Andrew Ference, the feisty young defenseman from Edmonton, has found a home in the heart of Pittsburgh. Still just 20 years of age, Ference is discovering there is much to learn before he can become a key defenseman in the NHL; the defenseman Pittsburgh so desperately needs. Spunk and spirit in tact however, he appears to be up for the challenge. Despite a rash of injuries, Andrew is definitely earning his ice time. Twelve games into the new season, he’s already been made a marked man by the New York Rangers for a hit on Petr Nedved, which occurred October 14th at Madison Square Garden. It’s that attitude and fearless nature that have Penguins fans everywhere taking a second look. This past Sunday (November 7, 1999), Andrew added to his credits by winning the “Fastest Skater” event in the Penguins annual skills competition. It just goes to show you, it’s not always the size of the player that matters. In some cases, a 5’10” defenseman can play like a giant.
Jean-Sebastien Aubin, the talented young goaltender and Montreal native, is also proving himself to be a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. Emotionally beat up by a recent loss to Tampa Bay, Aubin realizes he too has much to learn at the NHL level, but is still showing solid potential. When the season first started, Coach Constantine admitted Aubin and Skudra were equally qualified for the number two spot behind Tom Barrasso. Skudra landed the job, but an injury (sprained knee) to Barrasso soon gave both netminders a chance to shine. Skudra did an ok job considering the pressure he was under and the lack of defensive intensity in front of him, but Aubin seemed to get the most attention for his efforts in net. The turning point came when he gloved away a backhanded penalty shot by Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne out west. Suffering a recent hamstring injury, Jean-Sebastien has come back to claim the number one spot in Barrasso’s absence. Like Ference, he also got a chance to dazzle the fans at the Penguins annual skills competition. Amazingly Aubin was the only goalie to make an appearance, entertaining the fans the best way he knew how… through a lot of hard work. There was a slight scare when the young netminder complained of back pain following the event, but has since reassured the team they have nothing to worry about.
Ference and Aubin may have a great deal of talent, but they’re too young and too inexperienced to make the difference in Pittsburgh’s lineup. The most disappointing loss came Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The final score was 7-4, but what’s most embarrassing and frustrating about that night is the Lightning scored six unanswered goals. Winless in their last eight games (0-6-2), Pittsburgh continues to search for answers. Although it is true the rookies have made some costly mistakes, so have some of veterans. With any luck, the home game against Montreal on Wednesday night (November 10, 1999) will help turn things around. As for the Penguins minor league affiliates, it appears as though they are suffering the same fate as their parent club.
Current Team Stats:
W L T
Pittsburgh Penguins 2 7 3
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 0 9 2
Wheeling Nailers (ECHL Affiliate) 0 9
11/5 -Martin Sonnenberg was returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)