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Shorthanded Colonials find a way again, defeat Wagner

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Yet again, it was a numerical mismatch for Robert Morris, something that will be a reality for the indefinite future.

Just like they did Thursday in a rout of Sacred Heart, the Colonials dressed only eight players against Wagner Saturday in the wake of suspensions and other roster moves.

And at certain points it showed. There was a moment when 6-foot point guard Anthony Myers-Pate had to defend 6-foot-7 Mario Moody and later had to post up on offense against 6-foot-11 Naofall Folahan. Against one of the longest, deepest teams in the Northeast Conference, there were extended stretches where Robert Morris’ second-tallest player on the court was 6-foot-3 Charles Oliver.

But despite of that – the lack of size, the lack of depth and playing against a markedly better opponent than the one two days prior – it again found a way to win.

Karvel Anderson scored a game-high 21 points, leading a group of four teammates that scored in double figures, as the Colonials (11-10, 6-0 Northeast Conference) held on to defeat Wagner, 74-70, at the Sewall Center.

After the game, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole spoke at length about gods, the kind that exert control over a basketball game by rewarding those that play the right way. With his team shorthanded again, it got some help when it needed it.

“I’m not the most religious person, but I believe in the basketball gods and they might have been with us on that occasion because of the effort and the respect our guys gave over a 40-minute period,” Toole said. “Everybody was on the floor, everybody was making plays, everybody was together, everybody was cheering for each other and sometimes when you do those things, the ball bounces your way.”

In particular, Toole was making reference to the game’s final point, when Colonials forward Aaron Tate -- a 35.7 percent free throw shooter -- had a free throw bounce off the rim and nearly off the top of the backboard before going in the basket to give his team a four-point lead with five seconds remaining.

Robert Morris trailed by five with 11 minutes remaining, but they went on a 12-2 run to take a 61-55 lead. The Seahawks (9-10, 3-3) would remain close for the rest of the game, trailing by only a single point in the final minute. 

But freshman point guard Kavon Stewart made all four of his free throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to help keep his team’s cushion intact before Tate ultimately put the game away.

Though Robert Morris was without six of its players, some of them were watching from the stands and still providing support.

To their active teammates, their presence was felt.

“Those are still our brothers,” Anderson said. “Whatever happened, happened. It takes nothing away from what we’ve been through the whole year and the preseason. They’re still family no matter what.”

Robert Morris’ 6-0 start in NEC play is the best in program history and the victory also marks the first time it has been over .500 since Nov. 22. Myers-Pate added 12 points while Stewart and Lucky Jones had 10 apiece.

The Colonials players know that the past two games may be indicative of what faces them for the rest of the season. But if those wins were any barometer for what’s to come, they’re fine what the numbers they have.

“Coming into this game, we continued to tell ourselves that we have a lot fight in us,” Jones said. “Even though people keep doubting us, we’re still going to get the job done.”

 

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

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Penguins at Stars - 01-25-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

-Jaromir Jagr. Teemu Selanne. Martin Brodeur. Daniel Alfredsson.

-All of those players we listed are sure-fire first ballot Hockey Hall of Famers who are still contributing to their respective teams at a fairly high level. Anytime they step on to a rink, well-deserved adulation is heaped upon them. It's a treat to watch legendary players such as this and it should never be taken for granted.

-That brings us to Stars forward Ray Whitney. He's a bit of a longshot to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. He's only been an all-star twice in his season. And unlike the four players we listed above, he's not exactly identifiable to any one franchise. Whitney has spent time with the Sharks, Oilers, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Hurricanes, Coyotes and Stars. With an exception of a brief stint with the Red Wings, he hasn't exactly been a part of some high profile teams such as Jagr, Selanne, Brodeur and Alfredsson. Whitney might be one of the most anonymous 1,000-point scorers in NHL history.

-Regardless of his lack of star power (pardon the pun), the fact that Whitney is still playing in the NHL after more than two decades - he played on the original Sharks team in 1991-92 - and he's still a contributor should not be diminished. Whitney has found a way to stick in the NHL by being smarter than most players on the rink.

