Penguins Notebook: Defenseman shooting to stay with team
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It's possible that Penguins defenseman Alain Nasreddine has spent more time on buses than many of his young teammates combined.
Nasreddine, 31, has been something of a career minor-leaguer, serving as a captain through much of his time in the minors and getting an occasional sniff of the NHL.
Matchup: Penguins vs. St. Louis Blues, 7:08 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
TV, radio: Versus, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Manny Legace for Blues.
Penguins: Had four-game win streak broken with 6-3 loss Saturday at Montreal. ... Are 2-5-0 vs. St. Louis since 2000-01 but are 9-1-1 at home vs. Blues since 1991-92. ... Are 2-2-1 vs. Western Conference.
Blues: Have lost 11 in a row but have earned a point in two consecutive games. ... Have scored first goal in each of new coach Andy Murray's four games. ... Have not played against Atlantic Division.
Hidden stat: In Blues' 2-1 loss to Nashville Saturday, Predators outshot them, 13-4, in third period and, 4-0, in overtime.
"Yeah, there were some times where I thought it would be tough to get back to the NHL," Nasreddine said yesterday after Penguins practiced at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island.
"I'm getting older. You're 28, 29, and then you hit 30, and you're like, all right, you see they have all these [young] prospects. But you seize the opportunities you're given."
That's exactly what Nasreddine has done.
Saturday, playing in his 31st NHL game in nine seasons, Nasreddine got his first point -- a goal, no less. And it came in his hometown of Montreal.
It was at the end of the first period of the Penguins' 6-3 loss and gave them a 2-1 lead. It was so close to the end of the period that it took a review to determine there were 0.2 seconds left and the goal counted.
"My heart was beating so fast, just waiting," said Nasreddine, who jumped around like marionette in celebration.
"It was good that it happened at the end of the first period so I could get focused and think about the game because it was pretty big for me, I won't lie to you. If they had said it wasn't a goal and time expired, that would have been tough, but zero-point-two -- I'll always remember that."
Since he was promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Dec. 4, Nasreddine has played in all seven games. Going into the Penguins' game tonight at Mellon Arena against St. Louis, he is averaging 17 minutes, 14 seconds of ice time, is plus-7 and has that one precious point.
"He's playing well defensively," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We like the way he's playing. He's a warrior, that guy."
One who appreciates the chance to play hockey for a living, even for all the time it has been in the minor leagues.
"I was realistic more than down on myself over the years," Nasreddine said. "I wasn't in the NHL, but I was making a great living in the American Hockey League. I was making good money, and I was playing hockey."
The Penguins acquired the defensive defenseman in a trade in March 2004. He spent six games with the Penguins last season with, of course, no points.
"I've always believed in myself that I could play at this level," Nasreddine said. "I thought I'm probably never going to get a goal or an assist. Scoring for me is just a bonus. It's not good for me if I score a goal and I let in three.
"My job is to keep the puck out of my net. I've been pretty happy with the way I've been playing."
After scoring 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in four games, taking over the league scoring lead and helping the Penguins go 3-1-0, second-year center Sidney Crosby was named the NHL's First Star for the week ending Sunday.
Included in that stretch were a career-high six points in an 8-4 win against Philadelphia.
"I felt good, but you're making plays and the puck's just going in," Crosby said. "It's a nice feeling to have, but it doesn't happen every game.
"That's nice, but a new week starts now."
The Penguins' inconsistent penalty-killing -- Montreal was 4 of 7 on power plays -- can be traced, at least in part, to the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Therrien said. "It seems like every time we give up a scoring chance, bang, it's in the net. We've got to make some saves. Your best penalty-killing guy should be your goalie," he said. ... The Blues have lost 11 consecutive games, two short of the team record of 13 set last season, when they finished last in the NHL standings. ... The Penguins practiced for an hour and 20 minutes, then nearly all the players stayed on the ice for another 20 minutes.
First Published December 19, 2006 12:00 am