About the Red Wings - 03-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Red Wings.

When and where: 7:30 p.m. EDT. Joe Louis Arena.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), Fox Sports Detroit (Detroit market), NHL Network (rest of the United States).

Record: 31-24-13, 75 points. The Red Wings are in fifth place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Henrik Zetterberg, 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 home win against the Maple Leafs, Tuesday. Gustav Nyquist scored two goals for the Red Wings.

Last Game against the Penguins: 4-1 home loss, Dec. 14. Jonas Gustavsson made 21 saves for the Red Wings.

Red Wings Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Daniel Alfredsson (above). He has 65 points in 65 career games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Red Wings: Mikael Samuelsson, RW; Tyler Wright, director of amateur scouting.

Ex-Red Wings on the Penguins: Chris Conner, LW; Don Waddell, professional scout; Warren Young, amateur scout.

Useless Red Wings Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Detroit's Jimmy Howard has played 275 career games, second most of any goaltender selected in the 2003 draft. The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury has the most with 521.

Best Red Wings Video We Could Find: The Red Wings are polite hosts ... to a point:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (34-15-3, 2.34 GAA, .916 SV%) for the Penguins and Jimmy Howard (15-16-10, 2.62 GAA, .912 SV%) for the Red Wings.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right wingers Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (foot), Pascal Dupuis (knee), defensemen Kris Letang (stroke), Paul Martin (hand) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Red Wings, goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) is probable. Centers Joakim Andersson (foot), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Darren Helm (concussion), right wingers Daniel Cleary (knee), Tomas Jurco (ribs) and left winger Justin Abdelkader (leg), are out. Right winger Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), center Stephen Weiss (hernia) and left winger Henrik Zetterberg (back) are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: According to the team's Web site, the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 22 Lee Stempniak
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass - 57 Marcel Goc - 46 Joe Vitale
49 Brian Gibbons - 16 Brandon Sutter - 27 Craig Adams

44 Brook Orpik - 2 Matt Niskanen
3 Olli Maatta - 4 Rob Scuderi
47 Simon Despres - 41 Robert Bortuzzo

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

93 Johan Franzen - 17 David Legwand - 11 Daniel Alfredsson
21 Tomas Tatar - 15 Riley Sheahan - 14 Gustav Nyquist
20 Drew Miller - 41 Luke Glendening - 44 Todd Bertuzzi
29 Landon Ferraro - 25 Cory Emmerton - 56 Teemu Pulkkinen

55 Niklas Kronwall - 2 Brendan Smith
27 Kyle Quincey - 65 Danny DeKeyser
23 Brian Lashoff - 4 Jakub Kindl


-The last time the Penguins played the Red Wings, this happened:

-Neal has 399 career games.

-Adams has 99 career assists.

-Kindl has 199 career games.

-Miller has 98 career points.

-Our live blog, direct from our couch, begins at approximately 7:15 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Photobucket)

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Empty Netter Assists - 03-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-The Penguins' Olympians are benefiting from down time.

-Don't expect to see Deryk Engelland (above) at forward down the stretch.

-Lee Stempniak has filled a variety of roles during his time in the NHL.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Zach Sill returned to practice for the first time since suffering a skate blade cut on his arm Jan. 25.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed defenseman Barry Goers to an AHL contract for the remainder of the season.

-Happy 29th birthday to former Penguins forward Ryan Stone. A second-round pick in 2003, Stone spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2007-08, he played in six games and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 2008-09 by seeing action in two games and failing to net a point. During the 2009 offseason, Stone joined the Oilers as a free agent.

-Happy 60th birthday to former Penguins forward Charlie Simmer (right). Far more renown for his days as an all-star with the Kings and the "Triple Crown Line," Simmer was claimed by the Penguins off waivers from the Bruins prior to the 1987-88 season. He appeared in 50 games for the Penguins that season and recorded 28 points. The following season, he joined Eintracht Frankfurt in West Germany. At the time of his retirement as a professional player in 1992, he was the last active California Golden Seal and NHL Cleveland Baron. Formerly married to 1981 Playmate of the Year Terri Welles, Simmer currently works as a broadcaster for the Flames.

-Today would've been the 72nd birthday of former Penguins defenseman Bill Speer. A member of the first Penguins team in 1967-68, Speer spent the first two seasons of his NHL career in Pittsburgh. As a rookie in 1967-68, he saw action in 68 games and scored 16 points. He followed that up in 1968-69 by playing in 34 games and scoring five points. During the 1969 off season, he was selected by the Bruins in an intra-league draft. In 102 games with the Penguins, Speer recorded 21 points. He was killed in a snowmobile accident in 1989 at the age of 47.

