Penalty-killer Crosby changes things
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Penalty-killing isn't new to winger Pascal Dupuis, but he found an added dimension to the art of playing short-handed Saturday in the Penguins' preseason opener.
It's not that Tampa Bay had a monster power play; the Lightning used a lineup heavy on minor leaguers. It's just that Dupuis hadn't had much experience killing penalties alongside center Sidney Crosby.
"You do have to step it up," Dupuis said of pairing with someone of Crosby's caliber who can be an offensive threat against opponents' power plays.
"If there's a loose puck or you have the puck won, you try to hold it maybe one more second to see if he's going to get open or if he's going to try to beat one guy."
Dupuis and Miroslav Satan, Crosby's other regular winger so far this preseason, split time with the center on short-handed shifts in that game. It's possible Crosby will fill that role again tonight when the Penguins play Toronto in their final preseason home game.
Crosby, entering his fourth season, has not been a regular penalty-killer. He played some short-handed last season, mostly in the waning seconds of opponents' power plays.
In the 5-4 shootout loss Saturday, he was explosive while killing penalties. He pounced on a turnover by Tampa Bay top prospect Steven Stamkos to score an unassisted short-handed goal at 17:07 of the third period for a short-lived lead. Earlier, after losing a faceoff against Jussi Jokinen in the Penguins' end, Crosby bowled Jokinen over, blocked a shot and raced the other way with the puck before goaltender Karri Ramo made a glove save on him.
• Game: Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs in a preseason game.
• When: 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Mellon Arena.
• Of note: There will be no local TV or radio coverage. So check out the PG's Empty Netters where Seth Rorabaugh will be blogging before, during and after the game.
Crosby, who led all Penguins forwards with 4:29 of short-handed ice time and helped shut down all five Lightning power plays, said it wasn't so much that he was being a bulldog.
"I'm not used to that, so I was probably running around a little bit, trying to get a feel for things," he said.
Jordan Staal and Max Talbot are well established as penalty-killers, and the team has several other forwards who have experience, including Dupuis, Satan and Tyler Kennedy. The team's other top center, Evgeni Malkin, logged 3:44 short-handed in the game, an indication that he, too, could be used more extensively as a penalty-killer this season.
In the return game Monday at Tampa Bay, with Crosby, Staal, Dupuis, Satan and Malkin out of the lineup, Talbot was paired with Bill Thomas and Kennedy skated short-handed with Janne Pesonen.
"The good thing about our team this year is we've got a lot of guys who can penalty-kill, so you'll probably see a lot of different looks," Crosby said.
Seeing Crosby, the 2006-07 NHL scoring leader, on the ice could make those on opposing power-play units approach things a bit differently because he always is a threat to take the puck the other way.
"They've got the speed," Dupuis said of top offensive players who kill penalties. "They work hard. They anticipate a lot. They read the play well. And they can intercept plays."
Crosby doesn't consider himself a big risk-taker.
"There's a very small margin for error," he said. "You get caught on the wrong side of the puck, and the puck's in your net. Or you get lucky and you're on the right side and you've got a great opportunity. That just comes with feel.
"The main thing when you're out there killing penalties is to kill it, not to score. If you can bring a little bit of fear into teams when you're out there, that's great, but the main thing is to kill it."
If Crosby adds penalty-killing to his regular repertoire this season, it could boost his overall minutes. There were those who thought his averages of 20:50 per game last season, 20:45 in 2006-07 and 20:07 as a rookie were a little low.
He's satisfied either way.
"I had no problem with my minutes before," he said. "I think I played pretty hard minutes. For the most part, I feel like I expend a lot of energy. If I'm capable of playing 22, 23 [minutes] consistently without [affecting] the overall, game-by-game kind of fatigue, that's fine with me."
NOTES -- Doctors continue to wait for the swelling in Sergei Gonchar's left shoulder to subside before he undergoes more testing, possibly including an MRI, but indications remain that the team's top defenseman will be out for some time after being injured Saturday. ... Forwards Kris Beech, Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich were among 13 players assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. That leaves 29 players -- 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders -- on the Penguins' roster, which must be cut to 24 before the team leaves Saturday for Sweden. The others sent to the Baby Penguins are forwards Adam Henrich, Aaron Boogard, Tim Wallace, David Gove and Christopher Minard, defensemen Deryk Engelland, T.J. Kemp, Ben Lovejoy and Joey Mormina, and goaltender David Brown. ... Coach Michel Therrien missed practice while having his two broken ribs re-evaluated.
First Published September 24, 2008 12:00 am