Penguins Notebook: Protecting Fleury major priority against Rangers
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The Penguins have insisted for several days that they plan to ignore any antics by New York agitator Sean Avery when their second-round playoff series against the Rangers begins at 7:08 tonight at Mellon Arena.
They do not, however, plan to overlook the aggressive manner in which Avery and some teammates attacked New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur's net in Round 1.
Mostly because the Penguins do not want their goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, to receive similar treatment.
Indeed, coach Michel Therrien said he plans to raise that topic during a meeting today with the supervisor the league has assigned to monitor the series.
"We hope the referees will protect the goalie," Therrien said. "That's supposed to be done, and I expect that it's going to be done. You have to make sure the goalies have a chance to stop the puck.
"We know they played hard on Martin Brodeur. Was it, all the time, fair? I'm not quite sure. But, in the meantime, it could work both ways."
Left winger Gary Roberts, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Penguins' first-round series against Ottawa because of a groin injury, seems cautiously optimistic he'll be able to play tonight.
Roberts reported that "it felt a lot better" after practice yesterday than it had Wednesday, and that, "if everything goes well ... and there are no setbacks, hopefully, I'll be in the lineup."
Therrien said Roberts will have the final say on whether he dresses for Game 1, and Roberts has a pretty basic criterion for making that decision.
"I have to be able to skate," he said. "You're playing against a team that's a great hockey club, and I don't want to be a liability."
His teammates don't seem to feel there's much danger of that.
"He's a presence," center Sidney Crosby said. "He has a lot of experience. When he's out there, something's happening. He creates a lot, and this is his type of hockey."
The game tonight will be the Penguins' first since they closed out the Ottawa series April 16, but the extended layoff doesn't figure to be much of a factor because New York clinched its place in Round 2 just two nights later.
"It's going to be pretty even," Penguins right winger Marian Hossa said. "They're going to be well-rested, and we're going to be well-rested. It would be different if we played a team that went seven games, and we waited for a week."
Odds are that both clubs will need a little time to get in sync this evening -- "I'd say we're going to be equally rusty when it comes to the first period," defenseman Rob Scuderi said -- and that whatever advantage exists will go to the team best able to concentrate on the task at hand.
"The biggest thing is, in the first game, you have to really be focused, be ready for whatever happens," Scuderi said. "You can simulate game situations all you want in practice, but the fact is that nothing [replicates a game].
"It might take us a couple of minutes, but, as long as we stay focused, I think we'll be all right."
The Rangers, guilty of making some inflammatory comments about Buffalo before losing to the Sabres in the second round last spring, seem to have made a conscious effort to avoid a repeat this time.
It helps that Avery seems to be sticking to his vow of silence with reporters -- a year ago, Avery said of the Sabres: "I'm just going to go out and try to punish their [defense] and make them realize this is going to be a real long series for them. I'm going to try to hurt them and hit them and get in their face as much as I can." -- but veteran Brendan Shanahan said his teammates now grasp the perils of providing their opponents with extra incentive.
"I think we learned a bit of a lesson in that we gave Buffalo pretty good motivation for Game 1 last year by shooting our mouths off a little bit," he told the New York Daily News.
Fans will be able to watch Games 1 and 2 of this series on the video screen that was installed outside of Gate 3 at Mellon Arena in Round 1.
Team officials reported that more than 2,000 showed up to watch the Penguins' series-clinching victory in Ottawa.
Grills, tents and alcohol are not permitted in the Gate 3 area.
Crosby was not charged with a giveaway in Round 1. ... The Rangers trailed New Jersey for just 15 minutes, 10 seconds in their opening-round series, which lasted five games. Ottawa led the Penguins for four minutes, 28 seconds.
First Published April 25, 2008 12:00 am