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Pens bowled over by Valley view

| Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008

An arena that absorbs dry heat in Glendale, Ariz., wouldn't seem ideal to influence the design of a building in Pittsburgh that will serve as the home to a professional team that plays on artificial ice.

However, Penguins' chief executive officer Ken Sawyer so loves the view from inside Arena, home to the Phoenix Coyotes, that he's asked it be built into the design for Pittsburgh's new multipurpose arena, set to open in 2010.

"The overwhelming thing is that every seat is good and it seems like a small building," Sawyer said. "The overall sense of intimacy that ( Arena) provides, which is more than the others I've seen, and the shape of our bowl will be similar.

"I was just taken aback by their seats. Even when I was up in a high level, I had a great view."

Sawyer, who said to expect "to see steel going up at the turn of the year" at the site where Pittsburgh's new arena is under construction, also praised a lower-level club at Arena that affords fans a view of players as they walk from the ice-level benches to their respective dressing rooms.

That Toyota Club and stellar sightlines provided by a steep slope are commonly praised features at Arena, according to its director of operations, Sean Langer.

"It doesn't always feel in other buildings like fans in the upper decks are close to the action," Langer said. "The thing I love about our bowl is... it doesn't feel like a big building even if you've got 18,000 people because the people aren't spread out."

Langer is paying close attention to the facility that will replace Mellon Arena. He is a close friend of Marc Farha, projective executive for the new Pittsburgh arena's construction manager, ICON.

Langer said Farha is the perfect guy to help create the sense of intimacy Sawyer craves for the Penguins' future home.

"I know he and his team have taken ideas from this building, New Jersey's (Prudential Center) and (Sprint Center) in Kansas City," Langer said of Farha. "They've taken things that worked really well and passed them onto the other buildings.

"You can bet Pittsburgh's new building, because it's one of the last ones that will be built for a while, will have the best of the best from the other new buildings - like the intimacy from our seats."

Hat trick

Rob Rossi's thoughts and observations as the Penguins beat writer:

Waiting on a friend

· Marian Hossa is not a hated man inside the Penguins' dressing room, contrary to popular speculation that his former teammates hold a grudge over his off-season departure. Several Penguins have told me they will approach a game at Detroit on Tuesday "like any other game," even though it will mark their first against Hossa since he chose to sign with the Red Wings, who won a hard-fought Stanley Cup final last summer.

Sympathy for the devil

· A biceps injury that will cost New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur up to four months is good news for the Penguins, who last season replaced the Devils atop the Atlantic Division standings. The Penguins now possess the division's most proven goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury - a player several opposing position coaches confided already was the "big difference-maker" in the Eastern Conference.

(Can't get no) Satisfaction

· Many players are not thrilled with a policy imposed by league GMs to limit the extent of injury information provided to the media. Teams are now required only to designate a player's injury as "undisclosed." As one recently injured Penguins' player lamented, this policy has put players in the awkward position of tip-toeing around questions pertaining to injuries that are worst-kept secrets.

The future

The Penguins' minor-league report is written by Jonathan Bombulie, who has covered the Baby Pens for The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached by e-mail

Stock up

Jeff Taffe

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) · Center

6-foot-3 · 215 pounds

Through the first month of the season, wingers Janne Pesonen and Chris Minard have been the toast of the town in Wilkes-Barre, lighting up AHL scoreboards and flirting with a promotion to the NHL.

It's safe to say they wouldn't be in that position without Jeff Taffe centering their line. After being sent down by the Penguins on Oct. 8, Taffe has piled up eight goals and eight assists in nine games.

At 27, Taffe is nobody's prospect, but he is surely a bottom-six NHL forward in the right situation. Still, he waits in the minors while his wingers get called up.

"I've been there plenty of times before," Taffe said. "You can't get too down about it. I'm playing in the American League right now. This is your team, and this is what you have to concentrate on."

If it seems like the only Penguins prospects making news this season are Minard, Pesonen and Taffe, there's a reason for that.

