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Sights and sounds from Pitt's 12th spring practice

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt held its 12th spring practice of the Pat Narduzzi era this morning. The Panthers were outside for the first time this spring, and held a short scrimmage at the end of the session. The defense won the scrimmage for the second consecutive week, meaning they get to keep the blue jerseys for the remainder of spring camp.

Here's Narduzzi's post-practice media session...

And here are a few videos from today's practice...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 OK, now a few notes...

- Narduzzi said running back James Conner was held out of practice today as a precautionary measure. Sounds like Conner has gotten a little banged up over the last week, and Narduzzi doesn't want to take any risks. He did say Conner will be back for the spring game next weekend, but I also wouldn't be surprised if his role is somewhat limited to avoid any risk of injury.

- Wide receiver Dontez Ford missed practice today to deal with a personal matter, but he'll be back this week.

- As you can see in the video above, Narduzzi went out of his way after practice to speak about how impressed he was with the team's communication today. I think that's pretty telling, and pretty impressive, as the players are trying to learn a whole new system of terminology and verbiage this spring.

- It looked like Bam Bradley was back with the first team at linebacker today, ahead of Mike Caprara. That seems like a pretty fluid situation, though, and I'd expect them to go back and forth all the way up until August unless someone really seizes the job. Similarly, Tyrique Jarrett has passed K.K. Mosley-Smith on the depth chart at nose tackle. He was working with the first team next to Darryl Render.

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About the Sabres - 04-11-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Sabres.

When and where: 7 p.m, EST, Marine Midland Arena HSBC Arena First Niagara Center.

TV: Root Sports, MSG Buffalo, City.

Record: 23-50-8, 54 points. The Sabres are in last place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Center Tyler Ennis, 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Last Game: 4-2 road loss to the Blue Jackets last night. Right winger Brian Gionta had a goal and an assist for the Sabres.

Last Game against the Penguins: 6-1 home loss Nov. 8. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth made 33 saves for the Sabres.

Sabres Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Right winger Matt Moulson (right). Just because.

Ex-Penguins on the Sabres: Player development coach Randy Cunneyworth, goaltender Chad Johnston, Moulson (Johnson and Moulson were each Penguins prospect but never played for the franchise), head coach Ted Nolan, head coach, senior advisor Craig Patrick, assistant coach Bryan Trottier.

Ex-Sabres on the Penguins: Associate general manager Jason Botterill, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.

Useless Sabres Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov (25 points) was the second-leading scoring defenseman on the 2012-13 London Knights who won the OHL championship that season. He trailed only Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (36 points).

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (33-20-9, 2.36 GAA, .919 SV%) for the Penguins. Anders Lindback (6-15-2, 3.15 GAA, .907 SV%) for the Sabres.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defensemen Christian Ehrhoff ("upper body") and Derrick Pouliot ("upper body") are unlikely, Kris Letang (concussion) is out. Right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clot) and defenseman Olli Maatta (shoulder) are on injured reserve. For the Sabres, defenseman Andre Benoit ("upper body") is doubtful. Right winger Jerry D'Amigo (face), goaltender Chad Johnson ("lower body") and defenseman Mike Weber (sports hernia) are out. Centers Zemgus Girgensons ("lower body"), Cody McCormick (blood clot), defenseman Josh Gorges ("lower body") and left winger Evander Kane are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins did not hold a morning skate. These were their primary lines for last night's game against the Islanders:

26 Daniel Winnik - 87 Sidney Crosby - 72 Patric Hornqvist
14 Chris Kunitz - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 39 David Perron
19 Beau Bennett - 16 Brandon Sutter - 23 Steve Downie
13 Nick Nick Spaling - 40 Maxime Lapierre - 17 Blake Comeau
27 Craig Adams

The Penguins are expected to use five defensemen due to injuries and their salary cap. They will rotate:

7 Paul Martin - 12 Ben Lovejoy
28 Ian Cole - 4 Rob Scuderi
44 Taylor Chorney

-The Sabres' lines and defensive pairings against the Blue Jackets were:

26 Matt Moulson - 22 Johan Larsson - 63 Tyler Ennis
82 Marcus Foligno - 25 Mikhail Grigorenko - 12 Brian Gionta
19 Cody Hodgson - 84 Philip Varone - 20 Zac Dalpe
44 Nicholas Deslauriers - 37 Matt Ellis - 36 Patrick Kaleta

24 Tyson Strachan - 47 Zach Bogosian
41 Andrej Meszaros 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov - 5 Chad Ruhwedel

Notes:

-The Penguins' magic number to clinch a playoff berth is two points.

