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Being in Canada drove Desjardins' decision - 12-04-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

This past summer, close friends Mike Johnston and Willie Desjardins (above) were each candidates for head coaching gigs in the NHL including in Pittsburgh and Vancouver.

Johnston, who served as the best man in Desjardins' wedding many years ago, ultimately ended up as the Penguins' head coach but only after Bill Peters chose to go to the Hurricanes and Desjardins turned down the Penguins in order to take over the Canucks.

Earlier today, Desardins was asked what went into his decision to chose the Canucks instead of the Penguins.

"I think there's different things that went into it. One was being back in Canada, a Canadian market for my wife. She wanted to work. And my history a little bit with Trevor Linden maybe had a little bit to do with it too. There was a few things but they're both unbelievable spots, that's for sure."

(Photo: Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

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Empty Netter Assists - 12-04-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Robert Bortuzzo will have some free time the next few days.

-"Oh, I hope he plays 700 in a row." - Former Penguins captain Ron Schock on Craig Adams being on the verge of breaking his franchise record for consecutive games played.

-"You see the determination in both Ron and Adams’ case and you can understand why they play through things.” - Jim Rutherford on Schock, his former teammate, and Adams.

-Injuries have given Jayson Megna a promotion to the second line. Also, Scott Wilson is expected to be sidelined two weeks due to an undisclosed injury.

-“When you look at what was there and the opportunity, it’s unbelievable. You look at where they are in the standings, so that’s what type of team they are. And to have an opportunity to coach that kind of team is pretty special. That’s a special group. Not just [Sidney] Crosby. They have so much talent there and it’s a great city, too.” - Canucks coach Willie Desjardins on entertaining an offer to take over as Penguins coach this past summer.

-Bortuzzo speaks:

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Marcel Goc speaks:

-Injuries in Pittsburgh are making it tough to fill out a lineup in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-After the Jump: Alec Martinez gets paid.

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Freshmen will make impact in WPIAL basketball ...... predicted section winners

Written by Mike White on .

While the state football playoffs reach the semifinals this weekend, high school basketball in Pennsylvania begins.

There are a number of interesting storylines in basketball for this season. How long will New Castle's winning streak last (it is at 31 games)? Will New Castle and Hampton still dominate after dropping to Class AAA? How will Lincoln Park fare moving up to Class AA and Chartiers Valley up to Class AAAA?

But another one of the interesting storylines this season also will be the "fresh" faces that will show up on teams. It seems there are some freshmen around the WPIAL who could have big impacts.

One of the best is Phil Jurkovec, a 6-foot-5 ninth-grader at Pine-Richland. I have yet to see this kid play, but have been hearing about him for a few years. He scored a ton as an eighth-grader on a ninth-grade team. He is extremely athletic, dunking with ease as an eighth-grader. He will start for Pine-Richland at forward.

Jurkovec is more than a basketball player, though. He is an excellent quarterback in football. Current Pine-Richland quarterback Ben DiNucci called him a "stud" and said he is much further along with skills when DiNucci was a ninth-grader. But DiNucci said Jurkovec is probably better in basketball. That says a lot.

Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz kept Jurkovec on the ninth-grade team this season, but Jurkovec might very well be the Rams' varsity quarterback this season. If you wonder whether this kid has talent, check out his highlight tape from Hudl.

Other freshmen who might have big impacts this season are:

**Rob Carmody, a 6-3 guard at Mars. The son of coach Rob Carmody, the younger Carmody has good size and will start and be a key player for the Planets. He is solid in many phases of the game. He was a starting defensive back on the football team.

**Curtis Aiken, 6-1 guard at North Allegheny. Aiken isn't listed as a starter for North Allegheny, but he will see plenty of action. The son of former Pitt player Curtis Aiken, the younger Aiken is quick, has a good handle and has an extremely bright future.

**John Paul Kromka, a 6-7 forward-center at Gateway. Another in a line of Kromka brothers at Gateway, John Paul has good size. New Gateway coach Daryn Freedman isn't shy about talking about his team. He said the Gators are aiming to be the top defensive team in the WPIAL and state and that the team has one of the best frontcourts in the WPIAL. About Kromka, Freedman said, "He will likely lead all WPIAL freshmen playing varsity in points, rebounds and blocked shots."

One of Kromka's older brothers, James, will be a senior guard-forward for the team.

**Torian Leak, a 5-7 guard at Beaver Falls. It looks like Leak will start at guard for the Tigers, which means they will start a freshman and two sophomores (6-4 Donovan Jeter and 6-6 Josh Creach). Leak also is an excellent athlete. He was a running back on the football team and rushed for more than 200 yards in one game.

Some other freshmen around the WPIAL also could have impacts. Ford City coach Greg Hutcherson plans to start two freshmen - 6-4 Nate Baillie and 6-foot Dawson Porter

Three of New Castle's top reserves are freshmen - Marcus Hooker, Lorenzo Gardner and Geno Stone. Hooker is the younger brother of former New Castle star Malik Hooker, now a freshman football player at Ohio State.

Two of Beaver Falls' top players off the bench will be freshmen - 5-10 Malik Shepherd and 6-2 Syron Noyes.

Put it all together, and maybe the future looks bright for WPIAL basketball talent. But the question is how high will these freshmen rise and how much will they improve over the next few years?

Predicted section winners

The season starts with tipoff tournaments around the state. But section play begins next Friday.

Here are predicted section winners for the entire WPIAL and City League:

WPIAL CLASS AAAA - 1. Hempfield. 2. Gateway. 3. Seneca Valley. 4. Chartiers Valley.

