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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins fans have packed Mellon Arena this season.

And, the energy they bring to the team has helped the team surpass 100 points in the standings for the first time in 11 seasons.

The fans’ efforts are certainly noticed among the players.

“The fans have been terrific. The atmosphere has been awesome since Day 1,” winger Mark Recchi said. “The fans have been wonderful here and very supportive through thick and thin. We have some great young players who are very exciting to watch and they’ve really been supportive.”

Saturday night’s game marked the 30th sellout crowd of the season – the most since the 1992-93 season, which saw 30 sellouts as well. That number dwarfs last season’s total of 12, which was surpassed on Jan. 7 this year.

In addition, Saturday’s game marks the 23rd sellout in the past 25 games at Mellon Arena – including 13 in a row.

The Penguins averaged 16,425 (97 percent capacity) fans per game in 41 regular-season home games and a total of 673,422 fans. For the 2005-06 season, the Penguins averaged 16,229 fans per game or 96 percent capacity.

“Since the beginning of the season, we’ve always had good crowds and they cheer us on,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “It’s always much more fun when you have a big crowd behind you.”

“The fans are the greatest thing about this game. They support the whole team and it feels good to have that, especially when they support you personally,” winger Jarkko Ruutu said. “The biggest thing is, when the team is playing well, the crowd is in the game, too. It’s not only the goals and the nice assists, but it’s also the body checks and stuff that the crowd seems to enjoy.”

The raucous crowds have turned Mellon Arena into an unfavorable environment to any opposing team.

“These fans are unbelievable. Everyone here knows it,” defenseman Ryan Whitney said. “This place can get so loud when we get some momentum and get going.”

The Penguins appreciate the support they have received.

 “The fans here in Pittsburgh are great. They have been ever since I came here and they stuck with us,” center Sidney Crosby said. “As players, we realize that and really appreciate them. It’s a very comfortable environment and having your home fans behind you is great.”

Here are some other messages for fans from the Penguins:

Alain Nasreddine: “Pittsburgh fans are the best in the NHL. You guys are the best and I want to thank you.”

Georges Laraque: “I want to thank the fans for their support and thank them for welcoming me to a new team. You guys make me rock.”

Joel Kwiatkowski: “I’d like to thank the Pittsburgh fans for welcoming me and being the best fans in the league.”

Josef Melichar: “I want to thank the fans for their great support.”

Nils Ekman: “Thank you fans for supporting us this year.”

Jocelyn Thibault: “I’d like to thank all our fans for their support this year.”

Chris Thorburn: “I just want to say thank you to all the fans who supported us throughout the season and continue to support us.”

Michel Ouellet: “I want to thank all the fans for everything they did for us all season. It’s amazing to play in front of you and get some wins in Pittsburgh.”

Jordan Staal: “I’d like to thank the fans for all their support this year. They are the best.”

Max Talbot: “I want to thank the greatest fans in hockey for your support. You are the best and I love your support.”




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