Empty Netter Assists - 03-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-The Penguins' Olympians are benefiting from down time.

-Don't expect to see Deryk Engelland (above) at forward down the stretch.

-Lee Stempniak has filled a variety of roles during his time in the NHL.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Zach Sill returned to practice for the first time since suffering a skate blade cut on his arm Jan. 25.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed defenseman Barry Goers to an AHL contract for the remainder of the season.

-Happy 29th birthday to former Penguins forward Ryan Stone. A second-round pick in 2003, Stone spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2007-08, he played in six games and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 2008-09 by seeing action in two games and failing to net a point. During the 2009 offseason, Stone joined the Oilers as a free agent.

-Happy 60th birthday to former Penguins forward Charlie Simmer (right). Far more renown for his days as an all-star with the Kings and the "Triple Crown Line," Simmer was claimed by the Penguins off waivers from the Bruins prior to the 1987-88 season. He appeared in 50 games for the Penguins that season and recorded 28 points. The following season, he joined Eintracht Frankfurt in West Germany. At the time of his retirement as a professional player in 1992, he was the last active California Golden Seal and NHL Cleveland Baron. Formerly married to 1981 Playmate of the Year Terri Welles, Simmer currently works as a broadcaster for the Flames.

-Today would've been the 72nd birthday of former Penguins defenseman Bill Speer. A member of the first Penguins team in 1967-68, Speer spent the first two seasons of his NHL career in Pittsburgh. As a rookie in 1967-68, he saw action in 68 games and scored 16 points. He followed that up in 1968-69 by playing in 34 games and scoring five points. During the 1969 off season, he was selected by the Bruins in an intra-league draft. In 102 games with the Penguins, Speer recorded 21 points. He was killed in a snowmobile accident in 1989 at the age of 47.

-After the Jump: The Blackhawks win but lose Patrick Kane to injury.

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Flight 370

Written by Rob Rogers on .

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 307 has fueled weeks of speculation and conjecture on cable and network news channels. Never mind that we still have no real evidence of what actually happened. 

032014 Flight 307

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How to try to be an extra in Pittsburgh movie with Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

“Fathers and Daughters,” the movie shooting in Pittsburgh with Russell Crowe, Octavia Spencer, Diane Kruger, Amanda Seyfried and Aaron Paul, is looking for extras to populate a loft party March 27 and a series of scenes with high-powered businessmen, a fancy holiday party, funeral and ritzy banquet.
Nancy Mosser Casting needs “trendy-hip-attractive” men and women ages 18 to 40 for a loft party scene March 27 in the Point Breeze area. Potential extras should expect to work 12 to 14 hours and they must be available that entire time, which could be all day or all night. Pay is minimum wage for the first eight hours and time and a half after.
If interested, email a recent photo to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with name, age and phone number as well as the date you would like to work (for above, date is March 27). Write “Trendy Press Release” in subject line. 
Also needed:  “Upperscale men and women 35 and older” for some key scenes for the movie.  Those extras also should be expected to work 12 to 14 hours for what might be all day or all night, and pay is at same rate as above. 
Mosser Casting is looking for men 40-plus, to play high-powered business people, for an April 9 scene. Men and women 30-plus are needed for an upper-class holiday party scene. 
Men and women 35-plus are required for April 13 for two scenes, a funeral and ritzy banquet.
Send recent photo to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with name, age and phone along with available dates from those provided. Write “Upperscale Press Release” in that subject line.
You will receive an email if Mosser is interested. 

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Dirty Ball's Happy Hour at UP

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .



From left: Renee Williams, Catherine Loevner, and Sam C. Badger


If you needed a boost of positive energy, UP Modern Kitchen (how appropriate!) was the place to be on Tuesday night. The Attack Theatre’s Dirty Ball held its kick-off happy hour party there, and it was quite a crowd. Sam C. Badger, one of the co-chairs who looked as though he stepped off the set of “Mad Men” in all the right ways, gave me the scoop about this fabulous party to support Attack Theater on April 12.


“It’s just the most fun event of the year. You can wear anything, and I mean anything. Less is more, glitter, sequins, superhero costumes...anything you want,” he said.

