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About the Capitals - 12-27-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Capitals.

When and where: 7:30 p.m, EST, Consol Energy Center.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), NBC Sports Network (rest of the United States), SportsNet.

Record: 17-11-6, 40 points. The Capitals are in fourth place in the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division.

Leading Scorer: Center Nicklas Backstrom, 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists).

Last Game: 4-3 road loss to the Rangers Tuesday. Defenseman John Carlson had for the Capitals.

Last Game against the Penguins: 2-0 road loss March 11. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves for the Capitals.

Capitals Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Left winger Alex Ovechkin. In 35 career games against the Penguins, he has 41 points..

Ex-Penguins on the Capitals: Defensemen Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik (right) and assistant coach Todd Reirden.

Ex-Capitals on the Penguins: Assistant coach Rick Tocchet.

Useless Capitals Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Orpik and Niskanen are among eight players who have been NHL teammates with Ovechkin and Penguins center Sidney Crosby. The others are left wingers Chris Bourque, Matt Cooke, Rico Fata, goaltenders Brent Johnson, Tomas Vokoun and center Kris Beech.

The last time the Capitals played the Penguins, this happened:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (19-4-3, 2.09 GAA, .929 SV%) for the Penguins. Braden Holtby (15-8-5, 2.30 GAA, .917 SV%) for the Capitals.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo ("upper body") is questionable. Right winger Steve Downie (mumps) and goaltender Thomas Greiss (mumps) are out. Right wingers Craig Adams (undisclosed), Beau Bennett (knee), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), defensemen, Christian Ehrhoff ("lower body"), Olli Maatta ("upper body"), Paul Martin (undisclosed), centers Zach Sill ("upper body"), Scott Wilson (leg) and left winger Blake Comeau (wrist) are on injured reserve. For the Capitals, defenseman John Erskine ("upper body"), Dmitry Orlov (broken wrist) and left winger Aaron Volpatti (neck) are on injured reserve..

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins' primary lines at today's morning skate were:

14 Chris Kunitz  - 87 Sidney Crosby - 36 Bryan Rust
 71 Evgeni Malkin - 16 Brandon Sutter - 72 Patric Hornqvist
13 Nick Spaling - 57 Marcel Goc - 59 Jayson Megna
20 Rob Klinkhammer - 25 Andrew Ebbett - 34 Bobby Farnham

Consider this a guess based off their defensive pairings at today's morning skate:

4 Rob Scuderi - 58 Kris Letang
8 Brian Dumoulin - 47 Simon Despres
6 Scott Harrington - 41 Roberto Bortuzzo

-The Capitals' lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

8 Alex Ovechkin - 19 Nicklas Backstrom - 43 Tom Wilson
90 Marcus Johansson - 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov - 20 Troy Brouwer
21 Brooks Laich - 16 Eric Fehr - 42 Joel Ward
46 Michael Latta - 65 Andre Burakovsky - 83 Jay Beagle

2 Matt Niskanen - 27 Karl Alzner
44 Brooks Orpik - 74 John Carlson
52 Mike Green - 38 Jack Hillen

Notes:

-Megna and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Center Brandon Sutter will play after being sidelined two games as a precaution against mumps.

-Bortuzzo was activated from injured reserve and as described as a game-time decision.

-Martin and Bennett each took part in the morning skate. Head coach Mike Johnston said they are "within a few steps of playing."

-Center Nick Spaling has 99 career points.

-Center Marcus Johansson has played in 300 career games.

-The referees are Ian Walsh (No. 29) and Frederick L'Ecuyer (No. 17). The linesmen are Brian Murphy (No. 93) and Derek Amell (No. 75).

-We will not have a live blog but will have a postgame blog.

(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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A few notes from Narduzzi's first press conference

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pat-Narduzzi-new-Pitt-coach

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Pat Narduzzi is officially the next Pitt football coach. Here's a link to my story from today's Post-Gazette, and here's my colleague Ron Cook on Narduzzi's first impressions. Here are a few extra notes that didn't make it into the paper...

- A big theme in Narduzzi's introduction was his background in Youngstown, Ohio, and how taking this job was a sort of homecoming for him. He is the son of a coach, and has roots in the Midwest. He also spent plenty of time thanking his former coaches and colleagues, from his father, who coached at Youngstown State from 1975-85 to Mark Dantonio, who he worked with for the last 11 years at Michigan State and Cincinnati.
"Throughout my coaching career, we've always talked about never forgetting where you came from, never forgetting what your story is," Narduzzi said. "Everybody's got a story here, where you came from, what you did to get where you are. Everybody's got that story and you never forget where you came from, and I'll never forget where I came from."

