Penguins Notebook: Shootout competition in practice produces skating stalemate

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Coach Michel Therrien ended the Penguins' practice at Mellon Arena yesterday with a shootout competition.

Nothing unusual about that. He likes to do that once a week or so, just to keep the players sharp in case a game stretches beyond overtime.

The competition's format calls for every forward and defenseman to get a chance to beat one of the goalies on a breakaway. Those who score advance to the next round; when they have an opportunity to face the other goaltender, and those who don't take a place along the far boards and watch.

Eventually, the field is pared to a final group of shooters, and the player who continues to score when the others have been stopped wins.

At which point teammates wearing the same color practice jersey as the winner get an exemption from skating laps.

The event yesterday began like most others and it only took a few rounds to whittle the field to five survivors -- Tyler Kennedy, Eric Godard, Max Talbot, Bill Thomas and Ryan Whitney.

Trouble is, goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Mathieu Garon stopped all 15 shots those guys threw at them in the three rounds that followed.

By then, Fleury was giving serious thought to doing whatever seemed necessary to get practice over before sundown.

"I was thinking of just letting one in, to move on," he said, smiling.

But while Kennedy, Godard and Whitney were denied again in the round that followed, Talbot beat Fleury and Thomas scored on Garon to make it a two-man event.

In the round that followed, Garon rejected Talbot and Thomas missed the net behind Fleury. At which point Therrien decided it was time to tinker with the rules.

"I had to make a deal with the players," he said. "If neither team scores, both teams are going to do those laps."

Which is precisely what happened after, in what proved to be the final round, Fleury turned aside Talbot and Garon bested Thomas.

While all concerned would have preferred that a winner emerge, Talbot didn't disagree with Therrien's decision to break off the competition.

"When you look at the last two guys who were there, Thomas and me," he said, "it could have gone on forever."

Fedotenko skates

Penguins winger Ruslan Fedotenko, whose right hand was broken when he punched Atlanta right winger Colby Armstrong in a fight Jan. 6, skated by himself for about 15 minutes yesterday.

Fedotenko's hand remains severely swollen and he doesn't have clearance to carry a stick, but getting back on the ice is a significant milestone in his recovery.

Still, there is no word of a change in the original prognosis that he would be out four to six weeks.

Rangers on even keel

Don't try to tell the New York Rangers, who will visit Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow, that the first goal of a game is of paramount importance.

Or almost any, for that matter.

New York has gotten 14 of its 28 victories when opening the scoring, and the other 14 when its opponent generates the first goal.

In fact, how the entire first period plays out doesn't necessarily give any indication who will win a game when the Rangers are involved.

They have won eight when trailing at the first intermission, seven when they're ahead after 20 minutes.

Slap shots

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was excused from the workout yesterday, but still reported to Mellon Arena for an off-ice workout. ... Rangers right winger Nikolai Zherdev does not have a goal in 12 games.



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