Empty Netter Assists - 01-10-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-The Penguins' special teams have done a flip flop.

-“He looks like same old 'Gonch' to be honest." - Sidney Crosby on former teammate Sergei Gonchar (above), now of the Canadiens.

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-Crosby speaks:

-Marcel Goc speaks:

-Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 2-0 loss to the Norfolk Admirals.


-The Penguins are now 1-3-1 against the Admirals this season.

-Franky Palazzese made 43 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 6-5 win against the Reading Royals.

-Happy 48th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Jeff Serowik. A free agent signing early in 1998-99, Serowik's Penguins career amounted to 26 games and six assists that season. A head injury midway through that season brought an end to his career. One of two natives of New Hampshire to play for the Penguins (Ben Lovejoy was the other), Serowik currently operates hockey camps throughout the United States.

-After the Jump: Sergei Bobrovsky gets paid.

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Italy's Giusti Garden is a masterpiece

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog the faceThis is the mascherone at Giardino Giusti in Verona, Italy. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the garden and it was built to emit fire from its mouth. Photos by Doug Oster

By Doug Oster / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This is the first of a three-part occasional series on gardens in Northern Italy.

blog huh 25Getting up higher in the garden reveals the beautiful design and shows the scale of these old cypress trees.VERONA, Italy — A huge angry stone face looks down on visitors through giant spires of cypress trees at Giusti Garden. The intimidating mascherone was originally designed to breathe fire, probably the only thing that could make it more foreboding. It was just one of the surprises I and 32 other gardeners found on a 10-day trip in September to visit gardens of Northern Italy.
Gently sloping trails led to a grotto at the top of the Mascherone. On the way, we saw an array of beautiful plants, some of which I’d never seen before. A hummingbird moth danced from flower to flower, gathering nectar from low-growing blue plumbago that softens the trail’s edges. Pale pink begonias grew wild along an ancient rock wall next to a stone bench amid swaying white windflowers. After the short trek, we were rewarded by stunning views of the main garden path and Verona itself. Shakespeare set three of his plays in the city, including “Romeo and Juliet.” The Guisti family has owned the palace since the 16th century, and the gardens were created in 1580.
We reached the summit at just the right time. The cheerful, high-pitched songs of birds hidden in the thick green foliage joined at noon with those of church bells, creating a lovely symphony. As we worked our way downhill along a winding stone path, we caught another bit of music -- the sounds of a piano drifting out of the windows of an adjoining school. It was magical.
One thing I love about many European gardeners is the way they embrace weeds, letting them bloom in the right spots. The tiny flowers of wild yellow mustard were the perfect foil for the blue blossoms of the plumbago. In a formal garden, they would have been eliminated because they aren’t a cultivated species.
Our descent offered yet another different view of the center garden. Cypress trees reached for the sky, creating axis points for the long paths.  Neatly trimmed topiary, a maze and huge, beautifully planted containers are all things expected in a great Italian garden like this one. We could get a close look at the many statues or take a seat and listen to the cascading water of the fountains.
As we kept walking, we were greeted with another surprise: Only in Italy could you find a long line of clay pots filled with different colored lantana blooms, perched single file on a weathered rock wall. The simple beauty of the presentation was spellbinding. The fact that some of the pots were cracked only added to the effect.
As our tour ended, I looked over to see common orange lantana mingling with statuesque white anemone that danced in the breeze. Behind them, some pink hibiscus swayed in consort.
This combination embodied the feeling of this place -- chaos and order living together. In his garden, the first big one we visited, it was the perfect mix.

Doug Oster: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-779-5861. Visit his garden blog here. Twitter: @dougoster1.

blog overall giustiAn overall look of Giusti Garden.

blog lantan potsThis long line of old clay pots filled with lantana was a hit with visitors.

blog ender anemoneOrange lantana growing in consort with anemone is what this garden is all about.

blog yellow weedsYellow mustard is allowed to flower in this garden.

blog young couple waldA young couple walk along the main path of the garden.

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Cheadle, Margulies to present Clooney with award at Globes

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


GC-302x400Don Cheadle and Julianna Margulies will present George Clooney with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes on Sunday.

Cheadle and Clooney were among the founders of Not on Our Watch, committed to ending mass atrocities around the world, while Margulies and Clooney co-starred on "ER" in its earliest days. Photo above.

Today, another round of presenters were announced for the awards show. They are Jack Black, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Duchovny, Colin Farrell, Katie Holmes, Jared Leto, Melissa McCarthy, Sienna Miller, Clive Owen, Paul Rudd, Naomi Watts and Oprah Winfrey.

You’ll find the list of previously announced presenters elsewhere on this blog. What time do the Globes start? 8 p.m. Sunday on NBC. 

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Same old 'Gonch' - 01-09-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

At 40, Sergei Gonchar's production isn't quite what it used to be.

As someone who hit the 50-point barrier four out of the five seasons he played with the Penguins as the team's No. 1 defenseman, Gonchar is now relegated to a second pairing role with the Montreal Canadiens. In the 24 games he has played for Montreal since being acquired in a trade from Dallas Nov. 11, Gonchar has only produced nine points (one goal, eight assists).

Despite seeing his age and production go in opposite directions, his former Penguins teammates still view him as a danger.

“He looks like same old 'Gonch' to be honest,” center Sidney Crosby said. “He's poised with the puck. He just makes really good decisions out there. He's still skating pretty well. I don't know how many minutes he playing playing but he looks pretty fresh out there when he's playing and making good decisions."

“He's committed off the ice and takes care of himself. I'm not surprised. I think with his hockey sense and things like that, I think that's what's allowed him to play so long.”

