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Penguins

Next 10 likely far from perfect for Penguins

| Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- History suggests any vote taken among the Penguins on Election Day could leave them feeling blue and seeing red.

Based on recent results, they should have nine points by then.

Other teams in a similar position -- returning to North America after opening the season overseas -- haven't been fortunate.

"We're aware of it," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said of the immediate struggles for NHL teams that have opened on another continent.

Eight clubs previously started seasons abroad, including the Penguins' 2000 opener in Tokyo. Only three have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs, with just those Penguins advancing past the first round.

"Not good," said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Actually, it gets worse -- at least it did for those teams over the 10-game span that followed their season-opening trips.

Center Evgeni Malkin asked, "How bad?"

Well, teams have combined for a 27-38-15 record in those 80 games. That's an average of seven points per club.

The Penguins and their 2000 Tokyo opponent, Nashville, paced those clubs with 11 points over their next 10 games. Vancouver totaled only six points in the 10 games that followed its two-game series against Anaheim in Tokyo in 1997.

Four clubs failed to earn more than eight points.

The 10th post-NHL Premiere game for the Penguins, who went 1-1-0 against Ottawa over the weekend at Globe Arena, is Nov. 1 at St. Louis. It will be their fourth consecutive road game after playing five of six at Mellon Arena, a stretch that starts Saturday against New Jersey.

The Penguins, who departed Stockholm via charter plane late Monday, do not play away from Pittsburgh until Oct. 20 at Boston. They also have a six-day layoff from their second overseas game until their home opener, which should provide plenty of time to adjust to the six-hour time change.

A 13-day stay in the home city is a rare treat for NHL teams over the course of an 82-game season. However, it was a must for Shero before signing off on the Stockholm series.

"We're not on the road right away, which is good," Shero said. "Anaheim went right on the road last year, and I think if you ask (Ducks general manager Brian Burke), he'd like to have that one back."

After playing 21 playoff games to win the Stanley Cup, the Ducks opened defense of their championship with two games against Los Angeles at London. They split those contests, but lost their next three games, all on the road - the last at Mellon Arena -- after playing a game the previous night at Columbus.

Anaheim went 3-6-1 in its 10 games following the London trip. At 4-7-1, the champs had earned only 10 of 24 possible points with essentially 15 percent of the season gone.

The Ducks rallied, going 43-20-7 over their final 70 games. They finished fourth in the Western Conference but were eliminated by Dallas in the first round.

Captain Sidney Crosby, likely not alone among Penguins players to appreciate an off-day at his Pittsburgh-area home Tuesday, said the upcoming homestand gives them an advantage over the Ducks.

"We have more time to get re-organized," Crosby said.

Given the history working against them, they'd better.

"Everybody's good now, and you've got to find a way to stay in the pack," Crosby said. "A fast start is definitely not overrated."

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