Penguins Notebook: Despite Michigan roots, Hall never Red Wings fan

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Penguins forward Adam Hall grew up in Michigan and has been a hockey fan since he was a boy.

He said yesterday, though, that he never had any particular ties to the Detroit Red Wings, who the Penguins will face in the Stanley Cup final.

Not that he requires any incentive besides playing for a championship, of course.

"That's all the significance we need," he said yesterday.

Although his parents hail from the Detroit area and he still has relatives there, Hall grew up in Kalamazoo and felt no real connection to the franchises based a couple of hours away.

"I grew up a Kalamazoo Wings fan," he said. "That's what I have memories of."

Malone has touched Cup

Hockey players tend to be superstitious about holding the Stanley Cup before they win it, but Ryan Malone of the Penguins did it nearly two decades ago.

After the Penguins won the championship in 1991 or 1992, Malone's father, Greg, who was the team's head scout at the time, got to have the trophy for a day, as does every player and staff member.

He invited many of the family's neighbors to get a first-hand look at the Cup, and his son decided that simply being photographed with the Cup wasn't quite enough.

Now, he seems to be hoping that a technicality will help him to avoid being jinxed.

"I did touch it because I never thought I'd be in this situation, so I was trying to pick it up," Ryan Malone said on a conference call yesterday.

"At the time, it was pretty heavy. ... I never lifted it over my head, so maybe that was the secret."

Gill's puck-handling a surprise

The Penguins acquired Hal Gill from Toronto at the Feb. 26 trade deadline to bolster their defense corps and add a physical presence in their own zone.

After a slow start, Gill has done all of that, but he also has proven to be a little better with the puck than many people -- including the Penguins' coaching staff -- anticipated.

"He reads the game well, works hard and jumps on loose pucks," said assistant coach Andre Savard, who oversees the defense. "His hands are better than we thought. He can pass the puck.

"His puck skills are up there. He can make a good pass, It's not a matter of being strictly defensive. He can move the puck. In today's game, that's so important. It saves a lot of problems. He's better than we anticipated at moving the puck."

Although Gill didn't get a point in these playoffs until his assist on Marian Hossa's empty-netter at the end of Game 3 against Philadelphia, he finished the regular season with three goals and 21 assists in 81 games, totals that included one goal and three assists in 18 games with the Penguins.

Those are pretty respectable numbers for a defensive defenseman, but Gill said the key to whatever offensive success he has is that he doesn't stray from the basics.

"My offensive game is to move the puck well," he said. "If I see an option, hit it. Being a defensive defenseman, it's not good enough just to get the puck. You have to do something with it. That first pass is what I try to focus on. I'm not trying to weave a pass, or make a pretty pass. Just get it to a guy, then let our forwards go to work."

Rally time

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato announced yesterday that there will be a Penguins Stanley Cup rally in Market Square at noon tomorrow. Both called on fans to pack the square and wear their black and gold as the Penguins get ready to face the Red Wings in the first game of the Stanley Cup final Saturday night in Detroit.

Slap shots

The Penguins are looking into the viability of opening Mellon Arena so fans can go there to watch the Cup final games played in Detroit, but have made no decision. ... Penguins left winger Gary Roberts, who is recovering from pneumonia and turns 42 tomorrow, participated in the workout yesterday, the primary feature of which was a low-key, four-on-four scrimmage. ... Malone and Mark Hartigan of the Red Wings were roommates at St. Cloud State. ... This series will be the first postseason meeting between franchises based in Detroit and Pittsburgh in the past 99 years. The Pirates defeated the Tigers, 4-3, in the 1909 World Series. ... The average Red Wing who has appeared in these playoffs is 32.3 years old, 6 feet and 195 pounds, while the average Penguin is 27.9 years old, just a hair under 6 feet 2 and 208 pounds.



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