-A few years ago, after Whitney, as a member of the Hurricanes, racked up a few more points against the Penguins (he has 48 in 44 career games against them), we asked then Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice what makes him such a strong player. We don't have the exact quote in front of us at the moment, but Maurice said Whitney sees the ice and slows down the game the same way Ron Francis used to. That's remarkably high praise, especially with regards to that organization.

-Whitney has slowed down a bit in the past two seasons. Injuries and age (41) have limited him a bit. But we wouldn't put it past him to rack up at least an assist tonight against a team he has long tormented.

-This might be one of the last few times you get to watch Whitney. Please appreciate it.

-Based on the morning skate, it appears Jayson Megna has earned a promotion to the third line right wing. Tanner Glass has moved down to the left wing on the fourth line in place of Deryk Engelland. Additionally, Andrew Ebbett is expected to center the fourth line.

-Megna seemed to show a little spark Thursday against the Islanders, especially wit hthat one rush up the left wing in the third period which led to a nice save by New York's Kevin Poulin.

-We're a little surprised Deryk Engelland will be scratched. The Stars have a few physical elements in their lineup in the form of Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt who aren't afraid to initiate physical play.

-Ebbett showed a little chemistry on the third line earlier this season with Brandon Sutter and Chris Conner. We're not quite sure how he'll fit into the fourth line.

-The Stars have a pretty healthy offense. That said, it's kind of top heavy. A heavy portion of their offense is produced from their top line which is composed of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin. They have  a few nice offensive defnsemen in former Penguins Alex Goligoski and Sergei Gonchar. Additionally, Whitney and Erik Cole can still offer an occasional goal, but this team's offense begins and ends with that first line.

-Long-time EN Reader xxxx sent in a few photos from American Airlines Arena. Martin Straka has a fan on hand:

-Evgeni Malkin Mettalurg Magnitogorsk:

-Penn State:

-The Stars are trying to cash in embrace in the "invading" fans:

-Former Stars Jaromir Jagr and Mike Modano:

-Sidney Crosby Rimouski Oceanic:

-One-time Crosby nemesis Derian Hatcher:

-Selanne Jets:

-Crosby for the upcoming outdoor game:

-Steve Hanson:

-Gonchar:

-Brooks Orpik Team USA:

-Jersey of the Night: Somewhere deep in the heart of Texas, there is a Ville Niemenen fan:

-The Penguins' starters are Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland and Brian Gibbons who is apparently no longer on injured reserve.

-The Stars' starters are  Jamie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin, Tyler Seguin, Jordie Benn, Brenden Dillon and Kari Lehtonen.

-Their scratch is Kevin Connauton.

FIRST PERIOD

18:28: Off a chip and chase by Kobasew up the right wing, Crosby tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right

18:04: Working with some space off the left wing, Megna rips a wrister which Aaron Rome deflects out of play with a stick-on-puck.

15:55: Roussel fires a shot from the right wing which Fleury steers away.

15:46: Crosby challenges Trevor Daley down the slot but Daley fends him off and separate him from the puck. Great positional play.

15:15: Garbutt whacks a slapper from the right half wall which Rob Scuderi blocks.

13:54: Dan Bylsma busts out the bingo ball roller early as he has Ebbett line up for a faceoff with Crosby and Kunitz.

13:50: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Jordie Benn snaps off a wrister from the left point wide on the near side.

13:16: Nichushkin pushes the puck up the left wing and lifts a wrister which catches Fleury int he mask.

13:05: Neal slams Gonchar to the ice with a big hit in the Stars' right wing corner.

11:41: The Penguins will get the first power play with a weak penalty call. Dillon hit Ebbett to the ice near the Dallas right wing boards. Dillon is called for elbowing. All he did was hit Ebbett's shoulder with his elbow. What a terrible call. Malkin, Neal, Kris Letang, Crosby and Chris Kunitz take the ice.

