Penguins Notebook: Players eager to take trip with dads
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Except the four players who will take part in the All-Star activities in Dallas this week, the end of the game against Toronto last night was the beginning of a four-day break for the Penguins.
"It seems like since Christmas we've been playing every other day," winger Colby Armstrong said. "It will be nice to get a little break and come back refreshed."
For many, the upcoming week also will bring the chance to hang out with their fathers.
The Penguins have chosen their road trip to Dallas for a game Friday and Phoenix for a game Saturday as their first dad's trip, with the fathers of players and staffers invited to tag along.
About 28 dads are expected to fly Thursday with the team to Dallas, where there will be a night out.
Winger Ronald Petrovicky can claim to have the father coming from the farthest. His is the only dad making the trek from Europe.
Peter Petrovicky already is in town, having driven two hours from his home in Slovakia to Vienna, then flying to Washington, D.C. (where he was delayed by a flat tire on the plane) and on to Pittsburgh.
"He comes here every year anyway to visit and see the kids," Petrovicky said. "It's kind of fun to be able to show him the life on the road.
"He speaks English a little, so he can talk to some of the other dads a little bit."
Armstrong expects that the time the dads spend together will be as interesting as the time they spend with their sons.
"We come from all over the place, so not too many families and parents get to know each other," Armstrong said. "So the dads will be able to do what they love to do -- watch hockey and sit around and talk hockey -- and they can get to know each other."
Armstrong's father, Wayne, is coming the farthest of those traveling within North America.
"He's flying Saskatoon to Minnesota, Minnesota to Pittsburgh and maybe one more stop after Minnesota," Armstrong said.
Something to chew on
With 14 goals and a league-leading five short-handed goals going into last night, Penguins rookie center and sometime winger Jordan Staal is getting a lot of attention.
One thing people are noticing is that Staal often is chewing on his mouth guard with one end of it hanging out of his mouth.
"A bad habit, I guess," Staal said. "I got in the habit in Peterborough" in junior hockey.
Chewing flattens the ends of the plastic pieces, so he has had to cut the ends off. He also has worn out two guards this season. Staal said he gets a little grief over the habit.
"A lot of people have noticed it," he said.
But he always remembers to put it in place during play, right?
"Yeah, hopefully," he said, and smiled. "I'm not sure."
A boost for wingers
It's no secret the Penguins need more scoring from their wingers. Mark Recchi was the only one in double figures, with 11 goals going into last night.
Full-time wingers Michel Ouellet, Ryan Malone, Colby Armstrong, Ronald Petrovicky, Nils Ekman and Jarkko Ruutu had combined for 27 goals -- an average of 4.5 each -- before last night. General manager Ray Shero came up with a tongue-in-cheek way to get more production from the wingers, even if it's just on paper.
"I definitely put Jordan Staal in the winger category now," Shero said, smiling.
Throw in the nine before last night from Erik Christensen, another center who has been shifted at times to the wing, and the Penguins' wingers rise to average.
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar participated in the morning skate and said he continued to feel better after dealing with a stomach ailment for the past few days. ... After a full-team game-day skate, coach Michel Therrien said, "Believe it or not, that was an optional skate." That has been the case more times than not this season when practice was optional.
First Published January 21, 2007 12:00 am