Players eager to get "bye weeks" - 11-20-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

With sagging television ratings and a lack of enthusiasm from players, the NHL has made some drastic changes to its All-Star Game format.

This season's game will feature a three-on-three tournament between teams comprised of players from the league's four divisions. Each game will be 20 minutes long and will feature at least one player from all 30 teams. Players from the winning divisional team will split a pot of $1 million.

In recent years, a traditional 60-minute regulation game was played between teams which were drafted from a pool of all-stars two days prior to the game. The change, which was worked out by the NHL and NHLPA, was necessary for a variety of reasons.

“The All-Star Game should generate maybe a little more ratings,” said Penguins center Nick Bonino, the team's representative to the NHLPA. I think [the league was] unhappy with the ratings. The skills competition got pretty good ones. They kept that. [The player draft] Friday night, they scrapped because no one really watched it. Same with the [traditional format of the] All-Star Game. So this maybe gives a little more awareness to three-on-three overtime format. Hopefully fans can see a little more skill and some wide open ice.”

The games often times amounted to little more than a game of shinny by the world's best players. There was little in the way of hard skating or physical play.

“I watched last year's [game],” said center Sidney Crosby. “It's tough. You can tell there's not a ton of intensity. You wouldn't really expect it to be in an All-Star Game. I think something to switch it up is probably not a bad idea.”

As a concession in changing the game, the NHL agreed to grant teams a five-day “bye-week” from next seasons' schedule. Teams will not play games for a period of at least five days and players will be excused from all team activities such as practices during that time span.

The NHL's bye weeks would be similar to the NFL's format which gives groups of teams bye weeks throughout the season.

“You see football, they have a bye week and they can kind of recover,” said Bonino. “We play a lot of games. Some teams coming right in before the All-Star break will get games right before then right after. I think some teams will get seven days. I think they just wanted to make a level playing field with rest there.”

ESPN first reported the deal which is still being ironed out.

“I don't know if it's been fully accepted yet,” Bonino said. “I know it's in talks with the league but all of it's on a one-year basis. So it's kind of a trial period to see how the All-Star Game goes, see how the bye week goes. If we do it, then we can negotiate from there.”

According to Bonino, the bye weeks are expected to take place in either January or February.

“I like that a lot,” said Crosby. “At the end of the day, you kind of get those breaks. We get those in October. We get a long period of time without games in October. I'm sure it will end up having to be maybe an extra back-to-back [set of games] because of that somewhere. But I think every team, to know you're going to get that, is a nice luxury to have.”

(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


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Comeau still limited by wrist - 11-20-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


In his one and only season with the Penguins, right winger Blake Comeau showed off some scoring touch by netting 16 goals in 61 games during 2014-15.

Were it not for a wrist injury which cost him 20 games, Comeau might have reached the 20-goal plateau and matched or even surpassed his career-best of 24.

Despite the injury, which he suffered two days prior to Christmas, Comeau was able to take advantage of his production with the Penguins and signed a three-year contract worth a total of $7.2 million with the the Avalanche this past offseason. 

Prior to last night's game at Consol Energy Center, Comeau talked about his wrist, his time with the Penguins and joining the Avalanche.


How is your wrist?

"It's still affects me to this day. I can't do push-ups. But I tape it up and go [play]. Just doing some heavy lifting this summer, you could feel it a little bit. I've got a plate that's going to be in there the rest of my life. So it's probably going to be affected for a while but I'm getting used to it. I don't really feel it too much when I'm on the ice."

What do you do to work around it?

"I did a lot of grip stuff this summer just trying to make sure I get that back. A lot of single-arm stuff where I had to hold some weights in my hand. Other than that basically it's just I think it's something I have to deal with. Maybe some arthritis down the road, who knows. It sucks but I can't say it's affected me too much right now."

There was quite a bit of change this past offseason with the Penguins, including yourself. Did you anticipate nearly half the roster would overturn?

"I think being in Pittsburgh, there's obviously high expectations. You want to win the Stanley Cup and I think anything less than that is a failure. That was a fun thing to be a part of as a player. As a player, you want to be somewhere where the organization wants to win. And I think losing out in the first round like we did, I think that was disappointing for everyone. Can't blame management and everyone else for making the changes. I enjoyed my time here. I was hoping I would be able to come back. We were talking a little bit. It just didn't work out. Like I said, I got a great opportunity to play here. I felt like I gained a lot of confidence from my year here last year and thankful for the opportunity I had."

You were able to produce while playing quite a bit on the second line with the Penguins. How much did that help in terms of the contract you got from the Avalanche?

"I feel like that was important. What was important to me was trying to some term. The last five deals were one-year deals. Not so much just for me. I got a family now. It's tough for your wife and kid to be bouncing around every year. So that was important. And I thought Colorado was a good fit. They've got a young, really good team. I think they were second most man-games lost last year and they still finished with 90 points. A lot of talent on this team. We've been playing better lately and hopefully we'll get going."

You mentioned the term of the deal. How vital is that for a player?

