Penguins Notebook: Return hard on Armstrong, Christensen
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Any number of people hang around outside the visitors' locker room area after games at Mellon Arena. Sidney Crosby isn't usually one of them.
Yesterday, the injured Penguins captain had a reason to try to catch a few minutes with an opposing player. That's because it was good friend Colby Armstrong, who along with Erik Christensen was dealt to Atlanta at the trade deadline Tuesday.
Armstrong had an assist and Christensen rang a shot off the post in the shootout as the Penguins beat the Thrashers, 3-2.
"It's pretty crazy coming in here right off the bat like that," said Armstrong, who started the game on a forward line that included Christensen and Mark Recchi, who began the season with the Penguins before being claimed off waivers by Atlanta in December.
"Definitely a little nervous and shaky at the start," Armstrong said. "I didn't know what to expect. It was weird out there. After a while, it settled in a little bit."
Christensen also found it disorienting.
"It was tough," he said. "I was very nervous. I know what they do, their structure and the discipline they have in every area of the ice. To get a view of what it's like to play against them, it's tough. It's tough to score goals against them."
Unfortunately for the temporary line of former Penguins, they were on the ice when the current Penguins scored on their first shift.
It was another of the Thrashers' six former Penguins, defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski, who got the first point among them in the game. He had two assists.
The other former Penguins are forward Chris Thorburn and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg. That makes the Thrashers something of a Pittsburgh South.
"You're not kidding," said Kwiatkowski, who was acquired by the Penguins at the trade deadline last year but played in just one game the rest of the season.
Kwiatkowski was recalled from the minor leagues by Atlanta the same day of the trade.
"When I saw them in the hotel, we just looked at each other and smiled," Kwiatkowski said. "For them, I think it was nice to see some familiar faces."
For Christensen, Kwiatkowski and Recchi in particular, being with the Thrashers has meant new opportunities after leaving a talent-heavy Penguins roster.
"You saw how much I was out there," said Christensen, who logged 19:25, played on the top power-play unit and was his new team's first shooter in the shootout. He was 5 of 8 in shootout attempts with the Penguins, but already is 0 for 2 in three games with Atlanta.
"I kind of forgot how to be that player," said Christensen, who was a go-to player in juniors. "It's sort of weird having that heaped upon you. I'm sort of learning how to be that player."
Armstrong's role as mostly a third-line player likely won't change much, but his upbeat presence in the locker room has been transplanted, and he no longer gets to pal around with Crosby.
"I talked to him probably about an hour after [the trade]," Armstrong said. "He sent me a text, but my phone was blowing up from my parents and family. Once I got a free second, I gave him a call, and we chatted a little bit."
They got to do it in person after the game, even if it was the opposite side of the arena from what they're used to.
The Penguins tied a franchise record with their 34th sellout of the season.
One key difference: It took 40 home dates to get that many sellouts in 1988-89 and 1989-90; the Penguins are 34 for 34 in 2007-08 and formally will establish a new standard when Tampa Bay visits March 12.
The Penguins had a moment of silence for longtime Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, who died Wednesday. Throughout the game, fans waved Terrible Towels in Cope's memory. ... Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney missed his second consecutive game because of a groin injury. The Penguins' only healthy scratch was goaltender Ty Conklin. Dany Sabourin served as the backup to starter Marc-Andre Fleury. ... Winger Marian Hossa, who came to the Penguins as the key ingredient of the trade that involved Armstrong and Christensen, was not able to face his former team. He is out with a sprained knee. ... Atlanta scratched defensemen Mark Popovic and Ken Klee and center Todd White and lost defenseman Niclas Havelid to an elbow injury in the second period.
First Published March 3, 2008 12:00 am