Penguins Notebook: Drug testing follows practice
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The Penguins' practice at Mellon Arena yesterday was pretty standard stuff.
What came after it was not.
When their workouts, on and off the ice, were complete, players went to a family waiting room deep inside the arena to submit urine samples as part of the NHL's drug-testing program.
It is the first time this season the Penguins have had to do that after going through the process three times in 2006-07.
"We were a little unlucky last year," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "But they said it was just random."
It's worth noting that players didn't gripe about the testing. A random sampling suggested most figure the potential benefits outweigh any inconvenience.
"I don't think our problem is as big as baseball's -- if we do have a problem -- but it keeps everyone a little more honest," Orpik said.
Winger Jarkko Ruutu, who said he is accustomed to extensive testing from playing in Europe, agreed.
"I think it's good," he said. "You can't cheat. ... There are rules that you have to follow. I don't think hockey has a problem at all, but it's one of those things that when you know [the testing] is there, it makes it a little bit harder if you want to [use performance-enhancing substances]."
A month ago, Dany Sabourin was an indispensable part of the Penguins' short-term future, the guy they were counting on to keep them afloat while No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury recovered from a high ankle sprain.
Sabourin, though, sputtered when he took over the top job, and has been relegated again to a low-profile role. Ty Conklin has started the past 10 games and 11 of the past 12 and should be in goal again tonight when Tampa Bay visits Mellon Arena.
Sabourin doesn't complain about the workload Conklin has been carrying -- "Right now, he's winning, so that's how it goes," he said -- and doesn't know when he'll get another start. He does, however, believe that he established his credentials as an NHL goaltender with his work behind Fleury.
"I did my job," he said. "It doesn't take away from what I did before. I just have to make sure I'm ready for the next game."
Goaltending has been a major issue for Tampa Bay since Nikolai Khabibulin went to Chicago as a free agent after helping to lead the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Marc Denis failed to be an adequate replacement, as did John Grahame. Now it's 21-year-old Karri Ramo's turn to see if he can be the go-to guy for Tampa Bay.
"We're not going to figure out this goalie for a while, and he's going to play," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "No matter what's going on, he's going to play the majority of the games, because we need to figure out that position.
"I like his demeanor, as far as how he handles things. It's going to take more time, and there will be some bumps in the road. We have to understand that. But he still, in my mind, gives us the best chance right now to [win]."
Penguins defenseman Ryan Lannon has spent nearly two weeks in the NHL, but has yet to skate a shift at this level.
But Lannon, brought up from Wilkes-Barre before a three-game road trip last week, isn't bitter about spending game nights out of uniform.
"It's such a cliche, but I'm so excited to be here," he said. "It's been a dream of every guy in this locker room just to get the chance to come up.
"It's nice to know that I'm on the radar and will get a chance [to play for the Penguins] down the road at some point."
Tortorella on high-priced center Brad Richards, who's having a disappointing season: "He's one of the best players in the league, who's going through a hell of a time right now. I'm hoping he comes back at the right time to kick us over into a winning streak, to get us going." ... Penguins forward Erik Christensen, who missed Wednesday's practice because of a viral infection, worked out yesterday and reported no problems but still seems unlikely to play tonight.
First Published January 18, 2008 12:00 am