"It's nice. I was on a one-year deal in Columbus and I remember I tore my MCL up. Missed a couple months. That weighs on you. You want to be in the lineup. You want to prove you can be a player in the legaue. Once you get a little bit of stability, I feel like I can play... I think 'loose' is a good word but I'm not pressing as much. I'm a more confident player right now than I was two or three years ago. And a lot of that credit is last year. I felt like I proved to myself and everyone else that I could get back to the way I was [with the Islanders] and it was huge for me."

You only have one goal so far this season in 19 games. What isn't working with regards to your productivity?

"I've got to get my shot totals up. I think those are down quite a bit. It's obviously frustrating when we haven't won but I think me and Carl and Jarome have had some chemistry the last few games and if I'm not scoring, there's a lot of little things I'm doing. A big role on the penalty kill. Trying to play physical like I always do. I think if I get back to shooting more, the goals will start coming."

(Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Reaching across the aisle: Kansas

Written by Craig Meyer on .


West Virginia will play perhaps its most overmatched opponent since FCS Liberty when it takes the field Saturday against Kansas, which is one of two winless FBS teams at 0-10 and is playing about 20 guys below the FBS scholarship limit.

To find out a little more about the Jayhawks, I caught up via email with Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. You can find Rustin's work here and follow him on Twitter at @RustinDodd.

A lot has been made about Kansas' bizarre scholarship situation. For David Beaty and the Kansas team itself, what has been the most difficult aspect of it?

In short, depth. The Jayhawks are starting former walk-ons at some spots, and once you get beyond the starters and parts of the two-deep, you're getting down to former walk-ons, true freshmen and inexperienced players. At the moment, KU has around 64 scholarship players or so, and when you're that low, the usual attrition of injuries really takes a toll.

As you see it, and based on how this team has done lately, is the close loss to TCU an aberration or a sign that things are getting turned around?

I think it's a little of both. I think there are signs that David Beaty is laying a solid foundation -- the players continue to play hard, even during all the losing, he's continued to recruit, and he's instilling a solid culture. The defense, which is really inexperienced, has made strides as well. In that sense, the TCU result was a positive. But it was also sort of a fluky game. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin was injured early, and for whatever reason, KU has had TCU's number the last four years -- they've been competitive almost every year.

But is it a sign that Kansas will be competitive in these last two weeks against West Virginia? We'll see. The Jayhawks have such a slim margin for error, and their offense has struggled to score points. If they can back up the TCU performance with another solid outing against West Virginia, that could be more telling.

Fish Smithson is a name West Virginia fans are going to be hearing a lot come Saturday. How much of a revelation has he been this year and what exactly changed for him?

Smithson is really solid. He's not a tremendous athlete, but he's a smart football player and a sure-handed tackler. He was a junior college transfer last season, and he played quite a bit. But KU had a veteran secondary, so he never cracked the starting lineup. Fortunately for Kansas, he's a junior college player that had three years of eligibility remaining. So he'll be back at Kansas next season.

Ryan Willis wasn't the Jayhawks' starting QB at the beginning of the season, but, as a freshman, he's been thrust into that role. What kind of development have you noticed from him as the season has gone on?

Willis has perhaps been the biggest bright spot this season, and that might say as much about Kansas' recent quarterback play as it does about Willis. He was a top recruit -- a top-20 pro-style quarterback, according to Rivals -- and he has a big arm and solid accuracy. He's still learning the system and the finer points of playing quarterback at the college level. Sometimes, for instance, he holds onto the football too long, and he's had to play under heavy duress this season. But in the grand scheme, he looks like he could be answer moving forward at the position.


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

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Listen to podcast reviews of Hunger Games, Spotlight, Secret in Their Eyes

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Avalanche - 11-20-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “We just want to continue this momentum we’re building and really try to build our identity as a team.” - Captain/center Sidney Crosby.

-The Denver Post's recap. "We were in complete control of the game and bang-bang-bang, 3-1 for them." - Avalanche forward Matt Duchene on the Penguins scoring three goals in the second period.

-The Associated Press' recap. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is tied for the league lead with 10 wins.


-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-Right winger Phil Kessel (left), center Evgeni Malkin (center) and right winger Patric Hornqvist were popular:

-Malkin bailed out his teammates here:

-Head coach Mike Johnston (left) and assistant coach Rick Tocchet got a leg up on the Avalanche:

-A good look at left winger Chris Kunitz beating Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra and center Carl Soderberg for a goal:

-Fleury scooped up this puck:

-Avalanche coach Patrick Roy just wasn't feeling it:

-Duchene was popular:

-Berra was focused on this puck:

-Defenseman Olli Maatta's "upper-body" injury reunited Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi.

-Happy 58th birthday to former Penguins center Tom Roulston. Acquired midway through the 1983-84 season in a deal which sent right winger Kevin McClelland and a draft pick to the Oilers, Roulston spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1983-84 by appearing in 53 games for the Penguins and scoring 28 points. After spending all of 1985-86 with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Baltimore, Roulston saw action in five games in 1985-86 and failed to record a point. He was released in the 1986 offseason. In 58 games with the Penguins, he scored 28 points.

-After the Jump: Alex Ovechkin makes history. 

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