Penguins Notebook: Stopping Canadiens' Gionta like rolling dice
Canadiens forward Brian Gionta attempts to redirect a puck as Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury defends the net during Sunday's at Mellon Arena.
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Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and Montreal right winger Brian Gionta were teammates at Boston College for several years, so they know each other pretty well.
Well enough that Orpik remembers that during their time at Boston College, Gionta "used to like to play Yahtzee while taking a bath."
He also recalls that Gionta "used to drive a purple Mustang that he adored."
Those nuggets might offer an interesting insight or two on the guy, but hardly qualify as scandalous. And, based on Orpik's experiences, nothing about Gionta does.
"I don't have much dirt on him," Orpik said. "Away from hockey, he's about as simple as they come."
There's nothing boring about Gionta on the ice, though. Especially not for the guys charged with trying to prevent him from scoring.
Gionta enters Game 3 of the Penguins' second-round series against the Canadiens with four goals and three assists in the first nine games of these playoffs, including a goal in each of the first two of this series.
Although Gionta's stature -- 5 feet 7, 173 pounds -- is slight, his impact generally is not. He is fast, with a quick release and accurate shot.
Even more important, he is fearless. Gionta won't just stray into the high-traffic areas where goals are scored; he thrives there.
"I think his courage is the biggest thing," Orpik said. "I'd say that 75 percent of the goals he scores are right around the net. It's just his willingness to go there. He obviously knows he's going to get hit and get punished."
And if he can handle those hits, he probably can deal with word getting out that he likes to play Yahtzee while bathing.
Left winger Mike Cammalleri led Montreal with five goals in the Canadiens' first-round upset of Washington and has picked up the pace against the Penguins, getting three in the first two games.
And, like Gionta, he thrives despite being smaller than most of the guys against whom he plays.
Cammalleri is 5-9, 182 pounds, but makes up for his lack of size with quickness, shiftiness and good vision.
He can be particularly lethal when operating from the side of the crease on power plays, because he's able to handle a pass and bury his shot before the opponents can react.
"He's real good at taking even a hard pass," Penguins defenseman Jay McKee said. "A lot of guys, the pass has to have a certain amount of pace for them to get real good wood and control of it, but he, when they snap a pass across to him on the power play, he can get it off real quick.
"Just as quick as anybody. That's tough to defend, and tough for goaltenders to get across on."
Cammalleri isn't getting an abundance of chances, but he is making the most of them, said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
"With what opportunities he's getting, he's been very dangerous. We have to be extremely cautious and conscious of when he's on the ice," he said.
Eight skaters were on the ice for an optional skate before the Penguins left for Montreal. They were Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Alexei Ponikarovsky, McKee, Jordan Leopold, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Rupp and Eric Godard.
About 1,500 tickets for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, which will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mellon Arena, will go on sale at 10 a.m. today. Fans are encouraged to order tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets will also be available at the Gate One box office and all Ticketmaster locations, or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.
First Published May 4, 2010 12:01 am