Penguins Notebook: Lemieux skates -- in charity role

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Mario Lemieux skated at Mellon Arena yesterday.

No, the Penguins' Hall of Fame center and owner is not making a comeback.

Lemieux was fulfilling a wish for a 12-year-old.

Bill Baugh and Mary Jo Reilly of Haslett, Mich., brought sons Matt, 12, and Nick, 9, to Pittsburgh. It was Matt's idea to get on the ice with Lemieux "because he had the exact same type of cancer, and he's the best player."

Lemieux had Hodgkin's Disease in the 1990s.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation facilitated the meeting. The boys skated with Lemieux and several Penguins who are rehabilitating after injuries or illness -- including forwards Sidney Crosby, Gary Roberts and Tyler Kennedy and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury -- before the rest of the team had its morning skate in preparation for the game last night against the New York Islanders.

White is in, yellow out

Shortly after he went down with a high ankle sprain in early December, Fleury got a letter from an eye doctor in Ottawa with charts and an explanation of why Fleury's signature yellow pads gave shooters an advantage.

Fleury listened.

Yesterday, before and during the morning skate, gleaming white new leg pads, blocker and glove made their debut.

"It's a big different look," coach Michel Therrien said. "I was wondering if we have a new goalie."

Fleury asked around and came to believe the theory that pads in white have the illusion of looking bigger than pads of the same size in darker colors.

"There's more and more goalies wearing white these days," Fleury said. "The guys tell me it makes it look a little bigger.

"It's weird, but it's not too much different."

Fleury said it takes "maybe two weeks if I practice every day" to break in a new set of pads.

Therrien hinted that Fleury might be ready to return before the white pads are broken in.

"He's getting closer and closer. We'll see after the weekend," he said.

A Scottish fling

The Penguins had a couple other guests at the morning skate.

Ally McPherson gave his wife, Irene, a choice for her 50th birthday. They could travel from their home in Dublene, Scotland, to South Africa so they could enjoy a safari, some wine-tasting and the beach, or they could come to chilly Pittsburgh for three games.

They chose the Penguins.

"No regrets whatsoever," Irene McPherson said.

In the early 1990s, one of their sons stayed up late and caught a TV game between the Penguins and Washington Capitals. The family discovered ice hockey and became Penguins fans. Sons Michael and Grant began playing. Michael still plays semipro hockey in London, where, during the NHL lockout, he played against and got tips from former Penguin Steve McKenna.

The McPhersons and their sons visited Pittsburgh twice in the mid-90s, and the parents wanted to come back to see the next generation of the Penguins.

Slap shots

Therrien said Crosby, who has a high ankle sprain, has tolerated his four skating sessions well. "Pretty good so far," the coach said. "We're more than pleased." ... Kennedy, who missed his eighth game because of mononucleosis, said his spleen is no longer enlarged, and he's just trying to get back into shape after being rendered sedentary by the illness. "We'll make a decision shortly," Therrien said. "He's close." ... Former Penguins general manager and Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito was named a team ambassador by Chicago.


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


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