WPIAL CLASS AAA - 1. Hampton. 2. Ambridge. 3. Indiana. 4. Steel Valley. 5. South Fayette.

WPIAL CLASS AA - 1 Lincoln Park. 2. Apollo-Ridge. 3. Seton-LaSalle. 4. Brownsville. 5. Aliquippa.

WPIAL CLASS A - 1. Sewickley Academy. 2. Vincentian. 3. Monessen. 4. Jeannette.

CITY LEAGUE - Allderdice.

 

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Bortuzzo suspended two games - 12-03-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was suspended two games by the NHL for a late hit which injured Devils right winger Jaromir Jagr Tuesday during the second period a 1-0 home win by the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

The hit was not penalized. Bortuzzo will forfeit $6,451.62 of salary due to the suspension.

The NHL's video explanation:

The video states:

 

"After Jagr makes a pass to [Devils center Scott] Gomez, Bortuzzo leaves his man to hit Jagr. The puck already in in front of the net before Bortuzzo initiates this hit along the end boards.

Well after Jagr has released the puck and at a point at which a body check is no longer legal, Bortuzzo drives through Jagr's chest and chin with his right shoulder knocking Jagr out of a tied game in the second period.

This is interference. What elevates this hit to merit supplemental discipline is its extreme lateness, its predatory nature and the significant head contact that results from the way that it is delivered.

Bortuzzo neither launches into Jagr nor hits with his elbow. However, given how late this hit is, there is no part of his body with which Bortuzzo can deliver a legal body check. Whats more, since Jagr should have no reason to expect to be hit this late, he is defenseless at the moment of contact. Since this play is entirely in front of Bortuzzo and he can see Jagr has passed the puck, the onus is entirely on Bortuzzo to avoid contact completely and he has ample time to do so. Instead, he drives forcefully through this dangerous hit."

 

The video also noted Jagr is not expected to miss any future games and Bortuzzo has not been fined or suspended previously in his career.

Bortuzzo will miss tomorrow's game against the Canucks and Saturday's contest against the Senators. Each game is at Consol Energy Center.

-EN Says: The league got this right within the context of its own rules and precedent. This was interference and it resulted in an injury for Jagr.

To be clear, the league does allow a brief window of 0.5 seconds for a player to be hit legally after he releases the puck without interference being called. According source with the league, Bortuzzo was timed as hitting Jagr as 0.7 seconds after the puck was released.

That might sound like splitting hairs, but when it results in an ugly dangerous hit like that, the league is going to take action.

Quite a bit of attention is being directed at the fact that Bortuzzo struck Jagr's head but is seemed impossible to tell what the principal point of contact was on the video. The shoulder, chest and head all seemed to get contacted at simultaneously. That's why the interference aspect of this play is what got Bortuzzo in trouble.

Thankfully for everyone involved, Jagr has apparently escaped serious injury as he is expected to not miss any games. That as well as Bortuzzo's clean history with discipline prior to this spared him a harsher suspension. The League does weigh those two factors in when determining supplemental discipline. Within that context, the league is consistent in how it has punished Bortuzzo.

Last season, Toronto defenseman Dion Phanuef was given a two-game suspension for boarding Bruins defenseman Kevin Miller. Like the Bortuzzo-Jagr hit, that hit did not result in an injury and Phaneuf, like Bortuzzo, did not have a history of supplemental discipline beforehand.

All in all, this could have ended up being a lot worse for all parties involved.

The Devils seem interested in doling out their own punishment when the teams meet in New Jersey Dec. 29.

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Bowl projection roundup

Written by Sam Werner on .

So, understandably, the most common question I've gotten this week — in my chat and on Twitter — is what bowl Pitt will be playing in, and who the opponent will be. The best answer is "No one knows. We'll find out on Sunday." But here's a bit more context to fill that in with. First, here's a link to my story from Monday's paper about what Pitt's options are in terms of bowl selection. Second, here's a quick rundown of where some major publications have the Panthers slotted to go. Keep in mind that even the most sophisticated bowl projection is still just an educated guess at this point, and that things could change (possibly significantly) depending on Saturday's results, especially if Georgia Tech upsets Florida State. One thing I'd also like to debunk real quickly is that there's virtually no possibility of Pitt getting left out of a bowl entirely. It's just not going to happen. Even if the ACC has more teams than slots, other conferences won't, and Pitt will be able to get one of those. It wouldn't be a good look for the ACC to have one of its bowl-eligible teams left out of the postseason, so there's no way the league would let that happen. It was much more likely to have happened last year and still didn't.

Now, here are some projections:

ESPN: New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans; Dec. 20) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette OR Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit; Dec. 26) vs. Penn State

CBS: Military Bowl (Annapolis, Md.; Dec. 27) vs. East Carolina

FOX: Military Bowl vs. East Carolina

Sports Illustrated: Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.; Dec. 26) vs. Cincinnati

Phil Steele: Cactus Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.; Jan. 2) vs. Washington

Sporting News: Camelia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.; Dec. 20) vs. Toledo

USA Today: Duck Commander Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.; Dec. 27) vs. Arkansas

Yahoo!: Military Bowl vs. Cincinnati

SB Nation: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Illinois

NFL.com: New Orleans Bowl vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

So there you have it. Things are sort of all over the board, with the Military Bowl appearing to get the most love. I would say in that case, a matchup against East Carolina would not be good for Pitt. The Pirates play a spread system that could give the Panthers fits on defense, and I could see Shane Carden tearing up the Pitt secondary. But that's a discussion for another day.

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