I filed this away for later, thinking of a mermaid-inspired dress I own that has been dying for a night out.

As I made my way through the crowd, I bumped into one of the co-founders of Attack Theatre, Michele De La Reza. She was an enthusiastic breath of fresh air.



  From Left: Michele De La Reza, Peter Kope, Rebecca Himberger

“This organization prides itself on performance, and so does the Dirty Ball. We make it special because of who we are -- dancers, performers, artists. It truly is a unique event that sells out every year,” she said. “This year we expect more than 1,000 guests.”

The theme of this year’s party is Pirates & Robots, but don’t let that influence what you wear: You don’t need an eyepatch or a parrot on your shoulder! Ms. De La Reza made it clear that she wants everyone’s creativity to shine through in their fashion choices.

So I can’t be the only one wondering why they call it the “Dirty Ball” ...these aren’t necessarily two words that go together. Peter Kope, co-founder, was more than happy to solve this little mystery for me: “We always said that if we were going to have a ball--we were going to have a dirty one,” he said with a naughty glint in his eye.

Other committee members mentioned that this is one of those parties that you definitely want to stay through ‘til the end. “It borderlines debauchery, but in all the right ways,” added Larry Leahy.


Are you ready to get down and dirty? Get your tickets now for what promises to be one of the best parties of the year!

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Stempniak has filled a variety of roles in NHL career - 03-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The first round of 2003 draft featured plenty of players who eventually became franchise players or all-stars such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf and Eric Staal. It also had plenty of serviceable players such as Brent Burns and Brian Boyle.

It also had Hugh Jessiman who logged all of two NHL games in his career and by even the most generous assessments, ended up being a bust as the No. 12 overall pick by the Rangers.

Chances are, if Jessiman, who at 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds was nicknamed "Huge Specimen," had not drawn so many attention for his considerable physical attributes, Lee Stempniak might not have been drafted No. 148 overall in the fifth round by the Blues.

In the decade since being selected No. 148 overall in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, Stempniak has filled a variety of roles for the Blues, Maple Leafs, Coyotes and Flames before joining the Penguins at the trade deadline earlier this month.

Recently, Stempniak who scored his first goal for the Penguins last night, recounted how he got to the NHL thanks to a little help from Jessiman as well as his own journey through the league:

At what point did potentially becoming an NHL player become a reality for you?

"I played tier two junior hockey I got on the Central Scouting watching list a little bit but nothing really happened. I was recruited by a couple of schools but Dartmouth was the one came after me the hardest. I went to visit there. Had the opportunity to play a lot as a freshman and fell in love with the school. I loved every bit of four of my years there. It was great. My sophomore year, I was playing on a line with [future Rangers first-round draft pick] Hugh Jessiman. Everyone [scouts] was coming to watch him play. We were playing on the same line and I finished with a few more than him. He was going to be a first-round pick and I think that’s sort of when it went from a dream to a realistic thing to strive for. I ended up being drafted the summer after my sophomore year by St. Louis. I was really dedicated to hockey and wanted it but at that point, it sort of transitioned into a plan to get there. I decided to stay a couple of summers at Dartmouth so I could work out with the strength coach there. I could get bigger and stronger and worked on my game a lot after practice. I’d say that the year I went from being every kid dreaming of the NHL to a tangible thing to work towards."

So did you benefit from being Jessiman's linemate in that scouts also got to see you?

"Yeah, I think so. We had 20 NHL teams almost every game watching him. We played on the same team and he was a great player there. I sort of benefitted from people coming to watch him. [Former Blues executive] Jarmo Kekäläinen who is the Columbus GM now, he took a flyer on me in the fifth round."

What were the steps between being drafted and turning professional?