11:37: Off a set faceoff play, Malkin whacks a one-timer from above the left cicle. Lehtonen gloves it.

11:11: A wrister by Neal in the slot is blocked by Roussel.

11:06: A wrister by Neal in the left circle is smothered by

10:40: Taking a pass above the left circle, Letang grips and rips a wrister wide of the cage.

10:20: Short-handed, Rich Peverly steals a pass by Fleury in the neutral zone, challenges Letang off the left wing and rips a heavy wrister wide on the near side.

9:55: Brandon Sutter chucks a wrister from the right circle. Lehtonen gobbles it up.

9:08: Seguin rips a low wrister from the right circle. Fleury boots it out.

8:34: Vernon Fiddler rips a wrister from the left circle. Fleury boot sit out.

8:27: Jordie Benn chucks a wrister from the left point. Fleury kicks it out.

8:19: Battling for a puck in the left wing corner of Dallas' zone, Megna is slammed to the ice by Jordie Benn.

7:43: Off a neutral zone turnover by Letang, Garbutt leads a partial two-on-rush against Maatta with Roussel. Off the right wing, Garbutt forces a pass to Roussel. Maatta reads it all the way and pokes it away. Great stick-on-puck by Maatta. Letang owes him a beer.

6:23: Off an offensive zone turnover by Kunitz, Seguin taps a one-timer from a bad angle on the left wing. Fleury boots it out.

6:12: Maatta is called for holding Daley in front of the Penguins' net. Craig Adams, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Sutter take the ice.

6:10: Off a set faceoff  play, Sgeuin rips a wrister from the slot. Adams blocks it.

4:58: Fire. Ray. Shero. Whitney rushes up the right wing, gains the offensive zone and gains the offensive zone. He sneaks a pass to Gonchar at the high slot. Gonchar settles the puck and blasts a slapper through traffic by the glove hand of Fleury. Gonchar can still find those shooting lanes. Whitney and Lehtonen get assists. Between Gonchar (39), Whitney (41) and Lehtonen (30), there was 110 years of old men in that goal. Stars 1-0.

4:35: Battling for position, Fiddler lifts a backhander from the slot. Fleury knocks it dead and covers to freeze play.

3:43: Seguin lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury makes a save but allows a rebound. Megna, on with Crosby and Kunitz, skate sit out of danger.

3:07: Jordie Benn whacks a slapper from the right point which deflects wide.

1:49: Battling for a puck at the Dallas' blue line on the right wing, Rome rattles Kobasew with a high hit.

1:35: Glass rattles Gonchar with a hit into the end boards behind the Dallas net.

1:09: Cole races up the right wing and strokes a wrister which is blocked by Martin.

0:00: End of period. Stars 1, Penguins 0.

FIRST INTERMISSION

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-That was a pretty quick opening period. Both teams skated. There was a fair amount of hitting as well.

-We would give the Stars a slight advantage in terms of the overall quality of play. They controlled the puck a bit more in the Penguins' zone.

-The Penguins mixed and match their first line a few times. In terms of five-on-five play, they had Malkin line up on a faceoff with Crosby and Kunitz four times. Ebbett, Kobasew and Megna lined up with Crosby once.

-Fleury seemed to be rattled a tad by all the action near his cage.

-The Stars lead in shots on net, 10-4.

-The Stars lead in attempted shots, 22-12.

-Fiddler and Nichushkin each lead the game with two shots.

-Goligoski leads the game with 8:51 of ice time.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-Martin leads the Penguins with 7:45.

-The Stars lead the game with in faceoffs, 12-5 (71 percent).

-Cody Eakin is 5 for 5 (100 percent).

-Crosby is 3 for 9 (33 percent).

-Adams and Garbutt each lead the game with two blocked shots.

SECOND PERIOD

19:25: Nichuskin lifts a half slapper from the blue line on net. Fleury eats it up.

