Vacation post - 09-03-11

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins all-star forward Martin Straka (above). A first-round pick in 1992, Straka spent parts of 10 seasons over two separate stints with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1992-93, Straka appeared in 42 games and scored 16 points. He saw action in 11 postseason games that spring and contributed three points. Straka took a big step forward in 1993-94 by scoring 30 goals and 64 points while playing in all 84 games. That spring's playoffs saw Straka play in six games and score one goal. After only scoring 16 points in 31 games in 1994-95, Straka was traded to the Senators in exchange for Troy Murray and Norm MacIver. After bouncing between the Senators, Islanders and Panthers, Straka returned to the Penguins as a free agent in the 1997 offseason. He appeared in 72 games and scored 42 points. In six postseason games that season, Straka scored two goals. Straka returned to the 30-goal plateau in 1998-99 by netting a career-high 35 goals and 83 points and was also selected to his only all-star game. He stepped it up in the postseason by leading the team with 15 points in 13 games and played a pivotal role in the eighth-seeded Penguins upsetting the first-seeded Devils, 4-3 in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series by scoring 11 points. Injuries limited Straka to 71 games and 59 points in 1999-2000. He rebounded in the postseason by pitching in 12 points in 11 games. Straka's best NHL season came during the club's memorable 2000-01 season. Playing primarily on a line with Alex Kovalev and Robert Lang, Straka played in all 82 games and scored a career-high 95 points, sixth-most in the NHL that season. In the postseason, Straka appeared in 18 games and scored 13 points and two game-winning goals, including a series-clinching score in a 4-3 win against the Capitals in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Injuries once against hampered Straka in 2001-02 as he was limited to 13 games and nine points. He fought through more ailments in 2002-03 but managed to see action in 60 games and contributed 46 points. After 22 games and 21 points in 2003-04, Straka was traded to the Kings in exchange for Martin Strbak and Sergei Anshakov. He is currently a member of HC Plzen in his native Czech Republic. One of the most prolific players in franchise history, Straka's name can be found throughout the Penguins' record book. In 560 regular season games for the Penguins (ninth-most in franchise history), Straka scored 165 goals (eighth-most), 277 assists (12th-most) and 442 points (ninth-most). Additionally, his 26 game-winning goals are sixth-most in Penguins history. He also holds the franchise record for earliest game-winning goal as a result of his goal 32 seconds into a 4-0 home win against the Flyers, March 13, 1999. Straka, the only player to wear No. 82 in franchise history, was just as productive in terms of postseason play. In 65 playoff games (eighth-most), Straka scored 19 goals (seventh-most), 27 assists (10th-most) and 46 points (eighth-most).

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-Happy 24th birthday to current Penguins forward James Neal. Acquired at midway through last season along with Matt Niskanen in a deal which sent Alex Goligoski to the Stars, Neal appeared in 20 regular season games for the Penguins in 2010-11 and scored six points. In seven postseason games this past spring, he scored two points.

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-Happy 33rd birthday to former Penguins defenseman Michal Rozsival. A fourth-round pick in 1996, Rozsival spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1999-2000, Rozsival appeared in 75 games and contributed 21 points. He would see action in two postseason games that spring but failed to score a point. Rozsival was limited to 30 games and five points in 2000-01. He rebounded in 2001-02 by playing in 79 games and scoring 29 points, most among the team's defensemen. Injuries limited to 53 games and 10 points in 2002-03. After missing the entire 2003-04 season due to a knee injury, Rozsival joined Trinec in his native Czech Republic. He is currently a member of the Coyotes. In 237 games with the Penguins, Rozsival scored 65 points.

-Today would've been the 79th birthday of former Penguins coach Marc Boileau (right). Replacing Ken Schinkel midway through the 1973-74 season, Boileau coached the Penguins for parts of three seasons. He finished 1973-74 by 14-10-4. The team finished in fifth place in the West Division and missed the postseason. In 1974-75, the Penguins went 37-28-15 and finished in third place in the Norris Division. The 37 wins stood as a franchise record until 1988-89. The team reached the postseason and swept the Blues, 2-0, in a preliminary round series. Despite leading the Islanders 3-0 in a quarterfinal series, the Penguins lost the series, 4-3, and became the second NHL team in history to lose a best-of-seven series after leading it 3-0. The Penguins stumbled to a 15-23-5 record in 1975-76 and Boileau was replaced mid-season by his predecessor, Schinkel. In 151 regular season games with the Penguins, "The Shark" had a 66-61-24 record. He passed away, Dec. 27, 2000 at the age of 68.

-Today would've been the 62nd birthday of former Penguins forward Brian "Spinner" Spencer (right). Acquired prior to the 1977-78 season in a deal which sent Ron Schock to the Sabres, Spencer spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He appeared in 79 games and scored 20 points in 1977-78. His final NHL season was 1978-79 and he was limited to seven games and no points. Early in the season, he was loaned to Binghamton of the AHL. In 86 games with the Penguins, Spencer scored 20 points. Spencer, whose father was shot and killed after he threatened a CBC television station in British Columbia at gunpoint for not showing a Maple Leafs game featuring his son, was shot and killed himself following a failed drug deal, Oct. 3, 1988 at the age of 38.

(Photos: Straka first-Post-Gazette; Straka, Boileau and Spencer-Penguins Hockey Cards)

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