-Center Sidney Crosby has a 19-game scoring streak against the Sabres.

-The referees are Jean Hebert (No. 15) and Ian Walsh (No. 29). The linesmen are Brad Kovachik (No. 71) and Scott Cherrey (No. 50).

-We will not have a live blog but will have a postgame blog post.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Remembering Marc Marotta, a former Western Pa., and Central Catholic basketball star

Written by Mike White on .

A walk around Marc Marotta's home in Milwaukee told plenty about one of Mr. Marotta's passions.

"He just built a beautiful new home and I visited him there last year," said Pat Farrell, a friend of Marotta's since high school. "There was a full basketball court in it with a big Marquette logo on it."

Marquette University and basketball were a big part of Marotta's life. But only after he established himself as a terrific high school player in Western Pennsylvania.

Marotta, who starred at Pittsburgh Central Catholic and had a legendary playoff performance 35 years ago, died of a brain aneurysm Wednesday in Milwaukee. He was 52. Marotta has lived in Milwaukee since his playing days at Marquette (Marotta is pictured during his days at Marquette).

"He really made it big as far as a lawyer and in the business world, but he still loved basketball," said Farrell, who was a teammate of Marotta at Central Catholic. Farrell also was an excellent player who was recruited by many major colleges. Farrell went on to play at Duquesne University.

Marotta graduated from Central Catholic in 1980. At Marquette, he was a three-year starter and three-time academic All-American. A 6-foot-7 forward, Marotta scored 981 points and was a tri-captain as a senior. One of the others was Doc Rivers.

Marotta was selected in the ninth round of the NBA draft by the New York Knicks. But a knee injury and the desire to attend law school kept Marotta out of the pros.

Marotta attended Harvard Law School and eventually became a partner and business lawyer at Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee. Marotta also dabbled in politics. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1992. He also was secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration from 2003-05 under then-Gov. Jim Doyle. Until his death, Marotta was a highly-respected figure in Milwaukee and was the chairman of the board of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team.

But Marotta first made a name for himself in basketball at Central Catholic. Marotta grew up in Highland Park and was a three-year starter at Central Catholic, finishing with 1,634 points. He is one of only four Central Catholic players to score. As a senior, Marotta averaged 26 points and 18 rebounds and was selected to the Post-Gazette Fabulous Five all-star team along with Frank Dobbs of Allderdice, Hal Bentley of New Brighton, Dwight Collins of Beaver Falls and Cleveland "Shang" Bibbens of Brashear.

"Fifteen feet and in, he wasn't missing a shot," said Chuck Crummie, Central Catholic's current coach who was an assistant under Dan Pacella during Marotta's days.

Farrell said, "He had a great mid-range game. He also had enormously strong hands. That ball looked like a softball in his hands."

On Feb. 26, 1980, Marotta had a game for the ages. Central Catholic played Latrobe in a WPIAL Class AAA playoff game and Marotta torched Latrobe for 48 points. The point total is still the second-highest in more than 100 years of WPIAL playoff basketball.

"I got a lot of assists that night because I threw him a lot of those passes, and that ball wasn't coming back out when you threw it into him," Farrell said with a laugh. "I just remember, he could not miss. That was the best offensive game I have ever seen anybody have in a high school game."

Marotta's final list of colleges should tell you enough about his talent. He was heavily recruited before narrowing his choices to Marquette, Duquesne, Villanova and Southern California.

But those who know him said one of Marotta's best qualities was his attitude and persona.

"You would never knew he was the big jock on the walk," said Crummie. "He was never a braggart even though he was heavily recruited. He was one of those guys who had a presence about him, but wasn't seeking the limelight. He was a good guy first who just happened to be a good basketball player."

Marotta's death hit home with me. He's the same age as me. We graduated high school the same year. Back in 1975, I attended the Pitt basketball camp, run by then coach Tim Grgurich. Marotta and I were both heading into eighth grade (Marotta at Sacred Heart), but Marotta was so big and talented, he played in the division with the high-school age kids. But in camp contests, he played against 7th and 8th graders. I was lucky enough to make it to the finals of the one-and-one tournament. I was unlucky enough to meet Marotta in the championship. He crushed me.

But you want to hear something else crazy. The kid I beat in the semifinals of the one-on-one tournament was Mike McCarthy, who attended St. Rosalia. Yep, the same Mike McCarthy who is the Green Bay Packers coach.

But back to Marotta. When he would come back to Pittsburgh to visit family, he and Farrell would usually get together. When they were in high school, Farrell said he introduced Marotta to golf. Farrell said he took Marotta golfing the first time - to fabled Oakmont, where Farrell's family belong.

