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Penguins-Canadiens Preview

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Penguins-Canadiens Preview

GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (10-19-9) at Montreal Canadiens (18-13-6).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Sidney Crosby couldn't deliver a win in his first career NHL game in his home country.

The rookie phenom is hoping for a better result against his favorite childhood team, the Montreal Canadiens, as the Pittsburgh Penguins try to end a 10-game winless streak at the Bell Centre.

A large contingent of family and friends made the trip from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, to see Crosby's NHL Canadian debut against Toronto on Monday.

The 18-year-old center did not disappoint, despite the Penguins falling 3-2 in overtime - Pittsburgh's fifth loss in seven games since coach Michel Therrien took over for Eddie Olczyk, who was fired on Dec. 15.

Crosby made a nifty behind-the-back pass to Zigmund Palffy, whose shot forced Toronto goalie Ed Belfour from the net, allowing Sergei Gonchar to score on the rebound at 5:47 of the first.

Fans roared when Crosby's assist was announced.

Teammate Mark Recchi said Crosby handled the attention well.

"Sidney made a terrific pass. Obviously, we've seen that stuff before," Recchi said. "He's probably going to be disappointed because of the results, but he's a terrific player."

Crosby has five goals and five assists in five games since being left off the Canadian Olympic team. He admits that he gets particularity excited for the games against the teams he followed as a kid.

"Montreal and Toronto are two teams that I watched a lot growing up," said Crosby, who leads the team with 43 points. "Definitely, when the schedule came out these were the games I was looking forward to."

Crosby was stellar against the Canadiens in the first meeting between the teams in Pittsburgh on Nov. 10. He had a power-play goal in regulation and beat Montreal goaltender Jose Theodore with a backhander for the lone goal in the shootout to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 win.

Montreal has dominated Pittsburgh since the start of the 1999-2000 season, going 15-4-2 in the series. The Penguins are 0-6-2-2 at the Bell Centre since a 5-3 victory on Jan. 31, 1999.

The Canadiens return home after a 1-4 road trip, including a 5-3 loss at Carolina on Saturday.

Andrei Markov, Michael Ryder and Jan Bulis scored for the Canadiens, who have lost 11 of 12 on the road but have won three of their last four at home, and are 11-5-2 in Montreal this season.

Theodore is 11-3-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and three shutouts in his career against Pittsburgh.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 2): Penguins - 29 points, 5th place, 27 PB, Atlantic Division. Canadiens - 42 points, 4th place, 15 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Crosby, 19 goals and 43 points; Palffy, 26 assists; Brooks Orpik, 61 PIM. Canadiens - Ryder, 17 goals; Saku Koivu, 21 assists and 29 points; Steve Begin, 87 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 2): Penguins - Power play: 16.7 percent (40 for 239), tied for 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (207 for 261), 29th. Canadiens - Power play: 17.8 percent (41 for 230), 15th. Penalty killing: 81 percent (196 for 242), 21st.

GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (4-7-3, 0 SO, 3.09 GAA); Jocelyn Thibault (1-9-3, 4.30). Canadiens - Theodore (14-9-5, 3.06); Cristobal Huet (1-2-1, 3.67).

SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 10; Penguins, 3-2 OT. At Pittsburgh, Thibault made 30 saves to earn his lone win of the season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 4-10-3 on the road; Canadiens - 11-5-2 at home.


Associated Press
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