Finally healthy, Biggs looking for role with Penguins - 09-10-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Tyler Biggs is healthy.

That is a victory for a player who has seen relatively little success in his young professional career.

Biggs' second professional campaign came to an end last season when he suffered a cut Achilles tendon while playing for the AHL's Toronto Marlies March 6.

Following surgery and a summer full of rehabilitation, Biggs is ready to restart his career after failing to live up to expectations as a former first-round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2010 (No. 22 overall).

A spare part in the blockbuster offseason trade which brought star forward Phil Kessel to the Penguins, Biggs will particiapte in the team's rookie tournament in London, Ontario this weekend.

Last week at the team's practice facility in Cranberry, he talked about his injury and getting a new start with the Penguins.


Where are you in terms of your health?

"It's been a long, hardworking summer I think getting back to where I want to be before camp. I think it's come along really, really well. I'm excited to just be back on the ice and training regularly. I'll be ready for the season."

A lot of times, when players deal with a shoulder or knee injury, there is a bit of hesitation they have to contend with when using that body part competitively. Is there anything like that with this injury?

"Obviously, it's a pretty serious injury. After surgery, we definitely took our time. There were some times where I may not have pushed it as much as I wanted to just because I couldn't physically do it. But right now, it's stronger than ever and I feel really confident with it."

This is probably the first time in a long while you can say you're healthy. How big is something that simple?

"Oh... I mean it's huge. Especially going into a new season with a new team. You want to get off on the right foot and make a good impression. For me, that's my main focus, coming in physically the best shape I can and be ready to go in camp healthy."

How did you get injured exactly?

"I did get stepped on ... It was like 70 percent cut or whatever. It's something that's kind of in the back of my mind now. It's not something that I'm really focused on anymore. I feel really good about coming to camp 100 percent. It should be good."

Did you switch to Kevlar socks in order to prevent future cuts?

"It was actually a pressure cut. It was more of a chop than a cut. Where he cut me, the sock wasn't cut."

What are you  hoping to accomplish in your first prospect tournament and training camp with the Penguins?

"Obviously, my main goal is to be playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins this year. I just got to stick to playing my role and hopefully when training camp is done, there's a spot for me."

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

"I don't think it's about what did or didn't work. As far as it not working, me being out of there, it's a business. It's a trade. Not to say, things where they thought were negative about me or things I thought were negative about Toronto. It just kind of happened. I'm young. It's my second year [as a professional]. I'm not looking too far into it."

The Maple Leafs will be participating in the prospect camp in London, Ont. Are you the type of guy who would try to prove something?

"I think everybody is somewhat kind of that guy. Whether it comes out in anger or competitive nature, I don't know. Everybody's different. It's not something where I'm going to try to do something stupid or anything like that. I'm just going to play my game like I would on any other team and see what happens."

There appears to be one or two spots available on the NHL roster with the Penguins at the forward position.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trying to look for a spot to take. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on one day at a time. It starts with training camp and coming in physically healthy and physically ready."

 (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - World Cup details announced - 09-10-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Happy 27th birthday to former Penguins forward Jordan Staal (right). A first-round pick in 2006 (No. 2 overall), Staal spent six seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2006-07, Staal appeared in 81 games, set an NHL rookie record with seven shorthanded goals, scored 29 overall goals, 42 points and was selected as a finalist for the Calder Trophy. In the 2007 postseason, Staal appeared in five games and scored three goals. Despite playing in all 82 games in 2007-08, Staal's offensive numbers regressed as he only scored 28 points. In the postseason, he saw action in 20 games, scored seven points and helped the team reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 16 years. Staal's production rebounded in 2008-09 as he once again played in all 82 games and scored 22 goals and 49 points. In that spring's playoffs, Staal, playing primarily on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, saw action in 24 games and scored nine points, including a key shorthanded goal against the Red Wings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final (see below). Staal helped the team claim the series, 4-3, and got his name on the Cup. During 2009-10, Staal, one of the Penguins' top penalty killers, once again appeared in all 82 games, scored 21 goals, 49 assists and was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy. In the playoffs, Staal played in 11 games and scored five points. Injuries limited Staal to 42 games and 30 points in 2010-11. In seven postseason games that spring, he scored three points. Staal rebounded this past season by appearing in 62 games and scoring a career-best 25 points. Appearing in six postseason games, he led the team in goals (six) and points (nine). In 431 regular season games with the Penguins, Staal scored 248 points, 32nd-most in franchise history. In 73 postseason games, "Gronk" scored 36 points. From midway through his rookie season until the end of the 2009-10 campaign, Staal appeared in 302 consecutive games, third-most in franchise history. During the 2012 offseason, Staal was traded to the Hurricanes in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and a draft pick. He is still a member of the Hurricanes.