-After the Jump: The Blackhawks win but lose Patrick Kane to injury.

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Stempniak has filled a variety of roles in NHL career - 03-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The first round of 2003 draft featured plenty of players who eventually became franchise players or all-stars such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf and Eric Staal. It also had plenty of serviceable players such as Brent Burns and Brian Boyle.

It also had Hugh Jessiman who logged all of two NHL games in his career and by even the most generous assessments, ended up being a bust as the No. 12 overall pick by the Rangers.

Chances are, if Jessiman, who at 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds was nicknamed "Huge Specimen," had not drawn so many attention for his considerable physical attributes, Lee Stempniak might not have been drafted No. 148 overall in the fifth round by the Blues.

In the decade since being selected No. 148 overall in the fifth round of the 2003 draft, Stempniak has filled a variety of roles for the Blues, Maple Leafs, Coyotes and Flames before joining the Penguins at the trade deadline earlier this month.

Recently, Stempniak who scored his first goal for the Penguins last night, recounted how he got to the NHL thanks to a little help from Jessiman as well as his own journey through the league:

At what point did potentially becoming an NHL player become a reality for you?

"I played tier two junior hockey I got on the Central Scouting watching list a little bit but nothing really happened. I was recruited by a couple of schools but Dartmouth was the one came after me the hardest. I went to visit there. Had the opportunity to play a lot as a freshman and fell in love with the school. I loved every bit of four of my years there. It was great. My sophomore year, I was playing on a line with [future Rangers first-round draft pick] Hugh Jessiman. Everyone [scouts] was coming to watch him play. We were playing on the same line and I finished with a few more than him. He was going to be a first-round pick and I think that’s sort of when it went from a dream to a realistic thing to strive for. I ended up being drafted the summer after my sophomore year by St. Louis. I was really dedicated to hockey and wanted it but at that point, it sort of transitioned into a plan to get there. I decided to stay a couple of summers at Dartmouth so I could work out with the strength coach there. I could get bigger and stronger and worked on my game a lot after practice. I’d say that the year I went from being every kid dreaming of the NHL to a tangible thing to work towards."

So did you benefit from being Jessiman's linemate in that scouts also got to see you?

"Yeah, I think so. We had 20 NHL teams almost every game watching him. We played on the same team and he was a great player there. I sort of benefitted from people coming to watch him. [Former Blues executive] Jarmo Kekäläinen who is the Columbus GM now, he took a flyer on me in the fifth round."

What were the steps between being drafted and turning professional?

"I played the last two years of college. My senior year was the [2004-05 NHL] lockout. After I graduated, I just worked out like crazy that summer and skated a lot. I actually skated with Brooks Orpik quite a bit and some other guys in the NHL and started to get a feel for what it was going to be like. Started asking a lot of questions about training camp. Went into [the 2006] training camp and played pretty well. Ended up sticking around. Played three or four games right out of training camp then got send down to Peoria. Got sent up and down. I was up quite a bit. I mean, it was pretty surreal. I went to training camp. I knew two guys. I didn’t know anything. I had no expectations. In my mind, I just didn’t want to end up in Alaska where the [ECHL] team was. I think part of it was not knowing anyone and not giving the veteran players too much respect. I just tried to out and play my game. Played hard and respected their skill but if you went into a corner with them, you had to go and get the puck from them or win those 50-50 puck battles. I guess I caught the coaches’ eye. I think I was the beneficiary of a situation where they just put in the salary cap and they traded Pavol Demitra so there were a couple openings at forward."

You had your best season in terms of production in 2006-07 when you scored 27 goals while playing on a line with David Backes and Jay McClement.

"I played a lot with them but I played a lot with [forward] Keith Tkachuk too when lines got mixed up or we were down by a goal. I sort of played myself into playing on the point on the power play. When [head coach] Andy Murray came in that was one of the first things was put me on the point on the power play so I got to shoot a lot. It was a good year. I got a lot of opportunities. I feel like I didn’t get a ton of scoring opportunities but when I got them, they were pretty quality chances and I was able to put them in. I wasn’t a volume shooter by any means. I’d get one shot or two shots a game and they both might go in or one might go in. Then I might not get a shot the next game then get a couple the next game. So it wasn’t like I was consistently getting four, five shots a game. I was getting the puck in good spots."

Early in 2008-09, you were traded for the first time in your career to Toronto. What was that like?

