Penguins Notebook: Malkin's workload heavy from get-go
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Matchup: New Jersey Devils at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
TV, radio: FSN, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Martin Brodeur for Devils.
Penguins: Have not won season series against Devils since going 3-1-1 in 2000-01. ... C Sidney Crosby had six goals, six assists in eight games against New Jersey in 2005-06. ... Power play is 1 for 17 at home.
Devils: Are 8-3-1 in past 12 visits to Mellon Arena. ... C John Madden's next assist will be his 100th in NHL. ... Have given up two short-handed goals in five games after allowing just six in 82 last season.
Hidden stat: Devils are 3-0 when scoring first goal, 0-2 when allowing it.
Rookie center Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins will make his NHL debut tonight. There's not much chance he'll slip into the league unnoticed.
Not when coach Michel Therrien intends to use him in just about every conceivable situation when the Penguins face New Jersey.
Malkin will center the No. 2 line -- he had Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi on his wings yesterday -- kill penalties and work on the top power-play unit, where he practiced with Sidney Crosby, Colby Armstrong, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney yesterday.
"We're going to use him like we were expecting to [before he was injured], because we know he's ready to play," Therrien said.
Malkin's left shoulder was dislocated in a collision with teammate John LeClair in an exhibition game Sept. 20. While he likely is more vulnerable to his shoulder being dislocated again than a player who hasn't had such an injury, the Penguins seem confident he is as ready as he will be.
"He's probably not in great shape, but he's in good shape to play," Therrien said.
There is no indication that Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Malkin's former team in the Russian Super League, plans any legal maneuver to prevent him from playing, even though the club is seeking compensation for his services. One of Malkin's agents, J.P. Barry, said that as of yesterday, Malkin's camp has not been informed of any steps to keep him out of the lineup.
Martin Brodeur has led New Jersey to three Stanley Cups and, tonight, could become the third goalie in NHL history to record 450 victories. But Thursday, he was booed by the home crowd after allowing five goals during the second period of a 7-6 shootout victory against Toronto.
Brodeur shrugged off the indignity, telling reporters that fans who pay $90 for seats are allowed to boo if they want. His counterparts with the Penguins, however, seemed genuinely taken aback yesterday upon learning how the New Jersey fans had turned on him, even if it was during the worst home period of his career.
"He's done so many great things for that team, that organization," Marc-Andre Fleury said. "He's been there his whole career. He's one of the best goalies in the world. I don't care what happens, [booing him isn't justified]."
"I'm really surprised," Jocelyn Thibault said. "He's one of the best who's ever played. I guess Patrick Roy has been booed -- all those really good players have been booed once in their careers -- so I guess he's no different."
A classy call
Penguins right winger Colby Armstrong gave Carolina forward Trevor Letowski a crushing hit Saturday night. Two days later, he gave Letowski a phone call.
Letowski got a concussion, a cut forehead and a stiff neck when Armstrong caught him admiring a pass and drove a shoulder into his chin in the first period of the Hurricanes' 5-1 victory, but told Armstrong Monday the damage is not serious.
"It happens in a game, but I felt bad about the injury to the guy," Armstrong said. "At the time, he looked pretty bad. When I saw them put a neck brace on the guy, it really made me sick to my stomach. He told me he's fine. He just has a concussion, and he feels better every day. I felt better [after] talking to him."
So, apparently, did Letowski, based on his remarks to the Raleigh News & Observer.
"I talked to him for a good 10 minutes," Letowski said. "I thought it was a classy move on his part."
Ducking the mask
Thibault said he has mothballed his new mask -- which features animated Penguins that bear more than a fleeting resemblance to Daffy Duck -- because he has been losing sight of the puck in its black cage and because it has been getting caught on his shoulder pads when he looks behind him.
"It's not very comfortable," he said.
"It sits a little farther out in front of my face. ... I don't know [if it can be adjusted]. I might try to get used to it, or I might try to get a real different model, because it's kind of bugging me a little bit."
First Published October 18, 2006 12:00 am