Penguins Notebook: Not quite super Conklin, goalie nears hero's status
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Ty Conklin has not qualified for folk-hero status in these parts yet.
Not quite, anyway.
That might change, however, if he continues to play the way he has during the past few weeks.
Conklin, recalled from the Penguins' minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre when goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got a high ankle sprain Nov. 6 in Calgary, has won all six of his NHL starts this season, and will go for No. 7 when Florida visits Mellon Arena today at 3:08 p.m.
But, while Conklin's fingerprints are all over the Penguins' season-best five-game winning streak, he downplays his part in the 6-1 streak that dates to his first start, a 5-4 shootout victory in Boston Dec. 20.
"The team's playing well and, when you're scoring four or five or six goals a game, it makes the job a lot easier," he said yesterday. "I feel pretty good, and I'm getting some breaks, too."
He pointed to the Penguins' 6-2 victory against Toronto Thursday to make his case, noting that the Maple Leafs came within a few millimeters of getting an early goal, only to have Erik Christensen sweep the puck off the goal line, then hit goalposts and the crossbar several times.
Now, a case could be made that many shots go off the post or crossbar because that is all the goalie is giving the shooter, but Conklin still insists that good fortune is a critical part of the equation.
"You can be in good position," he said, "and still have the puck hit the post and go in."
Losing Mark Eaton, who is out indefinitely with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, was a significant blow to the Penguins' defense, but losing him might actually have helped to stabilize the group.
With Eaton out of the mix, there no longer is uncertainty about who might be scratched for a particular game, because the Penguins are carrying just six defensemen.
"Sometimes it was tough because you might be playing well, but then you have one bad game and then you're thinking about it because there were seven good [defensemen] and there was one guy looking over your shoulder," Rob Scuderi said.
Certainly, being assured of a spot in the lineup has worked out well for Brooks Orpik, the odd-man out before Eaton was injured.
"It's good for everyone," he said. "No one has to read about who's going to be in, who's going to be out. You just worry about playing. You come to the rink every day and you know who's going to be in the lineup.
"Everyone's professional enough that we're not going to be complacent just because there's six of us. They could easily call someone else or make a trade. I think right now when you just have six guys, it's a lot easier to play."
Center Maxime Talbot, nursing a high ankle sprain, went through a full practice yesterday, and coach Michel Therrien did not rule out using him during the road trip that begins Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla., where the Penguins play the Panthers.
Therrien made it clear, though, that Talbot will not get into a game until it is all but guaranteed that he is completely recovered.
"I don't think he's ready now, but [practicing] is a first step," Therrien said.
"It's nice to see him on the ice participating in drills and being part of the team again. We're going to take it one day at a time, see where he is. One thing is sure: When he's ready to play, that means he's almost going to be 105 percent. We don't want to put him out there for two or three games, then have him take a step back for another month."
Fleury came up with an early candidate for prank of the year by stuffing himself into right winger Colby Armstrong's equipment bag as practice was winding down, then startling Armstrong when he tried to open it after returning to the locker room.
First Published January 5, 2008 12:00 am