19:20: Eakin lifts a wrister fromt he high slot.

19:11: Kobasew saisl a wrister from the right wing on net wide of the cage.

18:46: After Garbutt bumps Crosby into the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone, Letang tries to give Garbutt some payback and slams him into the right wing boards. Garbutt holds his face. Letang is called for roughing. Adams, Glass, Martin and Orpik take the ice.

18:02: Goligoski flings a wrister from the right point. Fleury eats it up.

17:21: Off a cross-ice feed by Gonchar, Eakin blasts a one-timer from the right circle. Fleury fights it off.

16:46: The Stars cash in on the power play again. Just as Letang's minor expires, Seguin deals a pass from above the right circle to Goligoski at the left point. Goligoski drags the puck towards the slot and snaps off a pass to Benn low in the right circle. Benn lifts a wrister by the glove hand of a sliding Fleury on the near side to make it a 2-0 game. Officially, it counts as a power play goal. Goligoski and Seguin get assists. Stars 2-0.

15:39: Taylor Pyatt blocks a wrister by Gonchar at the right point.

14:42: The Stars are all over the Penguins. Seguin controls the puck on the left wing and off the nea rpost.

14:25: Whitney lifts a wrister from the slot off the right post. Yikes.

14:19: After an icing call, Bylsma calls a timeout to get a breather and to get his team refocused. They are get outskated by a wide margin right now.

14:11: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Rome and Eakin each get chances in tight. Fleury holds them out despite having the world crash around him.

13:23: Off a drop pass by Glass, Ebbett whacks a slapper from the right point. Lehtonen makes an easy save. According to Root Sports broadcaster Bob Errey, Scuderi went to the dressing room. A replay on a recent scrum near the net showed the skate of Roussel making contact with Scuderi's right arm.

11:17: Kobasew tries to steela  shot on net from the right wing but loses control of the puck. Lehtonen steers it away.

9:59: Glass smacks Jordie Benn with a solid hit into the left wing corner. of the Dallas zone.

9:40: Defense leads to offense. Malkin leads a rush up the right wing and has the puck stolen by Horcoff on a nice backcheck. Horcoff deals a cross-ice pass to Peverly on the right wing. Peverly some space to work with against Orpik and lifts a wrister which blows by the glove hand of Fleury on the near side. This is getting ugly. Orpik allowed Peverly a little too much space. That said, Fleury needs to make that save. Hocroff gets the only assist. What a play by him. Stars 3-0.

8:18: The hole gets a little deeper for the Penguins as Kunitz clips Garbutt on the right wing wall

8:12: Seguin whacks a slapper from the left point wide on the near side.

7:51: A wrister by Seguin from the left wing is battled off by Fleury.

6:18: The Kunitz minor is killed with relatively little threat from the Stars. The Penguins needed that badly.

5:30: Scuderi is back on the ice.

5:10: Letang rips a wrister from the left circle. Lehtonen snags it.

5:07: Off a set faceoff play in the right circle, Neal rips a wrister off the outside of the far post.

3:07: Alex Chiasson smacks Kobasew with a good hit into the right wing boards.

2:02: Glass slams Jamie Benn behind the Penguins' net.

1:44: Seguin rips a wrister from the right wing. Fleury boots it out. He chases after the rebound in the left wing corner. Glass smacks Seguin with a solid hit into the left wing corner boards. Seguin holds his face afterward.

1:37: Malkin leads a rush up ice on the right wing, fends off Jordie Benn and flips a backhander on net.

0:45: The Penguins get a late chance to get on the scoreboard. Dillon is called for tripping. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal and Letang take the ice.

0:36: Crosby lifts a shot from the right dot. Lehtonen snags it.

0:00: End of period. Stars 3, Penguins 0.

SECOND INTERMISSION

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-What was that? The Penguins nearly got skated off the ice that period. They barely touched the Stars' end of the ice.

-This game really got physical that period. The hitting was pretty intense for each side. So intense, Tanner Glass made this face:

-This is the type of game Engelland would be comfortable in.