- He said one of the biggest things he hopes to instill in the Pitt team is a good football knowledge.
"We've got to be smart," he said. "We're going to win it with knowledge, and we're going to play fast and physical. If you don't have knowledge, it's hard to play fast and probably the best compliment we've gotten at Michigan State as far as defense goes is, 'You guys play fast.'"
That's a theme that's fairly common among coaches but, given the success Narduzzi's defenses had at Michigan State, it appears to be true with him.

- As far as recruiting goes, Narduzzi said he has had limited interactions with some of Pitt's recruits over social media in the days leading up to the announcement, but will start in earnest today. The trouble is it's a dead period, so he's limited to phone calls.
"It's got to be a time when I've got time to talk, but I'm certainly going to reach out to the whole class and keep them together," he said. "That's important."
One thing Narduzzi won't do, however, is reach out to Michigan State commits and try and get them to flip. He said he has too much respect for Dantonio and the Spartan program to do that. It will, though, be interesting to see how he approaches finalizing this class at Pitt, though. He has recruited Western Pennsylvania and Ohio in the past, so he already has ties to these areas from a recruiting perspective.
"I think there's great football players here," he said. "I know our roster is soaked with them right now. To win here, we're going to have to continue to soak our roster with great players from the state of Pennsylvania."

- Narduzzi will coach Michigan State's defense in the Cotton Bowl before fully taking the reins at Pitt, which is pretty much standard procedure for coordinators taking bigger jobs. He called it "unfinished business," and even went so far as to say he's not sure he would have taken the job if he wasn't able to finish out his season with the Spartans (which I think was a bit of hyperbole, but still).
"The season's not over, and it's not over for Pitt and that's why I want to be conscientious of coach Rudolph and what he's doing with his kids tonight," Narduzzi said. "They've got special teams meeting after a team meeting. I don't want to do anything to interrupt that, just like I wouldn't want anyone to interrupt our Cotton Bowl. We've got business to take care of."

- Narduzzi said he wasn't able to watch much of Pitt this season. He said he caught them once on a Thursday night while he was making a game plan (which, by simple deduction, means he was watching the Virginia Tech game).
"I saw you guys play at one point, saw the toughness," he said. "Can't say I've watched a ton of football yet, but we've got time to get into that. I know we've got a young football team. I think we've got some young tailback that plays a little defense that's a pretty darn good football player. I think we've got someone who can throw the ball, too. I'm sure we've got plenty of tools and weapons to compete in the ACC."
One of the biggest things to look for will be how Narduzzi approaches the offense, since his background is exclusively on the defensive side of the ball. He did say he'll keep a pro-style offense, which makes sense given that's what Pitt's roster is constructed for and it's also what Dantonio runs at Michigan State.
"We're going to run the ball now," he said. "It's called time of possession. When that clock is going tick-tock, tick-tock, it makes your defense better."

- Finally, I think the biggest takeaway as far as Narduzzi's approach to the job is his repeated desire to "be the CEO of the program," as he put it. Obviously, his background is defense and his first task will be to build up Pitt's, but I think ultimately he'd like to take a step back and be more hands-off, which is a quality a lot of the best coaches have. Sure, there are successful coaches like Chip Kelly, Art Briles, Rich Rodriguez, etc. who have a calling card on one side of the ball, but the best of the best (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, etc.) are truly managers of a program. Narduzzi obviously has a long way to go to get to that level, and there are plenty of coaches who have failed trying to get there, but I think his approach to the job is the right one. He didn't speak too much Friday about how great Pitt's defense was going to be, even though that's his background. He's focused on elevating an entire program.

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Taking chances in the garden pays off...sometimes

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog viola winter

Fall is when gardeners can take a leap of faith by planting cold weather crops, betting the winter won't be as harsh as the year before. Some seasons the decision looks like genius, others more like foolishness.

This winter, late planters look brilliant.

Tiny yellow violas are luminescent in the late afternoon sun. They are planted along the edges of containers, the centers are filled with pretty purple flowering kale.

