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Pens suffer shootout loss to Sabres

| Sunday, Sept. 24, 2006

HAMILTON, Ontario -- For perhaps a dozen players on the Penguins' roster, this weekend is the last chance during training camp to prove they belong in the NHL.

Coach Michel Therrien said that, after tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins hope to trim the roster from 37 -- where it sat Saturday night after the team sent defenseman Wade Skolney to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- to approximately 25.

That would give the Penguins two more players than the roster limit when they head to West Point, N.Y., for three days of military boot camp team-building.

"There are guys we're satisfied with, and there are guys that are fighting for a job that are disappointing us a little bit," Therrien said before the Penguins' 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres. "We're cutting down the number of players, so it's a huge weekend for a lot of those players."

General manager Ray Shero said his list of players on the bubble include forwards Jordan Staal, Ryan Stone, Daniel Carcillo, Libor Pivko and Maxime Talbot and defensemen Micki DuPont and Noah Welch.

"We want to see how these kids do the next couple games," Shero said. "And we'll see if (injured forward Evgeni) Malkin is going to join us or what the story is there. We'll make those decisions (tonight.)"

Last night's lineup featured mostly prospects and less-established NHL players, including Dany Sabourin in goal, DuPont and Kristopher Letang on defense and Pivko, Talbot, Stephen Dixon, Stone, Jonathan Filewich, Connor James, Michel Ouellet and Erik Christensen on offense.

The Penguins took a one-goal lead into the third period before the Sabres' Justin Pominville tied the game to force overtime. Sabourin made 41 saves through regulation and another three in overtime before the Sabres won in a shootout.

Letang had a goal and assist, plus several big hits, while spending time on both special-teams units. Sidney Crosby had two assists and scored the Penguins' lone shootout goal.

Stone and Sabres forward Adam Mair fought briefly before Stone took Mair down with three minutes left in the second period.

Another player on the bubble, Shero said, was 18-year-old Staal, the team's top pick (second overall) in the 2006 entry draft.

"He'll be back in the lineup (tonight), and we'll make a decision on him (tonight), as well, whether we're going to send him back to junior or take him to West Point with us," Shero said. "We'll see what happens."

The Penguins could sign Staal and let him play nine games in the NHL before sending him back to juniors, and it wouldn't count as a year on his contract.

For some players, getting that taste of the NHL is worth it, but it all depends on the player, Shero said.

"The thing Jordan has going for him is his size and his strength at 18 years old and his hockey sense," Shero said. "We'll see how things go the next couple games with other players, and like anything, try to make the best decision for the team and the player in the long run. But I've liked him so far."

Even if a player gets cut tonight or Monday, Shero said, it doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't be in the NHL at some point this season.

Performance in training camp will have a lot to do with who gets the first call-ups after the regular season begins.

"We're looking for players who are going to contribute," Shero said. "If it doesn't happen for them right now, they go back to Wilkes-Barre with a good attitude and be the best player there.

"They get their call-up, and they're going to have to contribute. I just don't want to call guys up and play them six or seven minutes and just thank God when they're off the ice and nothing happens.

"It's a long season, and we're going to need plenty of players."

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