-Fleury has been bombarded but he needs to be better.

-The Stars second goal was officially changed to an even-strength goal. But for all intents and purposes, it was a power-play goal.

-The Stars lead in shots, 22-12.

-The Stars lead the game in attempted shots, 45-24.

-For what its worth, before tonight the Stars had allowed 31.6 shots on net per game, seventh most in the NHL.

-Eakin leads the game with four shots.

-Crosby, Kobasew and Neal each lead the game with two shots.

-Goligoski leads the game with 17:24 of ice time.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-Martin leads the Penguins with 15:04.

-The Stars lead in faceoffs 28-15 (65 percent).

-Roussel is 9 for 13 (69 percent).

-Crosby is 10 for 21 (48 percent).

-Scuderi leads the game with three blocked shots.

-Garbutt leads the Stars with two blocked shots.

THIRD PERIOD

20:00: he Penguins will start the period with 1:15 of power-play time on fresh ice. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal and Letang take the ice.

19:38: Kunitz races up the left wing and whips a low wrister on net. Lehtonen eats it up.

19:03: Crosby has a clean look in the right circle and forces a cross-ice pass to Neal which is broken up.

18;45: The Dillon minor is killed.

18:28: Benn dodges Sutter and Jokine in the right circle, chips the puck to the

18:14: Benn rips a wrister from above the right circle which Fleury fights off.

17:13: Kobasew snaps off a swirster from the right of the cage which Lehotnen fights off.

16:42: Glass is on with Kunitz and Crosby. He earned that after a stron shift late.

16:22: Chiasson and Glass race for a puck on the left wing boards of the Penguins' zone. Glass absolutely levels him into the boards. Chiasson is shaken up. A few Stars jump Glass. Horcoff is called for roughing. Malkin, Neal, Letang, Crosby and Kunitz take the ice.

16:10: The Penguins dodge one (or two) there. Shorthanded, Gabutt race up the right wing and dkes Makin out of his jock. He tries to sneak in a backhander which Fleury kicks out. Eakin follows it up and puts the rebound off the cross bar. The Penguins have been lucky with the iron tonight.

15:57: Prior to a neutral zone faceoff, Neal slashes Roussel. Roussel winces in pain and shoves Neal back. Both players get minors. Play will remain five on four. Jokinen takes Neal's place on the power play. That was an unnecessary play by Neal.

14:31: Letang whacks a slapper from the right point. Lehtonen snags it.

14:22: Horcoff's minor is killed.

12:30: Niskanen whacks a slapper from the right circle. Lehtonen eats it up despite traffic.

12:06: Maatta whacks a slapper from the right point. It hits a cluster of bodies in front.

11:58: Niskanen hammers a one-timer from the right point which is blocked.

11:53: Maatta pounds a nother slapper form the right point. Lehtonen kicks it out.

11:41: Niskanen smacks Garbutt into the Penguins' right wing corner boards with a big hit into the boards.

10:22: Letang has a wrister from the right point blocked in front.

10:02: A wrister by Pyatt from the left circle is blocked.

8:41: Battling for a puck behind the Dallas net, Eakin holds up Crosby. Tat's two minutes. Roussel and Kunitz wrestle to the ice afterwards. Eakin is given a holding minor. Letang, Jokinen, Neal, Malkin and Crosby take the ice. This is do or die for the Penguins.

8:15: Malkin whacks a wild one-timer from the right cirlce wide to the far side. It hits the corner boards and eds up clearing the zone.

7:51: Peverly rips a short-handed chance form the slot over the cage.

7:13: Niskanen wires a slapper from the right point through traffic on net. Lehtonen snags it.

6:44: Crosby whacks a slapper from the right circle. Lehtonen eats it up.

6:30: Neal chops a slapper from the right circle wide to the far side.

5:46: After Fleury hustles out of his net to prevent a chance for Garbutt, Roussel rips a wrister from the right wing wall. Fleury kicks it out despite being far out of his crease.

