Penguins Notebook: Winter Classic will have definite retro look in Buffalo Tuesday

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The Penguins abandoned their black and gold for a different look in practice yesterday at Mellon Arena.

With the Winter Classic outdoor game on the horizon, the team continued to break in gear that will be used as part of a retro theme.

For that game, Tuesday against the Sabres in Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Penguins will revisit the early days of the franchise when they wore blue uniforms with a circular logo.

For practice, the players sported dark blue helmets and gloves and dark blue shells with light blue stripes over their hockey pants. Those who have a Bauer sponsorship wore retro-designed skates.

Goaltenders Dany Sabourin and Ty Conklin had headgear with blue designs, and Sabourin had brown, throwback-looking pads. The coaches wore dark blue warmups.

"We've been working on this probably for the last 21/2 months really hard," Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze said. "We're lucky to have some practice days where we're able to get the guys in the [different equipment]."

The players wore some of the new/old gear during practice Wednesday and more of it yesterday.

"I just want them to feel comfortable going into this game," Heinze said. "This is a regular-season game we're playing, and it's kind of a shock when these guys have to change their gear into something different."

At least some of the players also will use sticks that look like they're made of wood.

Laraque triggered switch

It might have seemed odd that early in the 4-3 overtime win Thursday against Washington Penguins coach Michel Therrien split up the line of center Erik Christensen, left winger Gary Roberts and right winger Georges Laraque. That trio was coming off a strong game with three goals and seven points among them Sunday in a 4-2 win over Boston.

There was a specific reason Laraque and Adam Hall swapped lines early. Laraque wanted to be on the ice with the Capitals winger and fellow tough guy Donald Brashear.

"I asked the coach to wait to put me out there because I wanted to go [with Brashear] just for fun, to get the crowd going," Laraque said.

Laraque lightly bumped Brashear a couple times, and the two squared off at 3:18 of the first period. After serving his five-minute penalty, Laraque resumed his spot with Christensen and Roberts.

Practice draws a crowd

The Penguins had an audience of thousands for practice after they invited all local youth hockey players. Broadcasters Paul Steigerwald, Bob Errey and Phil Bourque provided commentary and explained drills from the bench.

Not to worry

When Conklin was promoted early this month and it became clear he would be with the Penguins several weeks while No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury recovers from a high ankle sprain, it left the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins thin on experienced goaltenders.But first-year pros John Curry and David Brown have been solid, helping the Baby Penguins to a season-high six-game winning streak going into their game tonight against Binghamton.

Curry is 4-3-1 with a 1.86 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He picked up his first American Hockey League shutout Wednesday against Syracuse. Brown is 3-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Slap shots

Penguins wingers Petr Sykora (illness) and Gary Roberts (rest) did not practice. ... Winger Ryan Malone, who has missed five games because of a leg infection, has been medically cleared to play tonight. ... Fleury continues to skate under the supervision of trainer Chris Stewart. ... Center Maxime Talbot is skating under the supervision of strength coach Mike Kadar. ... As part of an annual community-service program, the Penguins awarded $1,000 scholarships to three city high school students -- Nicole Kubiczki of Schenley, Kayla Crooks of Brashear and Lauren Mendelson of Allderdice.



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