"He really became a big golfer and was pretty good at it," said Farrell. "He had a client who belonged to Augusta. He always said he would take me to Augusta someday. 

"The type of kid he was, he used to sometimes help me study for tests in our locker room. When I visited him in Milwaukee last year, he would get up at 5:30 and work out. He was in great shape and really took care of himself. That's why this is hard. ... With the family he had, the success he had and the way he lived, he was just a wonderful human being."

Marotta is survived by his wife, Kim, and four children – Karley, Chloe, Cameron and McKenna. Visitation will be Monday at 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee, followed by a funeral mass.

 

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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Islanders - 04-11-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Post-Gazette's recap on last night's game. “There’s one game left. And we have to win it.” - Nick Spaling.

-Newsday's recap. "We talked about it before we went out there, that this was a playoff game, a game you have to win." - Islanders defenseman Brian Strait on his team clinching third place in the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division.

-The Associated Press' recap. ''Tomorrow is a [heck] of a game and everybody is excited. Live or die. Can't wait.'' - Patric Hornqvist on tonight's game with the Sabres.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lange's goal calls call.

-A good look at Rob Scuderi's goal:

-The Penguins are looking everywhere for answers these days:

-Mike Johnston has resorted to flashing gang signs:

-We think.

-Marc-Andre Fleury was all over this puck:

-Ditto Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak:

-Happy times for Islanders forward Casey Cizikas:

-Islanders coach  Jack Capuano go up close and personal in teaching a lesson to forward Michael Grabner:

-Sidney Crosby fended off Islanders defneseman Johnny Boychuk here:

-Johnston speaks:

-Crosby speaks:

-Evgeni Malkin speaks:

-Hornqvist speaks:

 

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Conor Sheary is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing eight games due to a "lower-body" injury.

-Goaltender Franky Palazzes made 18 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 3-1 win against the Elimra Jackals.

 

-Highlights:

-Happy 64th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Ron Jones. Claimed from the Bruins in the 1973 intra-league draft, Jones appeared in 25 games for the 1973-74 Penguins and recorded three assists. Midway through the 1974-75 season, he was traded to the Capitals in exchange for Pete Laframboise.

-After the Jump: The Sabres clinch!

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Islanders at Penguins - 04-11-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Sidney Crosby was smiling.

The rest of his teammates displayed a series of of emotions ranging from downcast to exhaustion to frustration as they filed into their dressing room to speak with reporters. Some put on a brave face while offering explanations as to why they lost to the Islanders, 3-1, tonight at Consol Energy Center. Others spoke with a hollow stare while discussing the immense gravity tomorrow's game in Buffalo carries in regards to their playoff hopes.

One player slammed his skates into his bag with frustration. Others got out of their gear as quickly as possible in order to get to a shower. It wasn't a happy room for obvious reason.

But the Penguins' captain smiled. Sneered actually.

After his media availability, a reporter casually said, "Got to ramp it up tomorrow."

Crosby responded, "Oh yeah. That's why we play 82."

The reporter noted, "They [the Sabres] lost tonight, if that matters."

Crosby retorted, "No. It doesn't matter who we play."

---

A cliched answer and a friendly expression will have no impact on the Penguins' fortunes Saturday against a dreadful Sabres team. Their problems lie in execution and not so much in motivation. They realize what is at stake. They're clearly frustrated. They've lost five consecutive games as their playoff hopes slip away. They keep making the opposing goaltenders they face look like Vezina winners. They're skating with a limited lineup due to injuries and mismanagement of their salary cap.

They aren't in a good place.

But they're in a better place than the Bruins. Despite this hideous slide down the standings at the end of the regular season, the Penguins are still in a playoff position. As crazy as this is, even if the Penguins lose tomorrow, they can still get in if the Bruins lose. The Penguins still control their own destiny, to borrow a tired cliche, and their captain fully realizes it.

---

Crosby can't be the only one though. The Penguins need more from the rest of this lineup. They need Paul Martin's greatest game. They need Evgeni Malkin to fight through whatever ailment he's dealing with. They need Chris Kunitz for score a goal when he has a point-blank chance. They need Ben Lovejoy to regain his shattered confidence. They need Steve Downie to not take dumb penalties. They need Nick Spaling, Blake Comeau, Brandon Sutter, Maxim Lapierre and Beau Bennett to do something. They need Marc-Andre Fleury to keep being their best player.

They need all of that and more against the Zac Dalpe-led Sabres who secured last place overall in the NHL tonight with a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jackets.

