good for us."

Armstrong opened last season on Crosby's wing, but a goal drought prompted a change before he finally got his first two in his 23rd game.

"Starting there last year didn't go too well for me," Armstrong said, with a smile.

Armstrong, valued as much for his ability to agitate and hit as his scoring touch, is hoping to make the most of it this time, although Therrien regularly juggles his line combinations.

"Sid's going to make things happen out there, the way he plays every night, and [Malone] and I just have to do our thing, play hardnosed and battle every night and do the little things right -- get open and get the puck going the right way," said Armstrong, who had one goal, three points in 16 games going into last night.

"I got a chance with them the last game, and it worked out. I'd like to hang onto that."

Thorburn helps Thrashers

It became clear by the end of last season that forward Chris Thorburn did not figure prominently in the Penguins' plans. He had five points in 39 games and did not play after February.

He has found some new life with Atlanta, which acquired him from the Penguins in June for a draft pick.

Thorburn was regularly scratched by the Thrashers early this season when Bob Hartley was coach, but general manager and interim coach Don Waddell has found a spot on the fourth line for Thorburn, who played in his 13th consecutive game last night. He had one goal -- a winner Nov. 9 against Florida -- and was averaging 6:36 of ice time.

Thorburn was heavily involved in the Penguins' community-service projects.

"I got real used to Pittsburgh real quick, and they welcomed me with open arms," he said. "I appreciate everything they did for me. I made relationships here that will last a lifetime.

"I didn't play the last little bit of the season, so there really wasn't much room for me. But, as far as hard feelings, there's none. They gave me the shot to make my career. I thank them for that, and, hopefully, I can continue to have success with the Thrashers."

Odd source for injury

Stitches, scrapes, bruises and black eyes are scars for most, beauty marks for hockey players.

Mostly, they come from sticks, pucks and occasional elbows.

Malone spent time after the win Thursday getting medical attention for a cut over his blackened right eye, which made a nice hat trick with scrapes below the eye.

But these came from getting smacked with a couple helmets during goal celebrations, not the heat of competition.

Slap shots

The Penguins scratched winger Mark Recchi, defenseman Darryl Sydor and center Maxime Talbot (ankle). ... Atlanta, which had a lightly attended morning skate after losing to New Jersey, 3-0, Friday night, scratched winger Darren Haydar and defenseman Steve McCarthy.

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



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