Pregame thoughts - Penguins at Lightning - 02-05-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-If you didn't see it, the Penguins and Flyers are working out details on playing an outdoor game (or two) in the near future. Really, it's surprising it hasn't happened already. Given how each television market is strong for the NHL and the white-hot rivalry between the two, it's a natural fit for the television event which outdoor games have become.


-Center Oskar Sundqvist is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. He will become the fourth member of the Penguins' 2012 draft class to reach the NHL. He will join defenseman Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and goaltender Matt Murray. For a team which has had trouble drafting and developing talent the past decade, this is quite a reversal of fortune.


-The bottom two lines will look like the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Kevin Porter will center left wingers Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson while Sundqvist will center right winger Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust based on warmups


The last time the Penguins played the Lightning, Tampa Bay center Vladislav Namestnikov went off for a hat trick, including an overtime goal, in a 5-4 home win.

It marked the seventh time a player completed a hat trick with an overtime goal against the Penguins:

Date Game Scorer Penguins
Jan. 18, 1984 Jets 5, Penguins 4 Paul MacLean, LW Michiel Dion
Dec. 23, 1990 Islanders 4, Penguins 3 Pat Flatley Frank Pietrangelo
March 5, 1994 Penguins 5, Capitals 4 Randy Burridge Tom Barrasso
Feb. 8, 1997 Red Wings 6, Penguins 5 Brendan Shanahan, LW Patrick Lalime
Jan. 3, 1998 Avalanche 5, Penguins 4 Valeri Kamensky, LW Petr Skudra
Dec. 9, 2003 Canucks 4, Penguins 3 Markus Naslund Marc-Andre Fleury
Jan. 15, 2016 Lightning 5, Penguins 4 Vladislav Namestnikov, C Marc-Andre Fleury

(Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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About the Lightning - 02-05-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Lightning.

When and where: 7:30 p.m., EST, Ice Palace Arena St. Pete Times Forum Tampa Bay Times Forum Amalie Arena.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), Sun Sports (Tampa market), NHL Network (Rest of the United States).

Record: 28-18-4, 60 points. The Lightning is in second place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Right winger Nikita Kucherov (right), 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists).

Last Game: 3-1 home win against the Red Wings Wednesday. Kucherov had a goal and an assist for the Lightning.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-4 overtime home win Jan. 15. Center Vladislav Namestnikov had a hat trick for the Lightning.

Lightning Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Namestnikov. Just because.

Ex-Penguins on the Lightning: Assistant coach Brad Lauer.

Ex-Lightning on the Penguins: Head coach Mike Sullivan, assistant coach Rick Tocchet.

Useless Lightning Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Namestnikov is one of four Lightning players who have scored overtime goals against the Penguins. The others are centersVincent Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal and left winger Shawn Burr.

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (20-11-5, 2.36 GAA, .922 SV%) for the Penguins. Ben Bishop (20-14-3, 1.99 GAA, .927 SV%) for the Lightning.

Injuries: For the Penguins, center Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed) is out. Right winger Beau Bennett (right shoulder), Pascal Dupuis (blood clots), centers Nick Bonino (hand), Eric Fehr ("lower body") and defenseman David Warsofsky (concussion) are on injured reserve. For the Lightning, right winger Joel Vermin (hand) is on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins had an optional morning skate today. Consider this a guess at their lines and pairings: 

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 72 Patric Hornqvist
61 Carl Hagelin - 7 Matt Cullen - 81 Phil Kessel
34 Tom Kuhnhackl - 11 Kevin Porter 17 Bryan Rust
43 Conor Sheary - 40 Oskar Sundqvist 23 Scott Wilson

58 Kris Letang - 3 Olli Maatta
Trevor Daley - 8 Brian Dumoulin 
12 Ben Lovejoy - 51 Derrick Pouliot

-The Lightning had an optional morning skate. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he will have the same lineup as Wednesday game. That lineup was:

18 Ondrej Palat - 90 Vladislav Namestnikov - 91 Steven Stamkos
86 Alex Killorn - 9 Tyler Johnson - 86 Nikita Kucherov
23 J.T. Brown - 51 Valtteri Filppula - 24 Ryan Callahan
13 Cedric Paquette - 11 Brian Boyle - 22 Erik Condra

77 Victor Hedman - 6 Anton Stralman
5 Jason Garrison - 62 Andrej Sustr
89 Nikita Nesterov - 55 Braydon Coburn


-Center Oskar Sundqvist is expected to make his NHL debut.