Patric Hornqvist echoed Crosby's thoughts:

 

“That's why we play 82 games. To see who is the best team is after that. Tomorrow is a hell of a game. Everybody is excited. It's to live or die. Can't wait. “

 

Saturday's game certainly seems like an automatic two points for the Penguins. But the only thing which has been automatic for them as of late as been the losing.

---

Tonight's game was the latest example of that. The Penguins followed a familiar script albeit with some different results in the first period. They launched an aggressive attack on the Islanders in the first period which resulted in a 17-5 lead in shots on net. They even appeared to to take a 1-0 lead on a would-be power-play goal by Patric Hornqvist at 12:08 of the first period. Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak fell to his left and smothered the puck as it danced on the goal line. Officials didn't appear to make any ruling on the ice and consulted replay officials who decreed there wasn't enough evidence to overturn their apparent "no-goal" call on the ice:

Hornqvist described the play:

"I just tried to get it over the line. On the replay, you see the puck on the right side of the crossbar but obviously the crossbar is further back than the goal line. They've got the best cameras in the league so I trust them but I thought it was in. Tough bounce. They've got the best cameras."

That seemed like a fair call from our vantage point.

---

All of eight seconds later, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead when Cal Clutterbuck zipped a breakout pass from his own right wing corner to Casey Cizikas in the neutral zone. Malkin, working the point on the power play, stumbled in trying to defend it and Cizikas blew by a flat-footed Paul Martin to create a breakaway. He attacked the goal and lifted a wrister over the glove hand of Fleury.

---

It was the 11th short-handed goal allowed by the Penguins this season. Only the hopeless Maple Leafs (12) have allowed more.

Martin was asked why this team had so many issues with allowing short-handed goals.

“For guys we have on the power play, we usually only play one [defenseman] out there. So it's up to the [defenseman] to play defense when you have four forwards usually not used to coming back or skating backwards. Then the forwards we have are very aggressive. When they're on the sides there of having to come back and sometimes, the puck bounces out and they're in bad position."

When this team was clicking at over 40 percent on the power play at the start of the season, the four-forward/one defenseman gamble was worth it, especially when Kris Letang was that defneseman. But given the sputtering output of the power play, this team is simply taking too big of a chance with this alignment.

That said, given the ongoing shortage of able-bodied defensemen, they simply don't have the luxury of using four defensemen on the power play.

---

Things looked pretty bleak most of the second period as the Penguins kept launching shots at Halak and he kept spitting it back out just like he did with the Canadiens in their 2010 postseason upset of the Penguins. Then came a goal from a completely unlikely source.

Rob Scuderi.

After Crosby just dominated the puck in the offensive zone, Martin chucked a wrister from the center point wide to the right of the net. It hit off the end boards and Crosby beat former teammate Tyler Kennedy to the puck and forced it into the crease. The puck slid under Halak's blocker and through to the left circle. Scuderi pinched down from the left point and chipped the puck by Halak's right pad with 5.7 seconds left in the period.

It was Scuderi's first goal since the season-opening game of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with the Kings. And it was his 100th career point. It came at a huge time.

---

Whatever momentum the Penguins took into the third period was quickly snuffed out 2:46 into the period. Former Penguins defneseman Brian Strait whacked a slapper from the left point. Islanders forward Kyle Okposo was positioned in the slot and re-directed the puck on net. Fleury kicked it out his his left leg but allowed a rebound to the right of the cage. Center John Tavares, of all people, was standing there and plunked in the easy rebound goal to take the lead for good.

---

The Penguins kept firing a steady streak of shots on Halak but never truly challenged him after Tavares' goal.

---

The Islanders secured the win with 3:40 left in regulation when forward Michael Grabner raced up the left wing, blew by a flat-footed Ian Cole and whistled a sick wrister by Fleury's glove hand on the far side.

---

-Back to Halak, he looked like the guy who shut down the Penguins' offense in the 2010 playoffs. He didn't steal goals all that much but he just seemed to be in the right position nearly every time a puck was on net. He just seemed to be in total control all game.

-Crosby and Hornqvist once again drove much of the Penguins' offense. Crosby was strong down low with the puck and Hornqvist was a buzzsaw around the New York crease.

-Daniel Winnik gave an honest albeit ineffective effort on the left wing of that line.

-The team's second line generated a few scoring chances thanks to an improved effort by David Perron who may have been energized by a chance to play on Malkin's wing. He had a few creative plays including one pass in the first period which set up Kunitz for a point blank shot in the left circle. But as has been the case with Kunitz much of this season, his shots simply don't go in.

-The third line was just... there. Sutter and Bennett had one nice play with a criss-cross which led to a decent chance for Sutter in the right circle during the third period. But beyond that, nada.

