PENGUINS NOTEBOOK: Therrien -- 'It's a pretty good start, a decent start'
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DETROIT -- It's not that the Penguins have escaped any hint of turbulence over the first five-plus weeks of this season.
They've experienced quite a bit, actually. Some of it severe.
There have been times when they've struggled to generate goals, or even shots, and protecting third-period leads has been an adventure far more often than any of them would like it to be.
Matchup: Penguins at Detroit Red Wings, 7:08 p.m. today, Joe Louis Arena.
TV/Radio: Versus, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Chris Osgood for Red Wings.
Penguins: Have lost three of past four regular-season games at Joe Louis, where they were 1-2 in Stanley Cup final. ... LW Pascal Dupuis has gone 15 games without an assist. ... Penalty-killing is 18 for 19 over past five games.
Red Wings: Have earned six of their nine victories by one goal. ... Two of Johan Franzen's five goals have been game-winners. ... Power play is NHL's most efficient, with success rate of 30.9 percent.
Hidden stat: Detroit has been outscored, 28-26, at even-strength.
Still -- despite major roster upheaval in the offseason and the long-term absences of defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney -- the Penguins enter their game against Detroit tonight at Joe Louis Arena with an 8-4-2 record.
Those 18 points translated to only a share of fifth place in the Eastern Conference before last night, but represented a meaningful upgrade on their 7-6-1 mark at the same point a year ago.
"You look at the record, and you have to be kind of satisfied," coach Michel Therrien said yesterday.
"As a coach, you always want to play better every month, but I think that the process has been pretty good. We're on the right track.
"That's one thing we addressed with the players from Day 1 of training camp, having a good start. We didn't have a great start, but we had a pretty good start, a decent start."
Marian Hossa needed little time to establish himself as a core player for the Red Wings, but when they won the Stanley Cup in June, he was playing for the Penguins.
Consequently, Hossa -- along with backup goalie Ty Conklin, who also played for the Penguins last season -- was in a rather awkward position at Detroit's home opener, when the Red Wings raised the banner that celebrates their championship.
He and Conklin, however, were spared having to celebrate what had been, for them, a stinging defeat when they did not take part in the on-ice festivities at Joe Louis Arena last month.
"We were standing in the dressing room," Hossa said. "The guys went [onto the ice] and did their celebration, but me and Conklin ... we didn't actually watch it. After everything was finished, we [went] onto the ice."
Penguins center Sidney Crosby accomplished a lot of things in his first three years in the NHL: He won a scoring championship and a league MVP award, was awarded a captaincy and helped his team reach a Stanley Cup final.
Still, there are a few things left on his to-do list.
Win a Cup (or, ideally, a few of them) is at the top, of course. And playing a full season, then making a habit of that, is on there, too.
Crosby appeared in 81 games as a rookie, 79 in his second season and just 53 in 2007-08, thanks mostly to a high ankle sprain.
Although he has dressed for all 14 games this season, he hasn't been at 100 percent for nearly two weeks.
That hasn't been enough to keep him out of the lineup, perhaps because Crosby is hard-wired to make sure he plays anytime he can do it without being a liability to his team.
"You prepare in the offseason, try to get strong and make sure you're healthy, do everything you can to give yourself an opportunity [to appear in every game], but there are times when you just have bad luck," he said.
"Especially after last year, going through all that, it's something I don't want to go through again.
"You just cross your fingers and hope everything goes well."
Conklin, who signed with Detroit as an unrestricted free agent, played a major role in the Penguins' success last season with his stellar work after Marc-Andre Fleury had a high ankle sprain.
His role with the Red Wings hasn't been quite as significant -- not yet, anyway -- but Conklin hasn't been limited to rooting for No. 1 goalie Chris Osgood from a folding chair in the runway that leads to the locker room, either.
He has played in four of Detroit's 13 games, earning a 3-1 record, 3.20 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
First Published November 11, 2008 12:00 am