Penguins Notebook: Recchi lost out to youth says Therrien

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Scouting report
  • Matchup: Penguins at Calgary Flames, 9:08 p.m. today, Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta.
  • TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
  • Probable goaltenders: Dany Sabourin for Penguins. Miikka Kiprusoff for Flames.
  • Penguins: Have not played in Calgary since 6-1 loss Dec. 7, 2003, and have not won there since Jan. 17, 2002. ... Winger Georges Laraque has 115 penalty minutes in 39 career games vs. Flames. ... Calgary is only team winger Gary Roberts has not scored against.
  • Flames: Snapped four-game losing streak Tuesday with 3-1 win against Blues. ... Penalty killing, 77.3 percent, is among worst in NHL. ... Kiprusoff has 24 career shutouts, but none in his past 32 games.
  • Hidden stat: In their win Tuesday, the Flames were outshot, 11-6, in the first period but outshot the Blues in the second, 20-2.

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Penguins coach Michel Therrien had a simple answer for criticism from Mark Recchi's agent -- younger players surpassed the veteran winger for a spot on the team.

"We believe that we gave him a lot of opportunity and things didn't work out," Therrien said of Recchi, 39, who cleared waivers yesterday.

"In the meantime, we had young kids knocking on the door. Tyler Kennedy was ready to play. We decided to give a chance to Tyler, and he's playing really well for us."

Recchi's agent, Rick Curran, blamed Therrien for Recchi's diminished playing time and role on the team, although earlier in the season Recchi was playing on the top two lines and the No. 1 power-play unit. He was a healthy scratch for the six games before the Penguins placed him on waivers Tuesday after being unable to trade him. Because no team claimed Recchi, he remains on the roster.

His time with the club, however, appears up. He did not make the trip to Western Canada, where the Penguins last night opened a four-game road trip with a 4-2 victory against the Oilers at Rexall Place.

The Penguins could assign Recchi to their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre, at least on paper, and then put him through re-entry waivers. At that point, another team could sign him for half his salary.

Recchi re-signed with the Penguins in the summer for $1.75 million, plus a potential $250,000 in bonus money.

Recchi was in his third stint with the club. He has 510 career goals but had just two in 19 games this season. Kennedy, 21, has six points in 13 games and a plus-minus rating of plus-3 since making his NHL debut Oct. 27.

One teammate who has been watching the Recchi saga closely is Gary Roberts, another veteran winger who was acquired by the Penguins at the trade deadline in February.

"We are pretty tight," Roberts said. "Mark Recchi's the guy that brought this team together last year. I came here last year because of a phone call he made to me. So it hurts deep for me to see what he's going through right now, especially me being an older guy, too."

Roberts remains a fan of his friend.

"He still has a lot of hockey in him," he said. "I still think Mark Recchi's a top-six forward on any team. Unfortunately, [the Penguins] didn't think so."

Homecoming

The game last night was a homecoming for a couple of Penguins.

Winger Erik Christensen grew up in Edmonton. He spent Tuesday night with his family and his girlfriend's family celebrating his birthday (Dec. 17) and Christmas early.

"It's weird being back here this time of year because I never am. I forgot how cold it is here in winter," Christensen said. The high temperature was near 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Winger Colby Armstrong is from Saskatchewan but played junior hockey in Red Deer, Alberta, between Edmonton and Calgary. "A lot of my buddies are Oilers and Calgary fans, but I think I've switched them to Penguins fans now," he said.

Both players said several friends and relatives would be at last night's game and tonight's in Calgary. Christensen has a lot of relatives on the West Coast of Canada, too, and will have an even larger group at Saturday's game in Vancouver.

Slap shots

Roberts and defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who had split an alternate captaincy for road and home games, will become full-time alternates now that Recchi is out of the picture. While Gonchar was out recently with a groin injury, defenseman Mark Eaton wore an "A." ... In addition to Christensen and Armstrong, several players had their fathers in town for the game. ... Things were frenzied at Rexall Place for the morning skates. There was a huge contingent of reporters wanting to talk to and about the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, plus family members and some fans who gained access. At one point, the St. Louis Blues, in town early for a game Friday, were dodging people trying to get on the ice for a practice.


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


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