Pregame thoughts - Penguins at Avalanche - 12-09-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-We've tweeted the photo of Penguins right winger Pascal Dupuis to the right yesterday. It's one of our favorite moments from the 2012 NHL lockout.

-During the lockout, several Penguins players had organized informal workouts at the the team's practice facility in Southpointe. Dupuis was part of a crew of regulars who participated. These weren't games of shinny. These were legitimate workouts. The players had organized drills which had a purpose and they pushed each other physically for over an hour or two most days. Whenever the lockout came to an end, these Penguins players would be ready to play.

-After yet another breakdown in negotiations and another round of canceled games, enthusiasm for these workouts waned. One day in November, as reporters arrived to practice, there were two "new" players skating around taking shots on net. In reality, it was goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson who were skating like "normal" players (as opposed to goaltenders). But who was in net? 

-After practice came to a conclusion, the mystery was solved. Dupuis and defenseman Matt Niskanen decided to don Fleury's and Johnson's gear respectively as a way to mix things up and keep the practices interesting during a bleak time. Niskanen explained it to us last year:

"I think it was right after one of the deadlines was missed or whatever so we for sure weren't playing [games] for a little while. And I think the goalies were not that thrilled - nobody really - about going out there [for practice] again. But as long as we were at the rink we thought we'd make it more of a fun day. I think 'Duper' offered so I just jumped in there as well. We pretty much volunteered."


-The lockout wasn't good for just about anyone involved. It was a very uncertain time for a lot of people and there never seemed to be an end in sight. But without public relations staffers and team employees acting as a barrier (team employees weren't allowed to interact with players during the lockout), a reporter could actually have a conversation with these players. Not a reporter-subject conversation. A human-human conversation.

Pascal Dupuis was a big part of what made that shaky time an enjoyable time.


-We were looking up some Pascal Dupuis highlights yesterday on YouTube and were reminded that he scored in his first game with the Penguins, a 5-1 road loss to the Bruins Feb. 28, 2008. Dupuis scored off a cycle with centers Tyler Kennedy and Jeff Taffe:


-Dupuis' considerable qualities off the ice noted, he'll be missed on the ice as well, particularly on the penalty kill. He averaged 2:25 of short-handed ice time, fourth most among forwards on the team. 


-Right winger Daniel Sprong will return to the lineup with Dupuis sidelined. Frankly, if the team wasn't on the western half of the continent, we could see someone like center Kevin Porter being recalled to play instead of Sprong. Mike Johnston just doesn't have trust in him.

-Johnson isn't the first coach to be hesitant in trusting a rookie or a young player. Chicago's Joel Quenneville had some tough love with left winger Brandon Saad early in his career. Rangers center J.T. Miller got some gruff treatement from coach Alain Vigneault. Rightly or wrongly, Sprong isn't the first young player who has struggled to earn his coach's trust.


-EN Reader Eduardo Perez is in Denver and sent in a few pregame photos. The ice:

-And warmups: 


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About the Avalanche - 12-09-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Avalanche.

When and where: 10:15 p.m., EST, Pepsi Center.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), NBC Sports (Rest of the United States).

Record: 13-13-2, 28 points points. The Avalanche is in sixth place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Center Matt Duchene (right), 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists).

Last Game: 2-1 overtime home win against the Wild Monday. Defenseman Tyson Barrie had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche.

Last Game against the Penguins: 4-3 road loss Nov. 19. Duchene scored two goals for the Avalanche.

Avalanche Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Barrie. He has four points in four career games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Avalanche: Left winger Blake Comeau, defenseman Nate Guenin, right winger Jarome Iginla.

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

Useless Avalanche Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Guenin (192 games) is one of two former Ohio State defensemen who have played in over 100 career NHL games. The other is Canucks defenseman Matt Bartkowski (159).

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (12-9-1, 2.24 GAA, .926 SV%) for the Penguins. Reto Berra (5-7-0, 2.26 GAA, .927 SV%) for the Avalanche.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defenseman Kris Letang (undisclosed) is probable. Right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) is on injured reserve. For the Avalanche, centers Ben Street (chest), Jesse Winchester (head) and defenseman Brad Stuart (back) are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: According to the team's Web site, the Penguins did not have line or pairing rushes at today's morning skate. Their lines and pairings at yesterday's practice were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
39 David Perron - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 81 Phil Kessel
16 Eric Fehr - 13 Nick Bonino - 72 Patric Hornqvist
61 Sergei Plotnikov - 7 Matt Cullen - 41 Daniel Sprong 

3 Olli Maatta - 58 Kris Letang
8 Brian Dumoulin - 12 Ben Lovejoy
5 David Warsofsky - 28 Ian Cole

-Consider this a guess at the Avalanche's lines and pairings based off its game against the Wild Monday: 

92 Gabriel Landeskog - 29 Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene
27 Andreas Martinsen - 34 Carl Soderberg - 14 Blake Comeau
40 Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - 12 Jarome Iginla
55 Cody McLeod - 62 Chris Wagner - Jack Skille

32 Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson
2 Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie
46 Brandon Gormley - Nate Guenin


-Letang has 299 career points.

-Sprong has been a healthy scratch for eight consecutive games.

-The Avalanche leads the NHL with 481 blocked shots.

-Iginla has 597 career goals.

-The referees are (No. 16) Brian Pochmara and (No. 17) Frederick L'Ecuyer. The linesmen are (No. 17) Tim Nowak and (No. 56) Mark Wheler.

(Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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West Virginia played the most Power 5 teams of any Big 12 school in BCS era

Written by Craig Meyer on .

(Photo: Getty)

The Big 12 made news yesterday when it announced that it will require its member schools to play at least one non-conference game per year against a program from a Power Five conference, which includes the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-12, along with independent Notre Dame.

