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Armstrong off Crosby, Malkin line

| Monday, Nov. 6, 2006

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Penguins coach Michel Therrien isn't a guy who's afraid to say when he's unhappy with a player, and winger Colby Armstrong isn't a guy who hides his emotions.

On Sunday, that amounted to a demotion for Armstrong at Penguins practice at the HP Pavilion.

And a visibly disappointed Armstrong afterward.

"I kind of expected it," Armstrong said. "I don't think I'm playing the way I usually play. I'm not playing like myself. I just have to get back to doing the little things that make me good."

It's not the first time that Armstrong has been moved off the top line. As Therrien has tinkered throughout games, he's shuffled lines around, as he did during Saturday's 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

But if yesterday's lines stick -- and Therrien wouldn't confirm that they would -- then tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks would be the first that Armstrong won't start on Sidney Crosby's line dating to last season.

"He's going to have to pick it up," Therrien said. "I didn't like his game (Saturday). When you're not producing, and I didn't like the way he competed (Saturday) night, I have to make a decision. You force me to make a decision, I'll make a decision. Pretty simple."

Armstrong, 23, started the year playing on the top line with Crosby, and with good reason. The two found almost instant chemistry late last year after they were put together. Armstrong finished with a four-game point streak (3 goals, 5 assists) and 16 goals and 24 assists in 47 games.

This year, Armstrong's first season starting in the NHL, he still is looking for his first goal 11 games into the year. He has four assists, is ranked 10th on the team in points and is a plus-5.

"I've maybe put a little bit of pressure on the results I wanted," Armstrong said. "Coming into this year playing with Sid and Evgeni (Malkin), you expect a lot. I expected a lot of myself this year to start. So far, the results haven't been there. But if you start focusing on results, that's when you get into trouble, so I just have to get back to playing my game and playing the way I can."

Yesterday, Therrien moved Michel Ouellet, who had a goal and an assist against the Sharks, to the top line with Crosby and Malkin. Armstrong practiced with Jarkko Ruutu and Maxime Talbot. Chris Thorburn, who was the right wing on Talbot's line, moved up and played with John LeClair and Dominic Moore.

"I think guys go through (struggles) every year at some point in the year, sometimes not only one time," Crosby said of Armstrong's struggles. "When it's a couple of games without a goal, it becomes three or four, then all of a sudden it seems so tough. Every time you get the puck it hits a stick, or hits the post or the puck just doesn't get to you and it builds. Mentally, I think it's getting to him and it's tough. He had a great finish last year and he was scoring a lot of goals. But sometimes you go through those times."

Armstrong said he doesn't blame Therrien for taking him off the top line.

"I know what coach expects out of me and I expect a lot of myself," Armstrong said. "I think next game I just have to get back to playing simple, hard Colby Armstrong hockey and I think I'll be more successful doing that."

Additional Information:

Armstrong by the numbers

Winger Colby Armstrong had great chemistry with Sidney Crosby last year, but has gotten off to a slow start this season. Sunday, he was removed from the top line in practice and could start tonight with Maxime Talbot and Jarkko Ruutu. Here's a look at his numbers in 11 games:

Goals: 0

Assists: 4

Games without points: 8

Plus/minus: plus-5

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