-Happy 58th birthday to former Penguins goaltender Rob Holland. Acquired in the 1979 offseason along with Pat Hughes in a deal which sent Denis Herron and a draft pick to the Canadiens, Holland spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. In 1979-80, Holland appeared in 34 games and had a 10-17-6 record with a 3.83 goals against average and one shutout. He saw action in 10 games in 1980-81 and went 1-5-3 with a 5.01 goals against average. In the 1981 offseason, Holland was traded to the Islanders for future considerations. In 44 games with the Penguins, Holland went 11-22-9 with a 4.08 goals against average and one shutout.

-Happy 46th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Chris Joseph (right). A first-round pick in 1987 (No. 5 overall), Joseph spent parts of three seasons over two different stints with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1987-88, Joseph appeared in 17 games and recorded four assists before being traded along with Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan and Moe Mantha to the Oilers in exchange for Paul Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp. After stints with the Oilers and Lightning, Joseph returned to the Penguins when he was claimed off waivers from the Lightning early in the 1994-95 season. In 33 games with the Penguins that season, Joseph scored 15 points. In that spring's playoffs, he saw action in 10 games and netted two points. Joseph played in 70 games in 1995-96 and contributed 19 points. In that season's playoffs, Joseph appeared in 15 games and scored one goal. In the 1997 offseason, Joseph signed with the Flyers as a free agent. In 120 regular season games with the Penguins, Joseph scored 38 points. In 25 playoff games with the Penguins, he scored three points.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-Former Devils forward Steve Bernier will attend the Islanders' training camp on a tryout basis.

-Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle said he is fully recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered in his first-round playoff series with the Penguins last postseason.

-Defenseman Justin Faulk has become a cornerstone of the Hurricanes.

Atlantic Division

-The Panthers have invited former forward David Booth (right) to attend their training camp on a tryout basis.

-Lightning forward Tyler Johnson is still recovering from a fractured wrist he suffered during the Stanley Cup Final.

Central Division

-"Obviously whenever a player is involved in something like Patrick Kane is subject to right now in terms of the authorities investigating and looking, it's unfortunate. It's a terrible thing but we're going to have to watch the process play out and at the appropriate time we'll make whatever decisions have to be made at the time." - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on the investigation of rape allegations against Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

-“I totally believe [Kane]. He’s always been honest with me. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve been doing this a long time as a sports agent. You get to know people and get to know the character of an individual. Spending more time with Patrick over this situation, I do believe he is innocent.” - Pat Brisson, Kane's agent.

-What should the Wild do with backup goaltender Niklas Backstrom who is recovering from an elbow injury?

Pacific Division

-The Coyotes acquired the signing rights to restricted free agent defenseman Stefan Elliott from the Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Brandon Gormley. After the trade, Elliott agreed to a one-year, two-way contract. Elliott, 24, appeared in in five NHL games last season and scored no points. Gormley, 23, is signed to a one-year, two-way contract. In 27 games last season, he scored four points (two goals, two assists).

-EN Says: This looks like a trade of failed prospects. Gormley is a former first-round pick (No. 13 overall in 2010) who has stumbled thus far in his career mostly due to injuries. Elliott is a former second-round pick in 2009 who never found his footing in Colorado. The cliched change of scenery could benefit each player.

