Conklin, Pens Rack Up 6th Straight Win

Article excerpt

Ty Conklin knows what a lot of people are thinking, that he might be the reason the Penguins are seemingly marching again toward a second-half playoff surge.

He acknowledges such a premise is difficult to refute, especially after he turned aside 35 shots in the Penguins' 3-0 victory against the Florida Panthers on Saturday at Mellon Arena.

"I certainly understand where that thought is going, but I do not think about it," Conklin said. "I just worry about playing well."

The word "well" does not accurately assess the high level at which Conklin has played since essentially becoming the Penguins' go- to goaltender late last month.

He is 7-0-0 since a career-best 37-save effort in a shootout win on Dec. 20 at Boston -- not shabby for a guy whose signing as a free agent on July 19 went essentially unnoticed by a Pittsburgh fan base that was then consumed with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's first training camp.

Conklin, a 31-year-old veteran of 84 games over parts of five NHL seasons, seems poised to carry this region on another wild ride to the playoffs.

The Penguins are 23-16-2 with 48 points, and 15-5-0 since Nov. 21. They went 31-9-5 last season after Jan. 1 to earn their first playoff berth since 2001.

Conklin's consistently strong play has teammates believing in the possibility of history repeating.

"A lot of times you will see teams feed off their goaltender," captain Sidney Crosby said. "We are no different."

Conklin's goals-against average is 2.00. He has recorded two shutouts in the past four games and stopped 180 of 188 shots in a span of six consecutive starts.

It is no coincidence, coach Michel Therrien suggested yesterday, that the Penguins have won a season-best six games in a row.

"He has been really solid," Therrien said. …