5:09: After an icing call, the Stars call timeout to get a breather.

4:37: Orpik whacks a slapper from the right poitn which is blocked.

4:29: Jokinen rips a wrister from the high slot which is blocked by Jordie Benn.

4:09: Nichuskin races up the right wing and flips a backhander on net which Fleury steers away.

3:10: Adams has a wrister from the right circle blocked by Rome.

0:43: A one-timer by Niskanen from the left point is kicked out by Lehtonen.

0:00: End of game. Stars 3, Penguins 0.

POSTGAME

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-That was a butt-kicking. Period. The Penguins didn't seem prepared for what the Stars had to offer tonight. The Stars outskated them and outhit them (earl on at least). By the time the Penguins realized what kind of game they were in, it was too late.

-The speed the Stars played with is what really seemed to be the difference. You rarely see the Penguins get blown away by the speed.

-The Stars also had an early edge on hitting. The Penguins didn't seem to be ready for how physical this game became. It wasn't until a few shifts late in the third period that the Penguins matched the physicality.

-You could make the case Tanner Glass was the Penguins' best forward. Good for Glass. Bad for the Penguins. He sparked a little momentum for them late int he second period with a few hits and they didn't follow up on it.

-Hindsight being 20-20, this is a game where Deryk Engelland could have served you better as a foward instead of Andrew Ebbett or Chuck Kobasew. He could have matched some of the physical play.

-That said about hindsight, it's not exactly a secret that the Stars like to play physical with the likes of Jamie Benn, Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel.

-We're not big into the "hit somebody" school of thought, but this is a game where the Penguins' lack of physicality up front was exposed.

-The Penguins' special teams were a bit letdown. This part of the Penguins' has been so steady all season long. Tonight, the power play was snuffed out and the penalty kill was shredded.

-Marc-Andre Fleury needed to be better, especially on the third goal, but he was under fire most of the game. He, with a little help from the posts, kept this game within reason.

-Like we said earlier, Glass was the Penguins' best forward, probably their best player overall. He created a little momentum by answering some of the Stars' physical players and he kept on hitting anything in green. He earned his time on the first line late in the game.

-We can't say we've watched too many Stars games from start to finish this season, but we're willing to say the Stars played their most complete game this season.

-Turnovers hurt the Penguins. As a team, they were sloppy with the puck.

-Sergei Gonchar showed what really separates him from a lot of other defensemen. His shot placement. He has an uncanny ability to find a shooting lane through traffic.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-Jamie Benn, Garbutt and Roussel took it to the Penguins physically most of the night. They set the tone for this game with their hitting.

-Lets face facts on the standings too. The Penguins have a big lead in the Eastern Conference. The Stars are battling to stay in the playoff race. One team was clearly hungrier.

-Oddly enough, the Stars didn't get much from their strong first line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichuskin in terms of five-on-five play. Seguin and Benn hooked up on a power play goal.

-The Stars did a great job of collapsing around their cage in the third period in order to prevent clean looks at the net for the Penguins.

-The Stars led in shots on net, 28-24.

-The Stars had a 55-54 edge in attempted shots.

-Sidney Crosby, Cody Eakin and Nichushkin each led the game with four shots.

-Goligoski led the game with 26:07 of ice time.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-Crosby led the Penguins with 23:57.

-The Stars had a 34-29 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).

-Eakin was 11 for 21 (52 percent).

-Crosby was 18 for 30 (60 percent).

-Rob Scuderi and Aaron Rome each led the game with three blocked shots.

-Ray Whitney now has 49 career points in 44 career games against the Penguins.

-The last Stars shutout against the Penguins was by Ed Belfour in a 0-0 tie (remember those?) in Dallas, March 22, 1998. Tom Barrasso was also credited with the shutout in that game.

-Matt Niskanen had a six-game scoring streak snapped.

-Gonchar's goal was his first game-winning goal against the Penguins in his career.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

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About the Stars - 01-25-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Stars.