-Former Penguins defenseman Corey Potter and former Oilers defenseman Keith Aulie will attend the Coyotes' training camp on a tryout basis.

-"I think most of the players want to stay away from that kind of stuff. The players don’t want to say the wrong thing to the media, or say the wrong thing any time. We’ll just let management deal with it.” - Kings defenseman Drew Doughty on defenseman Slava Voynov (right, with Doughty, No. 8). Voynov, a native of Russia, is currently in custody of U.S. Immigration officials. He is facing a possible deportation after being pleading “no contest” to a domestic violence charge. As far as hockey is concerned, Voynov is currently suspended indefinitely by the NHL.

-Canucks coach Willie Desjardins will miss his team's training camp following hip surgery.

Patrick Division

-The NHL and NHLPA unveiled the format for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. There will be eight teams in two groups:

Group A - Canada, United States, Czech Republic and "Europe."
Group B - Finland, Sweden, Russia and "North America.

The "Europe" team will consist of players from countries such as Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Germany. The "North America" team will consist of Canadian and American players under the age of 23. The entire tournament will take place in Toronto's Air Canada Centre Sept. 17 through Oct. 1 of 2016.

-EN Says: Staging a tournament with "extra" players from North America and a hodge-podge team from the "other" European countries just comes off as second rate compared to the Olympics and even the IIHF World Championship tournament. But this tournament is being held in Canada and the NHL-NHLPA partnership knows the audience this will be preformed for. It will sell a ton of high-priced tickets and generate strong television ratings in Canada but not many other places. The IIHF World Championship is similar in that it's usually staged with a European audience in mind. Relatively few people in North America care about that tournament.

There was a time when the World Cup of Hockey, which used to be the Canada Cup (right), meant a lot. It was the only way the world's top hockey talent would share the same sheet of ice. But with the Cold War over and the NHL participation in the Olympics now a regular occurence, the World Cup of Hockey just doesn't mean that much any longer.

-Click here to view the tournament schedule.

-Former Penguins forward Miroslav Satan will serve as general manager of of the "Europe" team.

-“Whose anthem will they play if they win the tournament?” - Lightning captain/forward Steven Stamkos on the "Europe" team.

-Will the World Cup of Hockey impact the Olympics in 2018?

(Photos: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Victor Decolongon/Getty Images and Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Steel Castings: 2015 NFL Preview

Written by Dan Gigler on .

This week Sports Editor Jerry Micco and Associate Sports Editor Michael Sanserino break down the Steelers' matchup against the New England Patriots Thursday night in the NFL season opener as well as Pittsburgh's prospects for 2015 and how the AFC North and league will shape up.

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Narduzzi on ACC teleconference: Defense "lost focus" at end of YSU game (plus other notes)

Written by Sam Werner on .

While this week's appearance by Pat Narduzzi on the ACC conference call didn't include any stories regarding his skepticism about friends' allergies, there was some useful info. Here are a couple of notes from the call...

- Narduzzi addressed Pitt's running back depth in the wake of James Conner's season-ending injury. First, he said Chris James will be available to play Saturday, and, second, he said Pitt has moved Jameel Poteat from linebacker back to running back. Poteat didn't dress against Youngstown State, but Narduzzi said he'll be able to play Saturday.

- Narduzzi was asked about what happened late in the Youngstown State game. Basically, he said Pitt "lost focus" in the fourth quarter.
"It was just attention to detail and focus," Narduzzi said. "When you watch the tape it'll drive you nuts as a football coach, but you're going, wait a second, now, in the first, second and third quarter you did all these things right, and then all of a sudden in the fourth you didn't do it so well. So it's a matter of focus and attention to detail is my opinion, and you can't do that in the fourth quarter."

