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Another mock for Dennard.

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Add Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar to the chorus suggesting the Steelers will take a hard look at selecting Michigan State's "No-Fly Zone" cornerback Darqueze Dennard with the no. 15 pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

In his latest mock draft released yesterday, Farrar writes

After a few rocky drafts, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has a plethora of positional holes to consider. A primary issue is at cornerback, where William Gay was the only pass defender to log an opponent passer rating under 88.1 — Ike Taylor, who had the most passing snaps of any Steelers’ cornerback, allowed a 110.6 passer rating and six touchdowns with no picks. Dennard may have a few holes in his game, but he’s got the athleticism and ball skills to be a considerable improvement right off the bat.

Farrar has Ole Miss WR Mike Evans and Notre Dame NT Louis Nix -- frequently discussed as Steelers first round targets -- both off the board just ahead of Dennard, which is consistent with other national writer's mocks to this point.

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Shero on third line: 'We needed to improve' - 03-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 Penguins general manager Ray Shero held court with the media today after the 3 p.m. trade deadline expires. He talked about the players he acquired in forwards Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak and briefly discussed the one player he did not acquire, Canucks forward Ryan Kesler:

On pursuing Kesler:

"We had inquired with them [the Canucks]. At the end of the day, obviously he was not traded. I don’t think there was a deal there to be made. A lot of the focus media-wise, was on Ryan Kesler. Not only Pittsburgh but around different media markets. He’s a real good player. But our goal was to increase our forward depth up front and help our forward group. I think we’ve accomplished that and not touched anybody off our roster. That was our main goal. With the [Pascal] Dupuis injury, with the Beau Bennett injury, it was important for us to try and do that. I think we’ve accomplished that. Hopefully, it’ makes it a better, deeper team."

On how Goc and Stempniak will be used in the lineup:

"I’ll leave it up to the coaches but the good thing on these players is they are very versatile guys. Can play different positions. Both penalty kill, power play. Can help our penalty kill, our second power-play unit. So what I think what’s important to us was the depth at our forward position. Players that have been in the league, played well in the league, that’s what I think we were looking for and to try to add to that. Where they’re going to play, that remains to be seen. There’s 20-plus games left in the regular season and I’m sure they’ll get opportunity around the lineup and kind of see where the best fit is."

Can Goc be used as a winger?

"I think the great thing with Marcel is that he is versatile. He’s been a very good center iceman, a very good penalty killer. Back in [2001] he was a first-round draft pick but he’s really found his way in the league to become a very useful player and I think that’s what we were looking for. He was having a good year in Florida. I think he had a good year last year as well for them. It’s a guy we’ve had our eye on for a little while, including last year. I think the versatility of Goc is going to be important. We have some time here to move some guys around the lineup and see how they’re going to do."

Comparing this trade deadline to last year's trade deadline:

"I think every deadline is different. With the injuries that we have with [Paul] Martin, [Kris] Letang, [Tomas] Vokoun, and Beau Bennett, and [Pascal] Dupuis, if those guys are all healthy, we’re probably not doing anything because we’re a [salary] cap team and the cap went down $6 million. But it was important to us with these injuries that we improve up front. Last year was a different year in terms of an increased cap and the types of players we did pick up. What we did today hopefully is going to give us that opportunity to help out some of the players with our group and giving our coaching staff some options up front with makes us a better hockey team."

Did anything need to be done with the salary cap - such as putting players on long-term injured reserve - to get Goc and Stempniak on the roster?

"No. We’re fine right now with the salary cap. But these two moves gives us flexibility in terms of bringing back players off [long-term injured reserve] or [injured reserve], depending on where they’re going to be. We just don’t have a time frame yet for Beau Bennett. We don’t have one for Kris Letang or Paul Martin. We’ll see where that’s going to take us. That’s why without that time frame and knowing where we’re going to be, that’s why it was important to improve ourselves up front which hopefully we did."

Did you pursue any other big-name players?

"Yeah. Plenty of calls. Trying to find the right fit also and keeping in compliance with the salary cap. Lots of calls. A lot of activity actually I’d say over the last … I’d say … six hours. I think you’re always seeing what’s out there and trying to fit people in and if that makes sense for you and what the cost might be and where guys are going to fit on your team. Lots of activity but hopefully with the two guys we’ve got, that makes us a better team."

On how the coaching staff might use Goc and Stempniak:

"I think it just gives them different options. I think with Goc, who has proven to be a good NHL center iceman as well, whether you’ve got [Sidney Crosby] and [Brandon] Sutter down the middle with Goc, it gives you the opportunity to have [Malkin] play with [Crosby] a bit more. It gives Dan [Bylsma] that option. Or to go with four center or to move Goc to the wing. Different options because of the versatility of the players we have."

On the flexibility to remove players such as Tomas Vokoun from long-term injured reserve with Goc and Stempniak on the roster:

"That takes under consideration Paul Martin and things like that to have that flexibility. I don’t know where Tomas is going to be in a week or three weeks or a month versus being game ready and so forth but I wanted to have that possibility, especially on our defense. The good news on Paul Martin is he will be back at some point. I’m not sure if it’s right before the playoffs of the first game of the playoffs but we have the opportunity to bring him back. With Kris Letang, we’ll have to see where that goes but we’ll have to keep that in mind as well as far as what you have to work with salary cap-wise. Hopefully, it works out okay."

Dan Bylsma has talked about failing to find an identity for the third line this season. How have you viewed the third line this season?

