Penguins Notebook: Death of Russian player, 20, jolts Therrien and his team

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Many Penguins players were just getting word after their morning skate yesterday of the death of Russian teen-ager Alexei Cherepanov.

"It's crazy that something like that can happen," said forward Jordan Staal, who, at 20, is 1 year older than Cherepanov was when he collapsed on the bench late in a game Monday in the first-year Kontinental Hockey League in Russia.

Cherepanov, a 2007 first-round draft of the New York Rangers, played for Avangaard Omsk. Teammate Jaromir Jagr, the former Penguin, Ranger and Washington Capitals winger, had just skated a shift on a line with Cherepanov and was standing next to him after he collapsed.

"I'm thinking more about the family than anything," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Those young athletes, their family is proud of their son. They make a lot of sacrifices as parents. The hockey side is way behind, as far as I'm concerned."

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who is Russian, told team officials he did not know Cherepanov.

A cause of death has not been determined, but there have been suggestions he might have had a heart ailment that was never diagnosed. There are also reports that medical attention was not as prompt or thorough as it might have been.

That left the Penguins grateful for the care they get.

"The NHL, there's all the best players in the world here," Staal said. "It's run so smoothly, and everything's done right. That's why I'm happy to be part of the NHL."

"As far as we're concerned," added Therrien, "we're privileged to be surrounded by the best doctors and specialists available."

Schedule improves

The game last night against Philadelphia was the second in a stretch of four in eight nights, all at home, including games every other night the rest of this week.

That's a welcome schedule after a trip to Sweden for back-to-back games against Ottawa and then six days between games. It allows for more consistency.

"Every second night, that's good," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "That's what we want."

Past is past

The Flyers made a logical move Monday when they traded for defenseman Andrew Alberts, considering Ryan Parent (shoulder) and Randy Jones (hip) are both out after surgery.

It might have made for an uncomfortable situation, though. Alberts, then with Boston, was checked hard into the boards last season by Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell. Neck and head injuries from that hit later surfaced and forced Alberts to miss 47 games.

But the two worked it out.

"I saw him in the hallway, and we joked around about the hit," Alberts told the Philadelphia Daily News. "That's part of hockey, and I told him I'd get him back in practice."

Slap shots

Therrien said it was winger Petr Sykora's call to return to the lineup after missing the first three games because of a respiratory illness and a groin injury. ... The Penguins scratched defenseman Darryl Sydor and wingers Paul Bissonnette and Bill Thomas. Philadelphia scratched defenseman Lasse Kukkonen and center Jared Ross. ... The Flyers, who played Monday, did not hold a morning skate.


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


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