- As expected, Narduzzi got several questions about the impact of Conner's injury. He said, essentially, that the Panthers won't change who they are in the wake of Conner going down for the season.
"We're a football team that number one is going to start off running the football and we're built for that," Narduzzi said. "We've practiced that, whether it's James at tailback or not."
Narduzzi also told the story of his 2002 season at Northern Illinois, when senior running back Thomas Hammock couldn't play due to a heart condition. Then-junior Michael Turner stepped in for the Huskies, rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and parlayed that into a long NFL career.

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Three thoughts: West Virginia 44, Georgia Southern 0

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Howard GSU

(Photo: AP)

I'm a little late with this -- I've had some personal things to tend to the past few days -- but after every game (at least every home game) this season, I'm hoping to provide three thoughts, observations and takeaways that are a little more easily digestible than a game story. And since this is college football, I'll have a weekly overreaction at the end of each list.

Here are those belated musings from West Virginia's 44-0 rout of Georgia Southern last Saturday.

1. Skyler Howard's performance was encouraging

The reviews of West Virginia's quarterback have been wide-ranging, from erratic to dynamic to gutsy. All of these are undoubtedly true, as the junior vacillated between inspired to out-of-control, sometimes over the course of a single minute.

But when evaluating his performance, there's a lot more to like than dislike. His accuracy, perhaps the biggest concern about him entering the season, was largely there, as his completion percentage against the Eagles (64 percent) was significantly higher than it was in either of his two starts in 2014. He clearly wasn't afraid to go deep, something that I didn't expect in Game One but probably should have considering who his coach is. Not only did he display some power behind his throws, impressive for someone generously listed at 6'0", but he showed some deft touch on deeper passes, particularly on his first touchdown throw to Jovon Durante. And if the pocket collapses, he's an able runner who can escape the pressure and either find open throws downfield or tuck and run.

Of course, there were negatives. He missed some gimme throws that could have gone for touchdowns or long gains and for all of the power he has in his passes, he needs to scale that back at times, especially on short tosses where it isn't necessary. Howard is a player who thrives on raw emotion and has gotten this far because of a competitive, almost primal zeal. On Saturday, in one of the biggest games in his young career, that got the better of him in certain moments and he admitted as much earlier this week. But for a guy who entered the season as a major question mark, he provided, at the very least, an encouraging first look.

2. The Mountaineers have a potential star, or two, at wide receiver

For all of the uncertainty that surrounded Howard, that much more doubt plagued the players to whom he would throw the ball. After losing Kevin White and Mario Alford, and with the 5'7" Jordan Thompson as the leading returning pass catcher, those concerns were legitimate. Throughout the preseason, West Virginia coaches and players were steadfast in saying things would be alright. Trust in the system, they would say.

Between that system and the arrival of a heralded freshman, that may very well be the case. Durante was every bit the game-changer coaches lauded him as in the weeks leading up to the season, hauling in a 41-yard touchdown on his first college catch and averaging around 40 yards per reception. That latter feat was matched by sophomore Shelton Gibson, who had 130 yards and an impressive touchdown grab of his own.

The Mountaineers have established themselves as one of the top incubators of receivers the last few years, between Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, White and Alford. One game does not make a decorated career, but Durante and Gibson could be just the dynamic and capable duo West Virginia so coveted heading into the season.

3. The linebackers and defensive line impressed

Karl Joseph's three interceptions understandably garnered the most praise in the Mountaineers' shutout, but there was no group of players more integral to blanking Georgia Southern than the linebackers and defensive line. Facing an opponent that averaged 381 rushing yards per game last season, West Virginia linemen prevented any gaping holes for runners and often forced the Eagles' blockers backwards. The linebackers were a swarming, tenacious pack that snuffed out any players who broke through the defensive line.

Virtually everyone knew how strong the Mountaineers' secondary would be this season. But the early glimpse of the team's front line was tantalizing, enough to make one think this could be one of the best defenses in not just the Big 12, but the entire country.

My week one overreaction

Going into the season, I thought West Virginia would finish 7-5. After catching the first game, I'm amending that to 8-4.


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

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