CANONSBURG, Pa. – Garth Snow turned down more money to return to the Vancouver Canucks because he was convinced he would play more in Pittsburgh.
Not even Snow, who helped lead the University of Maine’s hockey team to the 1993 NCAA national championship, guessed he would play this much – maybe, the next couple of weeks or more without a break just as the Penguins begin one of the most difficult stretches of their schedule.
Penguins goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who has split playing time so far with Snow, had surgery Monday to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and will be out two to four weeks.
With only journeyman goaltender Rich Parent also on the roster, Snow is expected to get most, if not all, of the starts while Aubin is rehabilitating.
The Penguins play seven times in the next 12 days, including Tuesday at Ottawa, Wednesday at home against Boston, Saturday at Toronto and Sunday at Detroit. They have no more than two days off between games from now until Dec. 16, then play six times in 11 days from Dec. 20 through Dec. 30.
“This is why I did conditioning all summer, and it’s why I came to camp in good shape,” Snow said Monday as the Penguins practiced for an hour before leaving for Ottawa. “I’m happy to be playing and contributing.”
Snow is 4-4-3 with one shutout and a .921 save percentage in 12 games. Aubin also has played 12 games and is 7-5 with a save percentage of .910.
Aubin hasn’t played since a 3-1 loss to Carolina on Nov. 22. He aggravated the injury on the last shot of practice Nov. 27 while working on drills with defenseman Andrew Ference and hasn’t played since.
Aubin probably could have tried to play through the season without the surgery, but said the pain has been bothersome.
“I didn’t want to hurt it again and miss the playoffs,” said Aubin, who missed the playoffs last season with a knee injury. “That’s my biggest fear right now.”
With Aubin sidelined, Snow has started the last five games and, for now, has no idea when that streak might end. He once started 25 consecutive games with the Canucks.
“You really can’t think about it, you take it one period at a time, one game at a time,” Snow said.
He seemed to suggest the Penguins might want to play the same way, especially at home. They have played nearly as well on the road (5-4-2) as they have at home (6-5-1), where they seem to spend considerable energy pushing to get the first goal.
“It’s so strange, we work so hard and skate so much and we press to get that first goal, sometimes we try too hard,” forward Alexei Kovalev said. “If the other team scores first, we spend too much time trying to catch up at the other end and we get out of our game.”
As a result, they have played from behind in a large percentage of home games, including a 3-2 loss Saturday in which they spotted Buffalo a three-goal lead. The night before, they won 6-4 in Buffalo.
“We seem to keep it simple on the road,” Snow said.