Penguins Notebook: Penguins' start ties for their 2nd best

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The Penguins have had no problem picking out deficiencies here and there this season.

At times, it has been even-strength scoring. Or the power play. Or having to come back to win.

It's hard to argue with the results, though.

"Pretty good so far," coach Michel Therrien said yesterday.

Through 19 games going into the matinee today against Vancouver at Mellon Arena, the Penguins are tied for the second-best start in franchise history, 12-4-3 for 27 of a possible 38 points.

"It's a long season. It's a marathon," center and captain Sidney Crosby said. "Whether you start OK, or great, it's good for momentum, but you have to keep doing it."

The 1992-93 team, coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, equaled this season's mark through 19 games. In 1994-95, the Penguins had their best start to this point in the schedule, 14-3-2 for 30 points.

The Penguins were 10-7-2 for 22 points through 19 games two seasons ago en route to making the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Last season, they started 8-10-1 for 17 points before catching fire and reaching the Stanley Cup final.

"We've had so-so starts and had some great seasons the past couple years," Crosby said. "Hopefully, we can keep building. We wanted to start well and we have so far. We want to keep it going."

Nothing cooking for Cooke

Two nights after several of the Penguins got together with former teammates Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen in Atlanta, winger Matt Cooke had no similar plans to socialize with any Vancouver Canucks last night.

"I've got some friends from Vancouver outside of the team in town. I'll spend some time with them," said Cooke, 30, who was drafted by the Canucks in 1997 and spent his entire career with that organization before being traded to Washington in February. He signed with the Penguins as a free agent this past summer.

He's not sure what to expect playing against Vancouver for the first time.

"I'm sure that there will be some emotion and seeing some recognizable faces on the other side," he said. "I appreciate all the good times that I had with that organization. But sometimes change is good, and I'm a Pittsburgh Penguin now."

After being limited by a rib injury earlier this season, Cooke has seven points, including two goals, over the past eight games.

Slap shots

Penguins No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has skated briefly on his own this week but still has soreness related to an undisclosed lower-body injury and will miss his third game in a row today. ... After practice, the Penguins had a team meeting with CEO Ken Sawyer to receive an overview of the new arena being built across the street from Mellon Arena. ... The afternoon start today originally was to accommodate Canadian television, although that telecast no longer is scheduled. ... Goaltender Roberto Luongo was one of 11 Canucks who came straight from the airport to participate in an optional practice after the Penguins' workout at Southpointe. Vancouver's road trip, which ends today, has had them crisscrossing the continent to play the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, with the latter two on successive nights Wednesday and Thursday, before coming east again to Pittsburgh and then heading home. ... Fans can bring toys or money for "Toys for Tots" donations today.



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