Penguins Notebook: Players remain quiet on Simon's actions
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Six nights after New York Islanders forward Chris Simon stomped on Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu's foot, sparking a firestorm of criticism, both teams shied from the topic before their rematch last night at Mellon Arena.
That was probably at least in part because, in the interim, Simon was granted a leave from the team and issued a 30-game suspension by the NHL, the longest in league history.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien showed no interest in rehashing the dirty play or trying to extract motivation from it.
"Simon got suspended, so ..." he said after his team's morning skate.
Islanders coach Ted Nolan said his club had moved on to focus on its games while trying to help Simon.
"I stay in touch on a daily basis," Nolan said. "Chris is still part of this team, and part of this team is we show compassion and you show that you're very supportive. He'll go through his process, and we'll do our part by supporting him."
Nolan was among those who were upset that NHL vice president Colin Campbell, in announcing Simon's suspension, mistakenly described the counseling Simon will receive as related to "drugs and alcohol."
Nolan and Simon are members of the First Nations community. Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, released a statement this week calling Campbell's comments "stereotyping."
For more than 10 minutes yesterday morning, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby fielded questions from a throng of reporters about his first NHL fight Thursday night, against Boston's Andrew Ference -- everything from whether it was premeditated to how he felt about answering questions about the fray.
"It was just a reaction," Crosby said. "I think he dropped his gloves first.
"I was just happy that I was all right. A lot of things can happen in a fight."
Therrien later laughed when asked if Crosby, the league's leading scorer and MVP last season, might challenge winger Georges Laraque for the team's enforcer role.
"He's playing with an edge," Therrien said. "Sometimes that happens, but I was not expecting that at all."
Therrien was effusive about Crosby's performance in the game, in which the Penguins blew a 4-0 lead before winning in a shootout, 5-4, but it had little to do with the fight. Crosby had a goal and two assists.
"He was a true leader, a solid captain," Therrien said. "This is what you're looking for from your leaders. After the performance that the team had in New York [a lackluster, 4-0 loss Tuesday against the Rangers], you rely on your leaders, and he was a true leader for us."
There was some confusion, even within the Penguins' organization, immediately after the team's shootout win in Boston whether forward Erik Christensen or defenseman Kris Letang was credited with the game-determining goal.
Christensen and then Letang beat Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, while Boston's Phil Kessel and Marco Sturm failed to score against Penguins goaltender Ty Conklin, rendering third attempts by the clubs unnecessary and giving the Penguins a decisive, 2-0 advantage in the shootout.
Under the NHL's policy, Christensen got his first game-determining shootout goal. Letang, who remained in a six-way tie for second with two such goals, wasn't sure of the protocol, but he was happy to let Christensen get have the distinction.
"I just want to make sure the team wins," Letang said. "It's kind of like a shootout unit. Each guy needs to score, and you have to be better than the other team."
Therrien had no update on top-line left winger Ryan Malone, who missed his third consecutive game because of a leg infection. ... The Penguins said defenseman Mark Eaton, who left the Boston game in the third period after a collision, had a neck stinger that improved enough for him to play last night. ... The Penguins scratched defenseman Brooks Orpik for the second consecutive game and the third time in the past seven games. Islanders scratches were defensemen Bryan Berard and Marc-Andre Bergeron. ... After winning in Boston and flying back late Thursday night, 13 Penguins participated in the morning skate. ... Letang on his approach to shootout attempts: "I'm not thinking like a forward to go one-on-one against the goalie. Sometimes, in a game that happens for defense [on a breakaway]."
First Published December 22, 2007 12:00 am