They're the only Baby Pens doing any kind of scoring.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored 36 goals in its first 10 games of the season. Minard, Pesonen or Taffe figured in on 30 of them.

Minard, Pesonen and Taffe combined for 46 points. The other 23 players who appeared in at least one game this season combined for 45.

"We're not going out there to play defense and hope they score all the goals, but yeah, the other three lines, we have to help them out," winger Ryan Stone said.

Stock down

For some defensemen, it's not fair to judge their contribution by looking at how many points they've scored. Danny Richmond isn't really one of those stay-at-home types, however, which is why his scoring slump is a concern. After nearly sticking in the NHL to start the season, Richmond hasn't recorded a point in his first nine games in the AHL.

Moon landing

Nathan Moon, the first player the Penguins picked in June's draft, had a strong start to the season derailed when he suffered a separated shoulder Oct. 30. He is out indefinitely. Before being injured, Moon led the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs with 18 points in 15 games.

In the a.m.

Thanks to a common AHL promotion where teams bus in thousands of schoolchildren for a weekday matinee, the Baby Pens lost 3-2 at Bridgeport on Wednesday in a game that started at 11 a.m.

The Baby Pens had no problems answering their wake-up calls this time, but that hasn't always been the case. For matinee games in previous seasons, teammates were assigned to make sure notoriously sound sleeper Daniel Carcillo was out of bed in time for faceoff.

Trib 5

The NHL's best arena features, as ranked by Rob Rossi:

1. Ottawa's Scotiabank Place's anthem singer

Lyndon Slewidge's "O Canada" performance remains unrivaled.

2. Boston's TD Banknorth Garden video board

A combo of stunning clarity and booming sound.

3. Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center's concourses

Enviable for their glorious width and clear view into arena.

4. Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome catwalk

Only the fans' ferocity is more frightening.

5. New York's Madison Square Garden's fan chants

As nasty as the world's most famous ice.

Fan voice

Susan Snyder of Pittsburgh sounds off on Jordan Staal:

The Pens should hold on to (center Jordan Staal). Yes, he's had a slow start this year, but the kid is so young and has the talent. There are so many examples of good, even great players, getting off to slow starts. ... I do think there is a bit of pressure on him to replace (departed left wing Ryan Malone) and who knows how that's affecting his play. He'll find the back of the net more and more all in good time.

Got hockey thoughts• Drop us a note!

Puck speak

ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Chris McKendry chats about her recent commercial shoot involving Iceburgh and his mascot rival in New Jersey:


CM: It's all very innocent. I can say this: We're fighting over the temperature in the office. Iceburgh wants it to be chillier. I'm cold, and there's a Devil; you can imagine where it goes from there.


CM: I've done far more "SportsCenter" commercials than have aired. I'm a cutting-room floor favorite. I've done some going back to 1996, when I was at a picnic with other anchors and there was a piñata. I was also in one that featured Bon Jovi; that was during one of the Devils' Stanley Cup runs. There was one with Martina Hingis and other female anchors, just sitting around being girls, and one with Pete Sampras playing the San Diego Chicken and pulling pranks on all of us. Last year, I did one with Drew Brees, who was driving a Mardi Gras' float. Gosh, there's been a lot.

Trib tabs

The Trib is keeping tabs on former Penguins. This week: RW Marian Hossa

Currently: Detroit Red Wings

6 goals, 9 assists, 15 points in 12 games through Wednesday

Notable Pittsburgh past: Hossa scored 12 goals and recorded 26 points, each second-best totals, in 20 playoffs games with the Penguins last season.

What's on deck

The week ahead for the Penguins:


Penguins at Red Wings

7 p.m.

TV: Versus


Penguins vs. Flyers

7:30 p.m.

TV: FSN Pittsburgh


Penguins vs. Sabres

7:30 p.m.

TV: FSN Pittsburgh


Flyers at Canadiens

Saturday · 7 p.m.

An anticipated "Hockey Night in Canada": Goaltender Carey Price gets a crack at the Flyers, who prematurely ended his Canadiens' magical run last season in the second round of the playoffs.

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