When and where: 8 p.m. EST. American Airlines Arena.

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports Southwest.

Record: 23-20-8, 54 points. The Stars are in fifth place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Tyler Segin, 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists).

Last Game: 7-1 home win against the Maple Leafs, Thursday. Jamie Benn had a goal and three assists for the Stars.

Last Game against the Penguins: 4-3 home shootout loss, Feb. 29, 2012. Loui Eriksson recorded two assists for the Stars.

Stars Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Ray Whitney. He has 48 points in 44 career games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Stars: Alex Goligoski (above), D; Sergei Gonchar, D; Jiri Hrdina, amateur scout; Mark Recchi, advisor to hockey operations.

Ex-Stars/North Stars on the Penguins: Jason Botterill, assistant general manager; Chris Conner, RW; Bill Guerin, player development coach; Jussi Jokinen, LW; Matt Niskanen, D; James Neal, LW; Warren Young, amateur scout.

Useless Stars/North Stars Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Niskanen (2005) is one of six former Stars/North Stars first-round draft picks who have played for the Penguins. The others are defensemen Rick Jackman (1996), Bryan Maxwell (1975), Ron Meighan (1981), right winger Jarome Iginla (1995) and left winger Brenden Morrow (1997). A seventh, Botterill (1994), currently works in the Penguins' front office.

Best Stars/North Stars Video We Could Find: Former Penguins goaltender Gilles Meloche pitching for a local pizza joint while as a member of the North Stars:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (28-11-1, 2.30 GAA, .916 SV%) for the Penguins. Kari Lehtonen (19-14-8, 2.58 GAA, .916 SV%) for the Stars.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right wingers Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), centers Brian Gibbons ("lower body"), Joe Vitale ("upper body") and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Stars, defenseman Stephane Robidas (leg) is on injured reserve.

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

 14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 12 Chuck Kobasew
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
17 Taylor Pyatt - 16 Brandon Sutter - 59 Jayson Megna
15 Tanner Glass - 25 Andrew Ebbett - 27 Craig Adams

  Rob Scuderi - 58 Kris Letang
44
Brooks Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
 3 Olli Maatta - 2 Matt Niskanen

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

 

14 Jamie Benn - 91 Tyler Seguin - 43 Valeri Nichushkin
21 Antoine Roussel - 20 Cody Eakin - 16 Ryan Garbutt
72 Erik Cole - 38 Vernon Fiddler - 13 Ray Whitney
17 Rich Peverley - 10 Shawn Horcoff - 12 Alex Chiasson

33 Alex Goligoski - 6 Trevor Daley
4 Brenden Dillon - 24 Jordie Benn
27 Aaron Rome - 55 Sergei Gonchar

Notes:

-The last time the Penguins played the Stars, this happened:

-Kunitz has 197 career goals.

-The Stars assigned former Penguins left winger Dustin Jeffrey to Texas of the AHL.

-Our live blog, direct from our couch, begins at approximately 7:45 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Rob Rang on Aaron Donald's Senior Bowl and draft stock

Written by Sam Werner on .

In today's P-G, I wrote about Aaron Donald's big week down in Mobile, Ala., for the 2014 Senior Bowl (which airs today at 4 p.m. on NFL Network). Donald was named the Most Outstanding Overall Player from the week of practice, and almost certainly improved his positioning for May's NFL Draft.

For more on that subject, I caught up with Rob Rang from NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com. Here's what Rang had to say about Donald just over three months from draft day.

So Aaron Donald was pretty much the star of the show down at Senior Bowl practices, right?
RR: He really was. He was terrific. It's not anything that you guys hadn't seen. He's been unbelievable all year long and he just carried that through into that week of practice.

Was it beneficial for NFL scouts to see him going up against guys like Cyril RichardsonZack Martin and other guys who could be high draft picks?
RR: I believe it was. I think even against top competition that he faced this year, to have that many scouts in the stands and to see it snap after snap after snap, it's pretty hard to argue that he was a product of the defense or that his play doesn't translate into the NFL.

