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Notebook: Home Sweet Home For Pens

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Mellon Arena is nearing the end of its lifespan.

Built in 1961, the NHL’s oldest venue is slated to close once the new multipurpose arena opens across the street in time for the 2010-11 hockey season.

Opponents can’t wait for that to happen.

The Penguins continue to dominate in their old barn as they beat the Red Wings, 3-2, Wednesday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. That made the Penguins 9-0 on home ice in the playoffs – a franchise record for consecutive wins in one playoff year. The previous mark of six was set in 1992 as the Penguins won their last six home games of those playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup.

Overall, this Penguins squad has won a franchise-record 17-straight home games and is 18-0-2 in its last 20 home contests. The Penguins’ last home loss came nearly three months ago – Feb. 24 against San Jose in a shootout, 2-1.

In addition, the team’s home sellout streak was extended to a franchise-best 65 games. That encompasses the last 13 regular-season games and two playoff dates in 2006-07 as well as 41 regular-season home games and nine playoff battles this year.

“You know what, for a lot of those players, this is their first win at the Stanley Cup Final, and it’s huge for them,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “And, it’s huge for the confidence, especially the way that we play at home, the way that the crowd supports our team. There was no panic with our club, because we like – this has been three months we haven't lost a game here and I like the way we play. So, there’s no doubt that, confidence-wise, that’s a huge lift for those young kids.”

ORPIK COLLECTS THE HITS

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik racked up a team-high seven hits Wednesday night.

More than half of them came on the same sequence in the third period when he kept battering Red Wings in the Penguins’ end.

“Yeah, we’re physical. It’s not something that we’re afraid. When we – when we’re in the position to play hard, we always play hard,” Therrien said. “That’s just something we did all year long. So, even against a tough team, even against rivalry teams, like Brooks Orpik, that one shift, I think he got four huge hits. And, it gave a lot of momentum to the bench, and got the crowd so involved. So, that was pretty unique to see.”

The Penguins were impressed with Orpik’s physical play.

“Orpik has always been known for big hits and I think he showed it again on that shift,” Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby agreed. “Yeah, it’s a big lift any time you’re getting big hits and obviously the fans get into it. You get energy from it. But that’s playoff hockey.  Especially at home you want to make sure that you’re making the other team pay the price.”

SYDOR RETURNS TO LINEUP

Penguins defenseman Darryl Sydor made his playoff debut for the Penguins. The two-time Stanley Cup champion had not played in a game since March 31.

However, he had been working hard to return to the lineup. Sydor put in extra practice time and watched the Penguins’ games with a focused approach. He got back in the lineup Wednesday night for Kris Letang and didn’t miss a beat. He played 13:31 and finished with a hit and two blocked shots.

“I am excited to be back and try and help out,” he said. “I have just been preparing. You never know what’s going to happen with anything. I’ve prepared myself because there might have been an opportunity in the playoffs. It just happened to come now, rather than earlier. I just had to be ready.

“One of the things I can say is that I have been in the Final before and I understand the levels of hockey pick up each level. We try to do that with the way we’ve been skating.  I think I have always been in game mode,” he continued. “I watch the games like I am playing in the games. I’ve been watching them by myself. I get a little excited. At the end of the day, I know I can still play this game and play it at a high level.

“You always wonder, but you just stay positive for your teammates. That’s what I did. I am a positive leader off the ice and work hard in case you get the opportunity.”

Sydor even took some shifts on the second power-play unit for the Penguins.

“He looked good out there. He’s been through some big games, won two Stanley Cups.  So he knows what it’s like to play in big games,” Crosby said. “He and the rest of the guys who haven’t played a lot, who have been staying after practice, working hard, getting skated pretty hard for the last two months here, they all realized that there might be an opportunity if their name’s called. And, he’s done a great job of making sure he’s in good shape, and he looked great out there.”

FLOWER STRONG IN GOAL

After watching the Penguins lose the first two games against the Red Wings, Fleury was happy to help the team earn a victory.

Fleury saw a lot of rubber again, but turned away 32 of the 34 shots he saw Wednesday night – including a couple spectacular stops. He has faced 104 shots in three games against Detroit – at least 34 in each of the three games so far.

“Marc-Andre, he’s one of the reasons why we’re here. And, he’s one of the reasons why we won,” Therrien said. “He made some key saves. I like his composure. He made fabulous saves when the game was tied. So, I’m really pleased for him. He gave us a chance to win. This is what you’re looking for from your goalie – give your team the chance to win, and certainly he did that.”

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