"It was a complete shock to me. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I signed a three-year deal the year before coming off that year in 2006-07. I was shocked. I had never been through it. I thought everything was going really well. I think when I got traded, I had 13 points in 14 games with St. Louis. It really felt like I was sort of coming into my own. It was a shock. It was a huge adjustment going to Toronto on a lot of levels. I had never been traded. I think I was a little bit shy, a little bit timid going to a new team and not jumping in right away. That’s something I’ve learned looking back on it, if you’re on a new team you just got to jump in and play your game and really believe in your ability and that the reason the team got you is they like the way you play. Do things to your strengths and help the team that way. It was a huge shock. It sort of put the business side of it into reality for me where things change in a hurry and it’s really a job."

What worked or didn't work for you in with the Maple Leafs?

"The first year, I really struggled after the trade. I couldn’t really get anything going. The next year, I actually thought I played pretty well. I came to training camp, had a pretty good training camp. I played a lot. Started killing penalties. I was playing the point on the power play. I think there, I started to round down my game where I was playing harder minutes against the [opponent’s] top lines. I’d say a third line, checking role. Played a lot against team’s top lines and developed more of a feel for the both end of the rinks there."

The next stop in your career was with the Coyotes after a trade in 2009-10. You spent parts of two seasons there.

"That was a great change for me. That was an opportunity to go to the team that was winning. I went there and played really well after the trade. I played on a line with Taylor Pyatt and Vernon Fiddler a lot. We had a lot of success, scored a lot of goals. Played a little bit with Matt Lombardi and Wojtek Wolski. It was good. That was the first time I was in the playoffs was that year. I came from Toronto where things weren’t going that well. Dave [Tippett] is a great coach in terms of the details of the game and the way he plays to his team’s strengths. We played a really sound, defensive game and as a result were able to get a lot of chances in transition and a lot of scoring opportunities off the forecheck. It was good to play there."

You were traded to the Flames in the 2011 offseason and spent parts of the last three seasons in Calgary before being traded to the Penguins.

"It was good. The last two years especially under Bob Hartley, I played a lot. Had a big role on the team. Learned a lot of the finer details of the game from Bob. He used a lot of video as the coaches do here and a lot of the practices were detail-oriented. Where to put your stick. How to angle a guy. Little things. Positioning that made me a lot better player. It’s helped me defensively. It’s helped me in position in the offensive zone. Going to the front of the net. I learned a lot there. The last year, I played in a bit of a checking role with Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross and we played against other team’s top lines. We had a lot of success as a line."

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Dale MacMillan/Getty Images and Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

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Empty Netter Assists - 03-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. Welcome back Chris Kunitz (above, with Sidney Crosby).

-The Dallas Morning News' recap. “We had our opportunities, had our chances, myself included. It’s just about bearing down, playing a full 60 [minutes]. There were times in the game when we were skating and competing with them, but it wasn’t for the three periods tonight.” - Stars forward Tyler Seguin.

-The Associated Press' recap. "We wanted to make sure we went out there and played hard. It's a desperate team we're playing and hopefully we can build that same emotion, same intensity we had tonight and carry it over to the rest of the season." - Crosby.


-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-Brandon Sutter being popular:

-Dallas' Kari Lehtonen stretched out for this puck:

-A good look at Crosby beating Lehtonen and former teammate Sergei Gonchar:

-A good look at Lee Stempniak beating Lehtonen and Dallas' Brenden Dillon:

-Crosby speaks:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Jeff Zatkoff speaks:

-Kunitz speaks:

-Jayson Megna was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Harry Zolnierczyk is dealing with a suspected "upper-body" injury.

-How did Peter Mannino become the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' No. 1 goaltender after being suspended?

-Happy 44th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Janne Laukkanen (right). Acquired at the 2000 trade deadline along with Ron Tugnutt in a deal that sent Tom Barrasso to the Senators, Laukkanen spent parts of four seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1999-2000 by playing in 11 games for the Penguins and scoring eight points. In 11 postseason games that spring, he netted six points. He followed that up in 2000-01 by appearing in 50 games and recording 20 points. During the 2001 postseason, he saw action in 18 games and scored four points. In 2001-02, he played in 47 games and netted 13 points. After 17 games ans even points in 2002-03, he was dealt to the Rangers prior to the trade dealine along with Mike Wilson, Alex Kovalev and Dan LaCouture in exchange for Joel Bouchard, Richard Lintner, Rico Fata and Mikael Samuelsson. In 125 regular season games with the Penguins, Laukkanen scored 48 points. In 29 postseason games, he recorded 10 points.

-Happy 28th birthday to former Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen. A free agent signing in 2009, Thiessen has spent parts of one season at the NHL level with the Penguins. In 2011-12, he appeared in five games, had a 3-1-0 record with a 3.72 goals against average and .858 save percentage. He is currently a member of the AHL's Norfolk Admirals.