In addition to that move, the conference will require that its teams cannot play more than one game annually against a non-FBS opponent. These requirements do not impact existing contracts.

“Schedule strength is a key component in CFP Selection Committee deliberations,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “This move will strengthen the resumes for all Big 12 teams. Coupled with the nine-game full round robin conference schedule our teams play, it will not only benefit the teams at the top of our standings each season, but will impact the overall strength of the conference.”

The move was largely praised by the general college football public and properly dissected by writers like David Ubben over at Sports on Earth.

Since it was announced, the Big 12's decision has been popularly dubbed as the Baylor Rule, referencing the Bears' propensity of late to avoid a challenging non-conference schedule.

But in a conference that has enacted such a measure, how do other schools compare? Specifically, for the purpose of this blog, where does West Virginia stand?

I took a look at the number of Power Five opponents that Big 12 schools have played since the start of the BCS era (1998), as well as the number of FCS opponents they played in that same time. To clarify, I'm only counting schools that were Power Five (or BCS, with the old Big East) or FCS schools at the time the game was played. This also only includes schools currently in the Big 12 and only takes into account non-bowl games through this season (so no future contracts).

 Big 12 Power 5

West Virginia, as it's noted above, has played the most power conference opponents of any Big 12 school since 1998, but here are a few other notes that didn't make its way into the chart.

  • Maryland accounted for 15 of West Virginia's 32 power conference games.
  • Iowa accounted for all but two of Iowa State's 20 power conference games.
  • TCU was an interesting case study. Unlike all of its Big 12 counterparts, it was not in a major conference for all, or even much, of this time span. It bounced around from the WAC to Conference USA to the Mountain West before ultimately finding a home in the Big 12. Because of that, I thought the Horned Frogs would be way lower down the list of power conference opponents through little fault of their own, especially since larger schools can be hesitant to schedule strong non-BCS teams. That certainly wasn't the case, as they finished second among Big 12 teams.
  • Baylor has not had a Power Five opponent in its non-conference schedule since 2009. In that same time, the Bears have played six FCS schools.
  • Texas Tech had no major conference opponents on its non-conference schedule from 2004 to 2013.

The Big 12's policy, as Bowlsby mentioned in his prepared statement, is meant to make sure its teams are enhancing their College Football Playoff resumes as much as possible after the league was left out of last season's inaugural CFP. If programs weren't willing to make their schedules more difficult on their own, then the conference made sure to do that work for them.

There are obviously ways around such a measure -- you could just schedule the Vanderbilts and Purdues of the world -- but schools like Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas clearly haven't tested themselves much from a scheduling standpoint the past 15-20 years.

West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons told me in June that his ideal three-game non-conference schedule would include two Power Five teams and one Group of Five school. They're clearly committed to making a formidable non-conference schedule and, as the numbers indicate, they have been for some time, well before Lyons or Dana Holgorsen ever resided in Morgantown.

There are a number of reasons why the Big 12 is now requiring what it is. West Virginia isn't one of them.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Yinzer Fest: A wild eulogy to Pub Punk!

Written by Scott Mervis on .

YinzerFestThe 31st Street Pub closed in September with abrupt speed and a hastily organized farewell, but now comes something of a Pub parting gift in the form of “Yinzer Fest.”


The double-DVD package, shot and released by the Canadian-based Punk Rick’s Videos, captures the Pub scene (not to mention the very essence of rock ’n’ roll) in its gnarly, breakneck, bare-knuckled glory with sets by Bottle Rat, The Cheats, Legendary Hucklebucks, Photo Joe & The Negatives, Scratch N Sniffs, Thundervest and Volcano Dogs.


Loud, wild and dimly lit, it will be launched with a free DVD Release Party from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Sinners and Saints Tattoo, 252 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside.


Punk Rick, who is Rick Scullion of Hamilton, Ontario, was indoctrinated in the Pittsburgh scene a decade when he visited the city and became friends with Todd Porter of The Cheats, who gave him an open invitation to crash at his place.


“Since 9/11, not many bands come up to Canada anymore, because it's so much of a hassle to get across the border, so I come down to the U.S. to see the bands I like,” Scullion says. “I would come to Pittsburgh to see bands like Sloppy Seconds, the Meatmen, ANTiSEEN, the Dwarves, etc. And at every show there would be these amazing Pittsburgh bands opening up. I was blown away by how good they all were. And the hospitality shown by all the people I met was incredible. I was made to feel like a part of the family.”


He also became friends with Pub owner Joel Greenfield, and he says, “When the Pub went up for sale a couple years ago, I knew I needed to document the scene that revolved around it. Beside documenting the Pub scene, it was a way of saying thank you to all the people of Pittsburgh. Also, I wanted to show the people of Pittsburgh that they have a really great scene going on.”


Seven of the city’s crustiest punk bands were invited to Yinzer Fest -- which a crowd member jokingly refers to as “Yinzer Fat” -- and Scullion treated it with his first multi-camera shoot.


“It's punk rock 'n' roll all the way. I even left the red shades on the Pub's lights, when someone said I should take them off so the lighting would be better. But I wanted it to be exactly as the Pub looked every night. So you might have to adjust the color on your TV when you watch it!”


With the Pub now joining the Electric Banana, the Decade and Graffiti in Pittsburgh club heaven, he says the DVD “is really as much a tribute to the 31st Street Pub as it is about the bands.”


The party will have beer, food, prizes and music from DJ Todd Cheat. You can pick up the $10 DVD at the party, the bands’ shows, various stores (probably on the South Side) and at



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Report: Zappala to run for state attorney general

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala speaks with reporters in 2014. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)

Longtime Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala will seek the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania attorney general in 2016, Politics PA reports .

Mr. Zappala has served as the county's district attorney since 1998. Politics...

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