Lasers highlight festive opener
Richard Bubin and his nephew, Jeff Bubin, of Ice Creations assemble a "Great Day for Hockey" ice sculpture outside the Consol Energy Center Wednesday.
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With the players entrance bedazzled with colorful lasers and their autographs outlined on the ice in more lasers, the Penguins went through individual introductions Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.
It was part of the pregame celebration for their home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs in this lockout-shortened season.
Young hockey players skated out before the players and lined up in front of the players door onto the ice.
Overall, it was an understated ceremony -- "We're going to try to avoid a long opening ceremony, so we can get this puck dropped at a normal time for our team and don't overdo it," coach Dan Bylsma said earlier in the day -- but the players were brought out in numerical jersey number order leaving star centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for last.
When those two came onto the ice, it nearly brought down the house, the Penguins' 255th consecutive sellout crowd.
The Penguins won their first two games on the road over the weekend at Philadelphia and against the Rangers in New York.
Carlyle remember city well
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle served as Penguins captain and remains the club's only defenseman to win the Norris Trophy. That was quite a while ago -- he was traded to Winnipeg in the 1983-84 season, months before Penguins Hall of Famer and co-owner Mario Lemieux was drafted.
Still, Carlyle, 56, has a feel for Pittsburgh as a hockey city, and he expressed that view before the Maple Leafs sat through the home-opening festivities at Consol Energy Center.
"People don't recognize that this market has been a hockey market for a long time," Carlyle said. "The success that they've had with Mario and now with the addition of Sidney Crosby into the fold and the type of team that they have, there are hockey roots here, and they've done a great job as far as branding the Penguins in this community.
"When I was here, the Steelers were the main draw, and I would say they probably still are. And the Pirates were winning World Series. We were the Penguins and we were just a young team trying to spread our wings in the market. They've done an excellent job, but they've had some great players go through here as far as ambassadors and players."
Familiar faces resurface
The Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, signed two former Penguins to pro tryout agreements.
Defenseman Mark Eaton, 35, was part of the 2009 Stanley Cup team but has battled injuries over the years. He spent the past two seasons with the New York Islanders.
Winger Tom Kostopoulos, 33, was a seventh-round draft pick by the Penguins in 1999. He was an All-Star in 2001-02, when he led the Penguins in scoring with 53 points, but he was gone by the time of the 2004-05 lockout. He is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's all-time leader in games played (318), goals (97), assists (149), points (246) and in playoff scoring with 38 points in 51 games.
Kostopoulos spent last season with Calgary.
Penguins winger Chris Kunitz, an All-American at Ferris State, was named to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association all-decade team for 2000-2013. He also has replaced former Penguins center Jordan Staal as an alternate captain for home games. Defenseman Brooks Orpik wears an "A" on the road. ... Defenseman Jake Gardiner returned from a concussion to make his season debut for Toronto. ... The Penguins scratched center Dustin Jeffrey and defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Robert Bortuzzo.
First Published January 24, 2013 12:42 am