A hallmark of Gonchar's 20-season career has been his shooting ability. He is the NHL's all-time leader in goals by a Russian-born defenseman with 220.

“He's still got a good shot,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “He sees the play so well. He just calms everybody down. He gets the puck to the net through traffic, through people.”

“I think his greatest strength is he's got a great shot but more than that, just getting it through the net,” right winger Craig Adams said. “Knowing when to put it there and how to get it through and how it get it by shot blockers and bodies and stuff. He's been good at that for a long time.”

Even if time has sapped some of his physical abilities, Gonchar is still valuable to his team off the ice.

“I know [Gonchar] really well,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. “First of all, he's a great person. He came in, [has] an important role, a leadership role. And he's working really well with the young guys. We have a few young guys on our club. He's been a good addition for us.”

Since joining Montreal, Gonchar has worked on a rookie pairing extensively with 22-year-old rookie Nathan Beaulieu, a first-round pick in 2011.

“He's the type of guy who will share his experience with his teammates,” said Therrien who coached Gonchar for parts of four seasons with the Penguins. “This is a reason we want to put him with Beaulieu. He talks a lot. Communicates with Nathan really well. And Nathan earned the right to play with him. Since he got called up, he's played really well.”

(Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)


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Birdman, Keaton among nominations for British awards

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .




The Grand Budapest Hotel receives 11 nominations. Birdman and The Theory of    Everything are each nominated in ten categories. The Imitation Game has nine  nominations. Boyhood and Whiplash are each nominated five times. Mr. Turner,  Nightcrawler and Interstellar receive four nominations. Pride has three nominations.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is nominated in the following categories: Best Film, Director and Original Screenplay for Wes Anderson, Original Music, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, Make Up & Hair and Sound. Ralph Fiennes is nominated for Leading Actor.

Birdman is nominated for Best Film, Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Original Screenplay, Original Music, Cinematography, Editing and Sound. Michael Keaton is nominated for Leading Actor. Edward Norton is nominated for Supporting Actor and Emma Stone is nominated for Supporting Actress.

The Theory of Everything receives nominations for Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Director for James Marsh, Adapted Screenplay, Original Music, Editing, Costume Design and Make Up & Hair. Eddie Redmayne is nominated for Leading Actor, whilst Felicity Jones receives a nomination for Leading Actress.

The Imitation Game is nominated in Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Production Design, Costume Design and Sound. Benedict Cumberbatch is nominated for Leading Actor and Keira Knightley is nominated for Supporting Actress.

Boyhood completes the Best Film line-up, with four further nominations in Director and Original Screenplay for Richard Linklater, with Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress nominations for Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette respectively.

Whiplash receives nominations in Editing and Sound, and Damien Chazelle is nominated for Director and Original Screenplay. J.K. Simmons is nominated for Supporting Actor.

Mr. Turner is nominated in Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design and Make Up & Hair. Interstellar receives nominations in Original Music, Cinematography, Production Design and Special Visual Effects.

Jake Gyllenhaal completes the Leading Actor line-up for Nightcrawler, which is also nominated in Editing, Original Screenplay and Supporting Actress for Rene Russo.

Imelda Staunton is nominated in Supporting Actress for Pride, which also receives nominations in Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Stephen Beresford (Writer) and David Livingstone (Producer).

Amy Adams is nominated in Leading Actress for Big Eyes, which receives a second nomination in Production Design. The Leading Actress line-up is completed by Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Reese Witherspoon for Wild and Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl, which also receives a nomination for Adapted Screenplay.

Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell both receive Supporting Actor nominations for Foxcatcher.

American Sniper completes the Adapted Screenplay nominations, and is also nominated in Sound.

The Animated Film nominees are Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls and The Lego Movie.

The nominations in the Documentary category are 20 Feet from Stardom, 20,000 Days on Earth, Citizenfour, Finding Vivian Maier and Virunga.

’71 receives two nominations for Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Yann Demange (Director) and Gregory Burke (Writer). Also nominated for Outstanding Debut alongside ’71 and Pride are Paul Katis (Director/Producer) and Andrew de Lotbinière for Kajaki: The True Story, Hong Khaou (Writer/Director) for Lilting and Elaine Constantine (Writer/Director) for Northern Soul.

Paddington is nominated in Outstanding British Film and receives a further nomination in Adapted Screenplay. Under the Skin receives the final nomination in Outstanding British Film and is also nominated for Original Music.

Ida completes the Cinematography line-up, and receives a second nomination for Film Not in the English Language. Also nominated in Film Not in the English Language are Leviathan, The Lunchbox, Trash and Two Days, One Night.

Into the Woods is nominated for Costume Design and Make Up & Hair. Guardians of the Galaxy completes the nominations for Make Up & Hair, and receives a further nomination for Special Visual Effects.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and X-Men: Days of Future Past join Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar to complete the Special Visual Effects nominations.

The British Short Animation nominations are The Bigger Picture, Monkey Love Experiments and My Dad. The British Short Film nominations are Boogaloo and Graham, Emotional Fusebox, The Kármán Line, Slap and Three Brothers.

The nominees for the EE Rising Star Award, announced earlier this week, are Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jack O’Connell, Margot Robbie, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. This audience award is voted for by the British public and presented to an actor or actress who has demonstrated exceptional talent and promise.

The EE British Academy Film Awards take place on Sunday Feb. 8 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

The ceremony will be hosted by Stephen Fry and will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One and BBC One HD, preceded by a red carpet show on BBC Three. The ceremony is also broadcast in all major territories around the world.

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