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By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000
TAMPA -- Tampa Bay's defense allowed 109 goals (fourth-most in the NHL) and ranked 22nd in penalty killing before its game against Pittsburgh.
Still, coach Steve Ludzik said his defensemen showed definite improvement during a four-game road trip that ended Sunday. Tampa Bay outhit two of its opponents, allowed three goals or fewer in each game and killed 12 of 16 penalties.
"I've got nothing but praise for the young guys on defense, nothing but praise," Ludzik said. "I think it's been amazing and I think it's going to keep on getting better."
HOME GAME: Defenseman Pavel Kubina at first acted like he didn't remember the two game-winning goals he scored against the Penguins at home last season.
But how could he forget?
A game against Pittsburgh amounts to a game against neighbors for the native of Caledna, Czech Republic. Nine players and coach Ivan Hlinka, whom Kubina has played under on the Czech national team, were born in Kubina's home country.
"They're a big rival for me," said Kubina, who had eight points in 11 games against Pittsburgh. "I enjoy playing against them."
SUSPENDED: Penguins right wing Matthew Barnaby was suspended four games by the NHL after an altercation with a fan Wednesday at Florida.
Barnaby, who leads the league with 120 penalty minutes this season, grabbed the man's arm as he walked off the ice after a first-period fight with Florida forward Peter Worrell.
Barnaby, who will forfeit $53,658.54 in salary, began serving his suspension against Tampa Bay.
ODDS AND ENDS: Center Brian Holzinger (broken left index finger) was activated off the injured-reserve list. ... The Penguins played with only five defenseman. ... Right wing Stan Drulia (back strain) and defensemen Petr Svoboda (concussion, broken nose) and Craig Millar (broken left kneecap) remain on injured reserve. ... Defenseman Sergey Gusev and left wing Kyle Freadrich were healthy scratches.