-Left winger Chris Kunitz has 299 career assists.

-Center Sidney Crosby has 898 career points.

-Defenseman Jason Garrison has 99 career assists.

-Lightning center Steven Stamkos has 297 career assists.

-The referees are (No. 5) Chris Rooney and (No. 48) Garrett Rank. The linesmen are (No. 77) Tim Nowark and (No. 98) John Grandt.

(Photo: Mike Carlson/Getty Images)


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Empty Netter Assists - Malkin out; Sundqvist recalled - 02-05-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Center Evgeni Malkin will miss the next two games due to a "lower-body" injury.

-The Penguins recalled center Oskar Sundqvist (abovefrom Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. To make room for Sundqvist, center Eric Fehr (lower body) was placed on injured reserve. Sundqvist, 21, has appeared in 39 AHL games this season and has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists). 

-EN Says: With Malkin, Fehr and center Nick Bonino each injured, the Penguins only have three healthy forwards who can play center in Sidney Crosby, Matt Cullen and Kevin Porter. With AHL all-star Dominik Simon injured, Sundqvist is the next man up. Sundqvist is a big body (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) who plays an honest hard game. He won't light the lamp a great deal but he's not afraid to mix things up physically. 

-Head coach Mike Sullivan speaks:

-Crosby speaks:

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Matt Murray is expected to return to the lineup Friday after missing two games due to a "lower-body" injury.

-Happy 40th birthday to former Penguins center Jan Hrdina. A fifth-round pick in 1995, Hrdina spent parts of five seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1998-99, he appeared in all 82 games and scored 42 points. During that spring's postseason, he saw action in 14 games and scored five points. He followed that up in 1999-2000 by playing in 70 games and collecting 46 points. In nine postseason games that spring he scored 12 points. During much of 2000-01, he centered a line with right winger Jaromir Jagr and center Mario Lemieux and scored 43 points in 79 games. In the 2001 postseason, he appeared in 18 games and contributed seven points. Hrdina played in 79 games in 2001-02 and set career highs in goals (24) and points (57) while leading the team with six game-winning goals. After 57 games and 39 points in 2002-03, Hrdina was traded to the Coyotes along with defenseman Francois Leroux in exchange for left wingers Ramzi Abid, Guillaume Lefebvre and defenseman Dan Focht. In 366 career regular season games, Hrdina scored 227 points, 36th-most in franchise history. In 40 postseason games, he scored 24 points.

Happy 71st birthday to former Penguins defenseman Jean-Guy Lagace. Originally acquired earlier in the 1968-69 season in a deal which sent defenseman Larry Hillman to the Canadiens, Lagace spent parts of four seasons over two separate stints with the team. He finished that season by playing in 17 games for the Penguins and recording one assist. After spending all of 1969-70 with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Baltimore, he was claimed by the North Stars in an intra-league draft in the 1970 offseason. Midway through the 1970-71 season, he was re-acquired from the Sabres in a deal which sent Terry Ball to Buffalo. He finished that season by playing in 31 games for the Penguins and scoring six points. The 1973-74 campaign saw him play in 31 games and score eight points. After 27 games and nine points in 1974-75, Lagace was traded to the Kansas City Scouts along with goaltender Denis Herron in exchange for goaltender Michel Plasse. In 106 games with the Penguins, he scored 24 points.

-Happy 35th birthday to former Penguins center Kris Beech (right). Acquired in the 2001 offseason along with center Michal Sivek and defenseman Ross Lupaschuk in one of the biggest trades in franchise history which sent right winger Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Franticek Kucera to the Capitals, Beech spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins over two separate stints. In 2001-02, Beech appeared in a career-high 79 games and scored 25 points. He followed that up in 2002-03 by playing in 12 games and recording one assist. During 2003-04, he was limited to four games and one assist. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Beech was traded to the Predators in exchange for a draft pick. He returned to the Penguins midway through 2007-08 when he was claimed off waivers from the Capitals and appeared in five games while failing to record a point. In the 2008 offseason, he joined HV71 of the Elitserien in Sweden. He currently plays for the Belfast Giants in the United Kingdom's EIHL. In 100 games with the Penguins, he scored 27 points.

-After the Jump: More history for Jaromir Jagr.

