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Atlantic: Penguins' owners stick with hockey

by Phil Coffey
For sports fans in Pittsburgh, the story that Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle wanted to purchase Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to be too good to be true -- namely having the owners of the defending Stanley Cup champs take over a team with 17-straight losing seasons.

And it was.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported that Penguins' ownership kicked around the idea around of getting into baseball, but were told by Pirates' owner Robert Nutting that "nutting" was doing on the sale front.

"Honestly, I'm not sure there's a situation to describe," Nutting told "I like Ron. He's an extremely competent businessman and deal-maker, and we've talked about a wide range of topics. But I think the simplest way to say this is that there never has been a substantive or formal offer for the team.
The team is not for sale."

Alas, so much for Sidney Crosby's hopes to take some swings.

"That would be great," Crosby told reporters when he heard of the report. "It would be easy to get to batting practice."

"I don't want to stick my nose where it shouldn't be, but I'm a big baseball fan, and they have one of the nicest ballparks here, so it would probably be a good change for the fans," teammate Brooks Orpik said. "I'll leave it at that."

Nutting was definitive in his plans for the Pirates.

"The team has not been for sale and is not for sale," Nutting said. "I'm excited about where we are. We've made some tough decisions, made a lot of progress and, frankly, we're just getting started with where we're headed. A sale is simply not an option that's on our table."

Stunning shootout -- Anyone who saw the shots Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored on Sunday against the Red Wings couldn't help but be amazed. What a display of talent!

Crosby beat the unfortunate Jimmy Howard, who was deserving of a better fate, with a wicked upstairs backhander and then Malkin skated in slowly and deked Howard to the ice before also backhanding the puck into the net.

Slick and slicker.

"I think Geno should have lots of confidence (in shootouts)," Crosby said. "He has great moves and that one was a pretty good example of it."

Pittsburgh has been involved in seven shootouts this season and won them all, a fact that hardly seemed to take Howard by surprise.

"I wonder why? They got Malkin and Crosby. I mean, Crosby knocked the water bottle out of the sleeve (on top of the net), it was such a backhand. Malkin, he just came in and just started stickhandling. There's not much you can do there," Howard said.

And he was right.

More the merrier --
Obviously playing a lot of games doesn't bother Martin Brodeur, who has played in 52 of New Jersey's 54 contests this season. Now factor in however many games he plays with Team Canada at the Olympics and you wonder if Brodeur will be fresh enough for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Brodeur says no sweat.

"We'll cross that bridge when it comes," Brodeur said. "We are doing well now physically, who knows what's going to happen in the Olympics. It's only six games in 14 days, not a huge thing, compared to what the NHL schedule is. Definitely different pressure, but we'll see. I want to be the best for the team and whatever that takes, that takes.

"Maybe back seven years ago I was the only one playing so much, but now you see a lot more goalies doing it," he told Colin Stephenson of the Newark Star-Ledger. "And not all young goalies, either. They're guys right in their prime. You might as well utilize their presence out there.

"Teams are counting on their money players,"' Brodeur said. "Because most of these goalies are at the top of the food chain, as far as salaries, so they're using them right now."

So, being a money player and all, is it possible for Broduer to play in all the games?

"Definitely," he said. "If they would give me an opportunity, definitely."

But ...

"I understand the whole process of not playing every game," Brodeur said. "It's hard, first of all, staying healthy and not getting hurt for that long a period of time, it's pretty hard to do. And the travel, and this, and doing well, and not doing well. You lose whatever, so many games in a row, and sometimes just that little change, a little break, helps. So to play 82 games, for somebody to give you the workload for 82 games -- I mean, you have to be there for six, seven months, maybe more -- it's tough to do."

Let's ask the coach for a decision.

"Maybe," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I would say it depends on the schedule -- how the schedule would be. Like, today (Brodeur)'s on the ice because there's no morning skate tomorrow. So you could go a long way with this, a long way, without him getting tired. Because he's mentally strong. Like I always say, if he would vomit after every period because he's nervous, he couldn't do this."

Hitting the road happy --
The Flyers went 4-2-0 on their six game homestand capped off by Saturday's 2-1 win against the Islanders, a franchise-record tying 14th-straight vs. New York.

During the homestand, the Flyers defeated the Islanders, Rangers, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets and lost to the Penguins and Thrashers.

"It was a mixed bag," defenseman Chris Pronger told reporters. "The two games we lost, we very easily could have won and made it a great homestand. ... It's not a complete disaster, but we need to win all the home games we can and use the last line change and the crowd to our advantage."

In the win against the Islanders, coach Peter Laviolette shook up his lines, moving Scott Hartnell off the line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne line and replaced him with Darroll Powe.

One player not making the trip is Mika Pyorala, who was sent to the Adirondack Phantoms to get some ice time. He has sat out 17 of the last 19 games.

"It's not doing him any good if he's not playing," GM Paul Holmgren told Wayne Fish of the Bucks County Courier Times. "If he's going to help us out down the road, this is the way to do it.

"In fact, his agent said, 'We were thinking of asking you (to send him down).' "

Around the Atlantic -- Needing some depth on defense, the Flyers have signed Lukas Krajicek, 27, a free-agent who has played for the Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning, a total of 278 NHL games. "Lukas will bring experience and depth to our lineup," GM Paul Holmgren said. … It looks doubtful that Devils defenseman Paul Martin will be able to play for Team USA at the Olympics. A broken left forearm has pretty much scuttled Martin's season and Team USA coach Ron Wilson said the Devil is running out of time. "He would have to play in a number of games and it's not looking very good right now," Wilson said before Friday's game against New Jersey.  "We've got two weeks to go and it wouldn't be fair to the rest of our team if he only played one or two games. More, it wouldn't be fair to Paul Martin and, more than likely, the New Jersey Devils, as well. If he's not ready to play, this is a huge event. It's not an exhibition tour. If he is ready, that's even better for us, but let's wait until the doctors decide what's going on. He's had his arm in a cast for three months. So, I don't know how he can get himself ready in two weeks. But if he can, that's great." … After Saturday's win over the Islanders, the Flyers are now 67-32-11-2 overall against New York and goalie Ray Emery improved to 5-0-0 lifetime against the Islanders. … New Jersey rookie Niclas Bergfors has a case of the rookie blahs, having gone 14 games without a goal before taking a seat for the win against Toronto. "As a young player, you've got to perform and show them that you want to stay, and lately I haven't." Bergfors said. Islanders rookie John Tavares also is slumping with 1 goal in 17 games. … The Flyers are still keeping three goaltenders on the roster, and Holmgren indicated it will stay that way for a while longer. Ray Emery has started six straight. With Emery's success, Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher will have to wait a while to play or perhaps be moved.
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