What was most impressive about Donald that scouts saw this week?
RR: Physically speaking, his quickness, his use of hands. He has, in my opinion, underrated strength at the point of attack. Even going back to Monday during the weigh-in, 6-1, 288 pounds, I think that he came in just a little bit bigger than people were thinking that he might. A lot of people have been kind of fusing he and Will Sutton from Arizona State, ranking them as 1A and 1B as far as the so-called undersized defensive tackles. To see Will Sutton come in a little out of shape, with kind of a belly and all that, then Aaron Donald, on the other hand, about as trim as a 288-pound man is going to look. But looking good, looking like that's the weight he should be at to play in the NFL, I think all those things.
The physical things are certainly impressive, but then just the relentlessness, I think, also definitely struck a chord with me.

How does he project onto an NFL defense? Does it have to be as a three-technique in a 4-3 scheme?
RR: That's where I believe he fits in best. I think you're trying to put a square peg in a round hole if you're going to use him in a 3-4. He has such great quickness and such relentlessness, that I believe that he could be successful in a 3-4, perhaps on the nose in pass-rushing situations, not necessarily as a full-down guy because he's just going to, I would think, get blown off the ball as the game wore on. But, as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense, an interior pass-rusher, in my opinion, there is not a better pass-rushing defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

Do you see him as a first-round pick?
RR: I absolutely believe it's a possibility. I've been putting him in that top 40-45 mix essentially since late October, early November. So I think that he just improved his status this week. That would be the one thing I want to make sure people realize is that this week just confirmed what we saw. The idea that he was a third- or fourth-round pick before and suddenly has sky-rocketed into the first round, that's a little bit of an exaggeration. He's had a phenomenal year and, again, this was kind of the exclamation point. He's proven his play all year long.

What NFL teams do you think make sense for Donald at this point?
RR: The Chicago Bears are a team that, at least, the belief is they're looking for a pass-rushing defensive tackle. Just given the quarterbacks in that division, that makes some sense. You've got to get some interior pressure on those quarterbacks. I would say the Chicago Bears. I would say, as you start to get to about the midpoint of the first round, anywhere past there, I think he makes sense for virtually all the 4-3 teams. To me, a good fit would actually be the two teams that are playing in the Super Bowl, just because they're both predicated on pressure on their defense, and they both have some needs on the interior defensive line for pressure. I think that he's one of those guys that, because he doesn't have great size, perhaps he slips into the late portion of the first round and then he goes to a team that's just stacked, and it helps him be that much more successful early in his career.

Thanks a ton to Rob for his insight. You can follow him on Twitter @RobRang and see his Big Board here.

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-25-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-James Neal (above) has fared fairly well since being traded from the Stars.

-Ditto Matt Niskanen.

-How much do the Penguins miss Pascal Dupuis?

-Long Island native Rob Scuderi has good memories of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

-“Looking back, I’m kind of glad we didn’t get to fight. Something could have happened to either of us, something unfortunate. It was a good job by the officials that it didn’t happen. It was nothing personal against Marc-André. I’ve only heard good things about him, that he’s a good guy. It all happened only because I was frustrated the way we were playing and the way things were going. Losing 5-1 on the road was tough to swallow.” - Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj on his near-fight with Marc-Andre Fleury Wednesday. Budaj also snuffed out the bogus reports he had martial arts training.

-Zach Sill scored the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Norfolk Admirals. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made six saves in and was credited with the loss.

-Highlights:

-Drouin-Deslauriers was given a game misconduct for attempting to fight Norfolk goaltender John Gibson, a native of Whitehall:

-Cody Sylvester scored two goals for the Wheeling Nailers in a 4-1 win against the Toledo Walleye. Jack MacLellan recorded two assists for Wheeling while teammate Mike Condon made 26 saves.

-After the Jump: Eric Nystrom scores four goals and loses while Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton get paid.

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