Penguins Notebook: Eight-game homestand ends tonight -- sigh!
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The Penguins will wrap up the longest homestand in franchise history when New Jersey visits Mellon Arena tonight.
Beat the Devils, and it will go down as one of the most productive, too.
The Penguins are 5-1-1 in the first seven games, and a victory tonight would give them 13 of a possible 16 points for the extended stay here.
"We're pretty happy with our effort here," left winger Pascal Dupuis said. "It's a building we feel comfortable in, and our record shows it."
• Matchup: New Jersey at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
• Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Martin Brodeur for Devils.
• Penguins: Have gone 11-2-1 in past 14 home games. ... C Sidney Crosby has 11-game points streak. ... Have scored two first-period goals in four of past six games.
• Devils: Lead season series, 3-2, including 2-1 overtime victory at Mellon Arena Oct. 11. ... LW Patrik Elias needs five goals for 300 in his career. ... Will finish above .500 for 17th consecutive season.
• Hidden stat: Devils have allowed the first goal in 20 of their 24 defeats.
While the Penguins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, New Jersey has been uncharacteristically cold of late. The Devils are 0-4-1 in their past five games, their worst slide of the season.
"It's kind of an oddity for them to lose five in a row," Penguins interim coach Dan Bylsma said.
"They've gone through a little bit of a lull. That does happen."
The Devils' lapse could have been triggered by a letdown after goalie Martin Brodeur set the NHL record for career victories, or perhaps because New Jersey has all but wrapped up the Atlantic Division title.
Whatever the problem, the Penguins aren't assuming it will be a factor tonight.
"They're obviously still a great team," right winger Tyler Kennedy said. "We can't take them lightly."
Still, in the wake of a 3-0 loss Monday to the New York Rangers, Devils coach Brent Sutter made it clear to reporters that he is seriously concerned about his team's struggles.
"I'm trying to stay positive and trying to stay positive," Sutter said. "But, at some point, when you lose five in a row, you have to recognize there are some problems here. There are some issues.
"You can say, 'The playoffs are clinched.' Big deal. We can be done in a week once the playoffs start. You can't turn the switch on. This group tried to turn the switch on last year, and it didn't work."
Sidney Crosby, the No. 3 scorer in the NHL and a regular in the Penguins' shootout rotation, finished last in the end-of-practice penalty-shot competition yesterday. Crosby protested that the event was rigged, that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had allowed numerous shooters to score without making a serious attempt to stop them.
Bylsma, who was Crosby's lone competitor in the final two rounds, said "the rumor that it was fixed is not true," and shrugged off Crosby's charges as something that happens "when you have to come up with an answer why you're the last guy standing."
Good explanation, except that under intense questioning -- high-pressure stuff like, "So, did you try to make Crosby lose?"-- Fleury confessed to his role. "Between me and you, a little bit," he said, with a large and rather nasty grin. "It was between [Crosby] and Dan, the coach. And I wanted Sid to lose."
Crosby's comeuppance didn't end when Bylsma scored in the last round to make Crosby the "Juice Boy" loser, obliged to serve post-practice beverages to his co-workers.
An unknown teammate poked holes in the bottom of some of the disposable cups into which Crosby poured the sports drink he was distributing, creating a steady flow of liquid over the side of the table and onto the locker-room floor until Crosby spotted and discarded the damaged cups.
Penguins right winger Craig Adams, a healthy scratch for the past three games and six of the past seven, is scheduled to return to the lineup this evening.
He figures to replace Eric Godard.
Defenseman Philippe Boucher, who completed his recovery from foot surgery more than a week ago, apparently will sit out the Devils' game, although Bylsma did not explicitly rule out using him.
First Published April 1, 2009 12:00 am