Penguins Notebook: Armstrong misses out on souvenir

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Colby Armstrong took a lot of things out of the Penguins' 2-1 shootout victory yesterday against Buffalo in the NHL's Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The puck he used to score the first goal of the game wasn't one of them.

Armstrong tossed a Sidney Crosby rebound past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller 21 seconds into the first period, but the idea of keeping the puck as a souvenir didn't occur to him until someone mentioned it after the game.

"I didn't even think about that," he said, laughing. "Now that you mention it, it would have been pretty cool to keep."

New time Saturday

The start of the Penguins' game Saturday against Florida at Mellon Arena has been moved to 3:08 p.m.

It had been scheduled for 7:38, but was changed to avoid a conflict with the Steelers' playoff game against Jacksonville, which is to begin at 8 p.m. at Heinz Field.

The Penguins had to get approval from the National Hockey League before making the switch.

Backup plans

Although the game yesterday was played to completion with no major problems, the league had a series of contingencies in place if weather had become a serious issue.

Among the provisions:

• The result could have been deemed official at any point after two periods, much as a baseball game can go into the books once 41/2 innings have been played if the home team is winning, or after five innings if the visitors are ahead.

• If the score was tied when play was stopped permanently after 40 minutes, each team would have been awarded a point. At that point, there would have been a shootout, if conditions permitted. If that was not feasible, the shootout would have been conducted before the Penguins-Sabres game Feb. 17 at HSBC Arena.

• Commissioner Gary Bettman had the authority to alter the conventional period and/or game formats if he deemed it appropriate.

• If the game had been postponed because of weather, it would have been made up at 7 p.m. today at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Had the makeup game also been called off, it would have been rescheduled for HSBC Arena at an unspecified date.

Sykora keeps eye on juniors

Penguins winger Petr Sykora has a personal stake in the ongoing world junior championships.

Not only because he was a two-time participant in the tournament -- he led it in goal-scoring in 1994 with seven -- but because it's being played in his homeland, the Czech Republic.

Although the competition wasn't a headline event on the far side of the Atlantic when Sykora was involved, it commands more attention now.

"I think people follow it a little more," he said. "It's getting bigger and bigger in Europe. Teams are preparing themselves way more."

Slovakia, he noted, is a prime example. The Slovaks put their world-junior squad together in early fall and had it compete in a pro league this winter to prepare it for the tournament. All that effort didn't pay off, as the Slovaks failed to qualify for the medal round.

Slap shots

Goalie Ty Conklin and right winger Georges Laraque of the Penguins are the only players to appear in both of the NHL's outdoor games. They were with Edmonton when the Oilers lost to Montreal in the Heritage Classic in 2003. "This one wasn't quite as cold, certainly," Conklin said. ... The Penguins failed to generate a shot on goal during the first 18 minutes of the second period.



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