"I played the last two years of college. My senior year was the [2004-05 NHL] lockout. After I graduated, I just worked out like crazy that summer and skated a lot. I actually skated with Brooks Orpik quite a bit and some other guys in the NHL and started to get a feel for what it was going to be like. Started asking a lot of questions about training camp. Went into [the 2006] training camp and played pretty well. Ended up sticking around. Played three or four games right out of training camp then got send down to Peoria. Got sent up and down. I was up quite a bit. I mean, it was pretty surreal. I went to training camp. I knew two guys. I didn’t know anything. I had no expectations. In my mind, I just didn’t want to end up in Alaska where the [ECHL] team was. I think part of it was not knowing anyone and not giving the veteran players too much respect. I just tried to out and play my game. Played hard and respected their skill but if you went into a corner with them, you had to go and get the puck from them or win those 50-50 puck battles. I guess I caught the coaches’ eye. I think I was the beneficiary of a situation where they just put in the salary cap and they traded Pavol Demitra so there were a couple openings at forward."

You had your best season in terms of production in 2006-07 when you scored 27 goals while playing on a line with David Backes and Jay McClement.

"I played a lot with them but I played a lot with [forward] Keith Tkachuk too when lines got mixed up or we were down by a goal. I sort of played myself into playing on the point on the power play. When [head coach] Andy Murray came in that was one of the first things was put me on the point on the power play so I got to shoot a lot. It was a good year. I got a lot of opportunities. I feel like I didn’t get a ton of scoring opportunities but when I got them, they were pretty quality chances and I was able to put them in. I wasn’t a volume shooter by any means. I’d get one shot or two shots a game and they both might go in or one might go in. Then I might not get a shot the next game then get a couple the next game. So it wasn’t like I was consistently getting four, five shots a game. I was getting the puck in good spots."

Early in 2008-09, you were traded for the first time in your career to Toronto. What was that like?

"It was a complete shock to me. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I signed a three-year deal the year before coming off that year in 2006-07. I was shocked. I had never been through it. I thought everything was going really well. I think when I got traded, I had 13 points in 14 games with St. Louis. It really felt like I was sort of coming into my own. It was a shock. It was a huge adjustment going to Toronto on a lot of levels. I had never been traded. I think I was a little bit shy, a little bit timid going to a new team and not jumping in right away. That’s something I’ve learned looking back on it, if you’re on a new team you just got to jump in and play your game and really believe in your ability and that the reason the team got you is they like the way you play. Do things to your strengths and help the team that way. It was a huge shock. It sort of put the business side of it into reality for me where things change in a hurry and it’s really a job."

What worked or didn't work for you in with the Maple Leafs?

"The first year, I really struggled after the trade. I couldn’t really get anything going. The next year, I actually thought I played pretty well. I came to training camp, had a pretty good training camp. I played a lot. Started killing penalties. I was playing the point on the power play. I think there, I started to round down my game where I was playing harder minutes against the [opponent’s] top lines. I’d say a third line, checking role. Played a lot against team’s top lines and developed more of a feel for the both end of the rinks there."

The next stop in your career was with the Coyotes after a trade in 2009-10. You spent parts of two seasons there.

"That was a great change for me. That was an opportunity to go to the team that was winning. I went there and played really well after the trade. I played on a line with Taylor Pyatt and Vernon Fiddler a lot. We had a lot of success, scored a lot of goals. Played a little bit with Matt Lombardi and Wojtek Wolski. It was good. That was the first time I was in the playoffs was that year. I came from Toronto where things weren’t going that well. Dave [Tippett] is a great coach in terms of the details of the game and the way he plays to his team’s strengths. We played a really sound, defensive game and as a result were able to get a lot of chances in transition and a lot of scoring opportunities off the forecheck. It was good to play there."

You were traded to the Flames in the 2011 offseason and spent parts of the last three seasons in Calgary before being traded to the Penguins.

"It was good. The last two years especially under Bob Hartley, I played a lot. Had a big role on the team. Learned a lot of the finer details of the game from Bob. He used a lot of video as the coaches do here and a lot of the practices were detail-oriented. Where to put your stick. How to angle a guy. Little things. Positioning that made me a lot better player. It’s helped me defensively. It’s helped me in position in the offensive zone. Going to the front of the net. I learned a lot there. The last year, I played in a bit of a checking role with Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross and we played against other team’s top lines. We had a lot of success as a line."

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Dale MacMillan/Getty Images and Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

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