"We picked up one, maybe two players today because of that. I think it was an area we needed to improve. That’s what as a group we set out to do at this deadline, was outside of any big splash or big name, was try to improve our depth on that third line or guys that can play on your third line and move around. I think we accomplished that and I think we needed to improve upon that for sure."

What does Stempniak offer?

"Lee’s a veteran guy. He has an ability to score goals, chip in offensively. He can play the power play, penalty kill. He’s strong on puck. A good experienced guy. Left or right winger, usually a right wing but he gives you that right-hand shot. Depth and versatility to our forward group which I think we needed."

Is Stempniak a first- or third-liner?

"I’ll leave that to the coaches as usual and they’ll try to find the best fits for guys and see if some guys click but we have 20 games to do that. But the versatility is a bonus and we’ll see where they go. If at some point we get Beau Bennett back, I’m not sure. These guys [Goc and Stempniak] will hopefully be in San Jose tomorrow and might be in the lineup tomorrow night. If not, the next night hopefully. We’ll see where they go and where the fit might be."

Last year, you dealt a number of prospects and high draft picks. This year, it was only mid-range draft picks. Was it important to retain some of your higher-end assets?

"Yeah. Last year, we didn’t have a first and a second-round draft pick at the deadline then at the draft, we recoup the second-round pick and use that on the young goalie [Tristan] Jarry which we’re really happy with. I sit here right now and say, ‘Am I glad I didn’t trade our first-round pick?’ Absolutely. You’re trying to do the right thing possible for the team with the salary cap and so forth. I’m happy we kept our first-round pick this year and first pick in [2015] and traded a few mid-range things that you may be able to get back over the course of the next year or two. To add a couple guys to our lineup without taking anybody off our team or trading a real-life prospect is better for us."

(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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Liner Notes Vol. V

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Check out some hits in music journalism:

From Anxious Machine, the placebo effect of headphones (and other gadgets favored by audiophiles) http://www.anxiousmachine.com/blog/2013/12/10/placibo-philes

From the BBC, Brazil’s opera house in the Amazon http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-25471258

From Pacific Standard, the connection between aging and the arts http://www.psmag.com/navigation/books-and-culture/artists-musicians-live-longer-lives-72840/

From Slate, classical music is dead http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2014/01/classical_music_sales_decline_is_classical_on_death_s_door.html

From the New Yorker, classical music is alive http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/01/stop-trying-to-kill-classical-music.html

From the BBC, social hierarchy in string quartets http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-25934323

From New York Magazine, how the Vienna Philharmonic handles change (or doesn’t) http://nymag.com/arts/classicaldance/classical/reviews/vienna-philharmonic-2014-3/

From the Detroit Free Press and Leonard Slatkin, African-Americans in classical music http://www.freep.com/article/20140222/OPINION05/302220015/Black-History-Month-Classical-music-detroit-symphony-orchestra-leonard-slatkin

From the Guardian, the 4’33” app http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2014/feb/20/john-cage-4minutes33-seconds-silence-app

From the New Yorker, music and copyright in outer space http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/02/the-interstellar-contract.html

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Penguins acquire Stempniak - 03-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Another trade deadline. Another acquisiton of a winger from the Flames.

The Penguins acquired right winger Lee Stempniak from the Flames in exchange for a third round pick in the 2014 draft.

Stempniak, 31, is in the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.5 million.

In 52 games this season, Stempniak (5-foot-11, 196 points) has 23 points (eight goals, 23 assists). He has averaged 19:24 of ice time this season including 1:58 on the power play and 1:41 on the penalty kill. Stempniak is capable of playing on either wing or on the point of the power play.

Having also spent time with the Coyotes, Maple Leafs and Blues, Stempniak reached 27 goals with St. Louis in 2006-07.

A native of West Seneca, N.Y., Stempniak played with Penguins left winger Tanner Glass at Dartmouth.

A few highlights:

-In three seperate minor moves, right winger Chuck Kobasew was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a day after he cleared waivers. Additionally, center Brian Gibbons and defenseman Simon Despres were each assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and recalled to the NHL in a paper transaction which will keep them eligible for the AHL playoffs.

-EN Says: When speaking this afternoon, Ray Shero wasn't certain about where Stempniak or Marcel Goc would play, but Stempniak is capable of playing on either the first or third lines where there are holes. He can also help boost the second power play unit which is shorthanded a bit on the point.

Stempniak won't make anyone forget Pascal Dupuis or even Matt Cooke, but he can offer some internal competition to the likes of Brian Gibbons or Taylor Pyatt.

(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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PSO album gets nod from Gramophone

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's recently released Strauss tone poems album has received plenty of praise, most recently as an editor's pick for Gramophone Magazine. The CD is available at www.pittsburghsymphony.org. More from the PSO:

Gramophone magazine picked "Strauss," the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's recent recording of Strauss tone poems on Reference Recordings Fresh! label, as one of its "Editor's Choice" recordings for March 2014.

Reviewer Ivan March said of the recording, "This is one of the outstanding Strauss CDs of the year; the quality of playing and recording makes it very recommendable indeed." He also credited Music Director Manfred Honeck for his interpretations, "which vividly bring out the music's emotional and pictorial detail."

The CD was released in November 2013 and has received numerous positive reviews. A second release in the collaboration with Reference Recordings will be released in July and features work by Dvořák and Janáček.

"Strauss" was recorded and mastered by the team at Soundmirror, whose outstanding orchestral, solo, opera and chamber recordings have received more than 70 Grammy nominations and awards. FRESH! is part of Reference Recordings' mission to encourage artists and give them a strong platform for promotion and sales nationally and internationally.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra recordings are made possible by a generous grant from BNY Mellon.

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