Both of these plants love cool weather and have thrived during this mild early winter. Cold, snow and everything which comes with it are on the way, it's inevitable. Depending on just how cold it gets, these plants might survive until spring. That's the wonder of winter gardening, you never know when the garden will come to close.

In the vegetable garden 'Red Russian' kale shares a cozy spot in a cold frame with other greens. In other beds 'Red Sails' lettuce and other varieties wait patiently to be harvested.

Radishes, carrots and other root crops seem happy too.

Pots on the front porch were filled with left over flowering kale on sale from Hahn Nursery only a few weeks ago. 

Having color and something fresh to eat out of the garden when January looms is a wonderful feeling.

Every fall the garden is planted with these cold loving crops, it's always a roll of the nice, but when things go our way all you can do is smile.

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 12-27-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The first time Brooks Orpik (right) played for the Penguins back in 2002, he didn't even get his own jersey. Tonight, he'll be wearing a completely different jersey with the rival Washington Capitals.

-Teammate Matt Niskanen and assistant coach Todd Reirden will also have something of a homecoming tonight.

-Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss are the latest Penguins to be diagnosed with mumps. They join Beau Bennett, Robert Bortuzzo and Sidney Crosby. Brandon Sutter was tested but was not diagnosed.

-Jeff Zatkoff made a season-best 37 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who lost to the rival Binghamton Senators, 3-0.

-Highlights:

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins recalled forwards Patrick McGrath and Zack Torquato as well as goaltender Eric Hartzell and defenseman Paul Cianfrini from the Wheeling Nailers.

-A native of Shavertown, Pa., McGrath could be the first local product to suit up for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed former Ottawa Senators forward Jim O'Brien to an AHL contract but lost him on waivers to the rival Hershey Bears. O'Brien began the season with Novokuznetsk Metallurg of Russia's KHL and any player who began the season in Europe must clear waivers before officially joining an AHL club.

-EN Says: With all these moves by the AHL Penguins and the ongoing mumps saga with the NHL Penguins, a recall seems imminent.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Barry Goers did not take a well-traveled path to professional hockey.

-Happy 43rd birthday to former Penguins forward Bryan Smolinski (right). Acquired in the 1995 offseason along with Glen Murray and a draft pick in a trade which sent Shawn McEachern and Kevin Stevens to the Bruins, Smolinski spent on seasons with the Penguins. In 1995-96, he played in 81 games and scored 64 points. The 1996 postseason saw him compile eight points in 19 games. After holding out to start 1996-97, Smolinski was traded early in the season to the Islanders in exchange for Darius Kasparaitis and Andreas Johansson.

-Happy 56th birthday to former Penguins coach Kevin Constantine. Hired in the 1997 offseason, Constantine spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. In 1997-98, he directed the club to a 40-24-18 record and a Northeast Division title. In the postseason, the team lost in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the Canadiens, 4-2. He followed that up in 1998-99 by leading the Penguins to a record of 38-30-14. The club reached the postseason as a No. 8 seed. After defeating the Devils in the conference quarterfinal round, 4-3 - one of the largest upsets in franchise history - the Penguins were eliminated in the semifinals by the Maple Leafs, 4-2. After 25 games and an 8-10-3 record, Constantine was fired early in 1999-2000 and replaced by Herb Brooks. In 189 games as the Penguins coach, Constantine had a record of 86-67-35. His wins are the eighth-most in franchise history. He is currently head coach of the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips.

-After the Jump: The Devils fire Pete DeBoer.

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Liner Notes Vol. XIII

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Looking for some reading this holiday weekend? Check out a few pieces of music and arts journalism below, including a feature in the Atlantic on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: 

From the New York Times, a watery piano recital http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/11/arts/music/hlne-grimaud-performs-tears-become-streams-become.html 

From the Atlantic, how the arts drove Pittsburgh's renaissance http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/how-the-cultural-arts-drove-pittsburghs-revitalization/383627/?single_page=true 

From Haaretz, the American Jews who wrote Christmas songs http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-features/1.631657 

From the Guardian, the earliest example of polyphony http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/dec/17/polyphonic-music-fragment-origins-rewritten 

From the New York Times, a symphony orchestra conductor at NYC Ballet http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/17/arts/dance/andrew-litton-to-lead-new-york-city-ballet-orchestra.html 

From the New York Times, the fight for New York City Opera http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/27/arts/music/new-york-city-operas-name-and-other-assets-attract-suitors.html?smid=tw-share 

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