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Rapid Reaction: Robert Morris 60, Central Connecticut 65

Written by Megan Ryan on .

Another wild night on the Robert Morris beat. The big news, of course, is Elijah Minnie. Toole said the sophomore forward "probably won't be back. At all." Just a glance at the stat sheet shows what a big blow that's going to be. But if Toole's explanation of Minnie's removal is anything to go by (read the whole thing on my Twitter), it might be a good move in the long haul. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Turning Point: When Khalen Cumberlander made a layup to put the game back into a two-possession lead for CCSU with about a minute left to play. That was kind of it.

Game ball: Isaiah Still. The past two games when Robert Morris has needed big second halves, the freshman guard has provided just that. It was 23 points in the second half against Saint Francis, and he ended with a game-high 19 points as well as seven rebounds tonight.

What it means: Well. Losing to one of the worst teams in Division I at home is kind of :/ right? It's not good. But even with just seven games left in the conference season, this could be a turning point (I feel like I say this in every rapid reaction). You know, Minnie is gone, which Toole seemed to think would benefit his team. Matty McConnell has emerged as the leader despite being a freshman. Still has come on. Maybe all these things colliding means a change is a comin'.

What's next: Bryant on Saturday. Bryant is also 4-7 (7-17 overall). *insert another shrug emoticon*

Random shoutout: The CCSU player with the glasses. I think it was No. 3, Mustafa Jones. (I'm sorry, the postgame shenanigans made me forget). Anyway, great glasses. Also, fantastic name. Close to The Lion King, so I'm a fan.

All right, thanks, folks. Here's my Twitter, as always. See you Saturday.

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Robert Morris loses a player and a game, dropping 65-60 to Central Connecticut

Written by Megan Ryan on .


Elijah Minnie wasn’t present during warmups or on the bench in Robert Morris’ 65-60 loss to Central Connecticut on Thursday at the Sewall Center.

And the Colonials will have to get used to that absence.

The sophomore forward, a consistent starter and the team’s second leading scorer with about 12 points and seven rebounds per game, "probably won't be back at all," coach Andy Toole said postgame.

“This is a place that I have great respect for,” Toole said. “This is a program that, through a lot of guys’ blood, sweat and tears, we have become a successful program. And I’m not going to let people that don’t value this program be a part of it.

“If you don’t want to work, if you don’t want to be a part of the program, if you don’t want to be about what this program stands for, you can’t be here. It’s not about you,” Toole said. “In the short term, it probably shortens our bench a little bit. But I think we’ll be much better in the long term because of it.”

The Colonials (6-18, 4-7 Northeast Conference) struggled against one of the worst teams in Division I in Central Connecticut (3-19, 2-9) without Minnie and junior point guard Kavon Stewart, who sat out one game for violating team rules.

Robert Morris yet again dug a double-digit hole in the first half, trailing by as many as 23 points. And while the Colonials made a valiant second half comeback effort — improving their shooting from 25 percent to 47 percent from the field and 12 percent to 25 percent from the 3-point line — it wasn’t enough.

“A team that’s 1-9 coming into the game, not that we’re basing it off their record, but it’s really hard to let them get up 16 in the first half. It was probably even more than that,” freshman guard Matty McConnell said. “I feel like if we hadn’t gotten down … that game would have been different. But there’s a lot of what ifs.”

McConnell and fellow freshman guard Isaiah Still seemed to be the only Robert Morris players on the court consistently giving their all. Still scored game-high 19 points as well as seven rebounds while McConnell ended with 13 points, eight assists and five steals.

Beyond the stat sheet, McConnell has seemed to take on the on-court leadership role, as he gathers the team into huddles and talks to the group. He also continued playing after his problematic left shoulder dislocated twice during the game.

Toole called McConnell a true competitor and said he needs to build around players like that to return the program to what a defending NEC champion should look like.

“[McConnell is] trying to make a difference because he’s not comfortable in the environment or the situation of looking at your record and seeing 6-18,” Toole said. “He’s trying to change it. So the only thing he’s thinking about is how we can win. … We need more guys with that kind of mentality.”

With seven games left in the season, the Colonials are tied for eighth in the 10-team conference. But winning, or even just making, the conference tournament might come secondary to rehabilitating the program as a whole.

“We’ll get it back to where it needs to be,” Toole said.

Megan Ryan: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-263-1722 and Twitter @theothermegryan.


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