-Steve Downie's main impact on the game came in the form of a low hit against Thomas Hickey behind the Islanders' net late in the second period. Hickey went to play a fanned shot behind his cage and got up ice then Downie led with his hip and dropped Hickey who tried to jump away from the hit. An official immediately put his arm up as HIckey laid on the ice in pain. Downie slammed his stick on the ice in protest then actually walked down his runway seemingly under the assumption that he was given a misconduct penalty of some sort. Luckily for him and the Penguins, he only drew a clipping minor. Regardless, he was lucky he didn't get an unsportsmanlike conduct minor as well for his protest.

-Lapierre had some of the team's better scoring chances as he had a few shots or re-directions in tight. Halak, his former Canadiens and Blues teammate, just stuffed him repeatedly.

-Blake Comeau is hurting. He won't admit anything but his shot just doesn't have much on it. He had one slapper tonight which appeared to have an arch on it. He is still wearing a heavy brace on his left wrist from the injury he suffered earlier this season.

-Craig Adams had one shift and 35 seconds of ice time.

-No, for real.

-The Penguins' defense looks exhausted at this point. Paul Martin looked like he had no color to his skin after the game. It was almost like he gave too much at a blood drive. So much has been asked of him due to the injuries and he's played admirably but he looks like he's close to hitting a wall.

-Scuderi had one of his better games during this stretch of increased workloads. He was physical, he was fairly aggressive with the puck and his goal was actually a pretty nice play.

-Ben Lovejoy will get a lot of grief for not covering Tavares on his goal because that's the fashionable thing to do right now. But expecing a defenseman to cover an opponent off a bang-bang play like that is irrational. Lovejoy deserved scorn for Tuesday's game in Ottawa. Not tonight.

-Ian Cole looked like he wasn't aware of the speed Grabner has. Grabner blew by him like he was wearing cement shoes.

-Taylor Chorney was just there. He didn't do anything which blew you away or hurt the team. At this point, that's a positive accomplishment for this team.

-The ice time for the defensemen tonight illustrates how dire this situation is:

 

Player Ice Time
Paul Martin 27:55
Ian Cole 25:57
Rob Scuderi 24:03
Ben Lovejoy 21:27
Taylor Chorney 16:42

-The playoffs were on the line tonight and Rob Scuderi is north of 24 minutes in a regulation game? What universe is this?

-Fleury was strong. Maybe he could have stolen one more goal. Maybe he could have kicked out a safer rebound on the Tavares goal. But he was not a problem tonight.

-The Penguins weren't the only team to go with five defensemen tonight. New York's Travis Hamonic was injured on a hip check by Scuderi n the first period. He hobbled off the ice and never returned due to an undisclosed injury. There was no update on his status.

-Unlike the Penguins, the Islanders got contributions from their depth forwards. Cal Clutterbuck, Michael Grabner and Casey Cizikas each had contributions in this win.

-The Penguins led in shots on net, 38-26.

-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 69-41.

-Hornqvist and Lee each led the game with six shots.

-Martin led the game with 27:55 of ice time.

-Johnny Boychuk led the Islanders with 24:48.

-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 32-18 (64 percent).

-Crosby was 13 for 20 (65 percent).

-Josh Bailey was 8 for 17 (47 percent).

-Strait led the game with four blocked shots.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-None of the Penguins had more that one blocked shot.

-The Penguins finish with a 9-17-4 record against Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division teams, worst in the division.

-Crosby and Tavares are now tied for the league lead in points with 84 but Tavares (37) has more goals than Crosby (28).

-The Penguins' magic number remains at two points.

-The Islanders clinched third place in the division and will play the Capitals.

-Martin (109) moved past Maxime Talbot (108) points for 79th on the Penguins career scoring list.

-Mike Johnston declined to name his starting goaltender for Saturday. One would assume Fleury will get the nod given the importance of the game.

---

-Some sights. The ice:

-Fans entering the barn:

-There was some Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins representation. Bennett:

-Simon Despres:

-And Mark Letestu:

-Ron Francis:

-Alexei Kovalev:

-We spotted a few curious jersey fouls. Ryan Miller Sabres:

-Jimmy Howard Red Wings:

-And Mike Commodore Flames:

-There were some Islanders fans present. Tavares:

-Mike Bossy:

-Given his recent retirement, we'll let this Troy Polamalu Steelers jersey slide:

-Jani Rita Finland? Wow:

-A few one-timer Penguins/Islanders are represented. Bill Guerin:

-Darius Kasparaitis:

-Kennedy:

-Jersey of the Night: Arron Asham:

---

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

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