From Cup hopefuls to Pitts

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

The last time we saw Sid the Kid at Scotiabank Place, he was shaking hands and wishing the Senators well in their drive for the Stanley Cup.

A lot has changed for Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins as they arrive in town tonight to face Ottawa for the first time since they were eliminated by the Senators in the first round of last season's playoffs.

The Penguins, with exciting youngsters Crosby, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin, were tagged as Stanley Cup contenders. But they've struggled out of the gate (8-10-1-1 heading into last night's game).

They could use better goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who hasn't looked as good as last season. Their defence hasn't been great, either. And veteran winger Gary Roberts hasn't scored in 14 games (and has tallied just once this season), while Mark Recchi, who has just two goals all season, was a healthy scratch last Thursday.

There have been rumbles about big changes, but Penguins GM Ray Shero -- who learned patience working with Nashville GM David Poile -- isn't looking for a quick fix.

"I believe the expectations were a lot higher outside (Pittsburgh)," said Shero. "Outside of Crosby and Malkin, what we're trying to do is get our younger players back to where they were last year. That is going to come and they just need to get some confidence.

"Our older players are trying to get back there as well. The character, chemistry and culture of the team is still good. I like our group a lot ... We're just dealing with some adversity."

ON THE PPV TUBE: Fans who won't be among the 20,000 or so in the stands tonight will have to either head to a local establishment or purchase the game on the Senators' pay-per-view service, which makes its seasonal debut with Crosby in town. While the number of Ottawa PPV games has been increased from five to seven, Senators VP of broadcasting Jim Steel points out that they will be available in high definition. "We had a number of calls and e-mails from people who didn't mind paying for the games, but they said it would be nice if they were presented in high definition," said Steel. "We're the first (team) to go this route. We're pretty excited about this change, but there's been a lot of work that has gone into it." That includes hiring a full-time videographer to help with features for the broadcasts, giving fans a glimpse into what happens when the Senators aren't lacing up their skates.

NO DOWNIE: The Senators will have to wait if they want retribution for Steve Downie's vicious pre-season hit to the head of Dean McAmmond. The winger will finish off his 20-game NHL suspension when the Flyers visit Scotiabank Place Saturday. GM Paul Holmgren hasn't called up Downie from the AHL's Phantoms to allow him to serve out his suspension.

WE'RE NO. 2: The Senators are No. 2 in the latest edition of The Hockey News. The Wings top the NHL rankings, which are compiled from nine criteria, including performance and prospects.


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