-After the Jump: The Bruins increase their winning streak to 10 games.

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Six WPIAL boys and girls teams advance ..... PIAA semifinal highlights

Written by Mike White on .

The WPIAL had at least one team in all eight PIAA semifinal games in the western region. Six WPIAL teams won and will play in state championship games Friday and Saturday in Hershey. Here are some highlights from tonight:


New Castle 56, Abington 54 - The Red Hurricanes win another close one in the 50s (they beat Hampton, 57-55, in the quarterfinals). Malik Hooker made a few huge defensive plays that saved New Castle. The Red Hurricanes blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter. Abington had grabbed a 54-53 lead when Hooker made a steal and fed Stew Allen for a layup that gave New Castle a 54-53 lead with 32 seconds left.

Malik HookerThen Hooker (pictured) blocked a shot with 19 seconds left. But he wasn't finished yet. The Ohio State football recruit took a charge with 10 seconds left on Abington's Matt Penecale. The shot by Penecale went in, but it didn't count because of the charge.

New Castle's Anthony Richards made two free throws with 10 seconds left to put the Red Hurricanes ahead by three. Abington missed a 3-pointer, Drew Allen rebounded for New Castle and made one free throw with 0.6 second left to clinch the win.

Hooker finished with 15 points and Drew Allen 11. Marcus Lee led Abington with 20.

New Castle is now 30-0.

Susquehanna Township 42, Central Valley 31: This Class AAA game had to be painful to watch for a half. Susquehanna Township led, 11-10, at halftime. Central Valley slowed the pace and took only seven shots in the first half. Things opened up some in the second half. Susquehanna Township took control of the game by outscoring Central Valley, 11-4, in the third quarter. Jacob St. George scored 18 points for Central Valley. Nehemiah Mack had 14 and Gabe Mack 10 for Central Valley.

Seton-LaSalle 46, Greensburg Central Catholic 44 - Seton-LaSalle made 5 of 36 shots in the first and third quarters, but played excellent defense in the second and fourth quarters to pull out the win. Seton-LaSalle trailed by 10 after the first quarter and then fell behind by 12 in the third quarter. But Seton-LaSalle held Grensburg Central without a field goal in the fourth quarter.

Levi Masua had 17 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots for Seton-LaSalle. Late in the game, Seton-LaSalle's Malik White missed a breakaway layup and Greensburg Central Catholic rebounded and called a timeout with 34 seconds left. Seton-LaSalle led, 46-44. GCC's Christian Hyland missed a 3-pointer, but GCC rebounded and got the ball to Brian Graytok, the team's leading scorer. He missed a 3-pointer over the 6-6 outstretched Masua and Seton-LaSalle rebounded. Christian DelGreco missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2 seconds left, and Graytok's shot from beyond half court had a chance but it bounced off the rim.

Lincoln Park 70, Bishop Carroll 28 - Another playoff game. Another blowout win for Lincoln Park. Bishop Carroll came into this game with an undefeated record but the team was no match for Lincoln Park. Maverick Rowan had 32 points and Elijah Minnie 10 for Lincoln Park. The Leopards led 39-13 at halftime.


Spring-Ford 47, North Allegheny 32 -  Spring-Ford's defense had been superb this season, holding opponents to 35 points a game. The team's defense was excellent again for the defending state champions.

Of course, it certainly didn't help North Allegheny that it had to play without starting point guard Abby Gonzales, who did not play because of an injury. Without her, North Allegheny's offense struggled.

"Abby usually plays 32 minutes for us, so when she's not out there, it certainly does have an effect," said North Allegheny coach Sherri McConnell.

Devvin LaBarge had 16 points for North Allegheny.

Blackhawk 49, Palmyra 41 - Blackhawk got 15 points from Chassidy Omogrosso and 11 from Courtney Vannoy to win this Class AAA game. The Cougars broke open a close game with an 11-2 run to end the first half and held off a late Palmyra charge.

Seton-LaSalle 48, Burrell 37 - Burrell lost only two games this season - both to Seton-LaSalle. The first was in the WPIAL final. This one came in the PIAA semifinals. Yacine Diop scored 20 for Seton-LaSalle. Nice game also for Cassidy Walsh with 16. Sydney Bordonaro with 17 for Burrell.

It will be a boy-girl party in Hershey for Seton-LaSalle.

Vincentian 60, Bishop Guilfoyle 45 - Wow. What a performance from Vincentian's Brenna Wise. She scores 38 points and grabs 10 rebounds to lead Vincentian. The Royals came back from a 34-28 halftime deficit to post the win and earn a second consecutive championship appearance. Vincentian lost in last year's title game.

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