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About the Sharks - 03-06-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Sharks.

When and where: 10:30 p.m. EST. SAP Center.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), CSN California (San Jose market), NBC Sports Network (rest of the United States).

Record: 39-17-7, 85 points. The Sharks are in second place in the Pacific Division.

Leading Scorer: Joe Pavelski, 59 points (32 goals, 27 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 home overtime loss to the Hurricanes, Tuesday. Alex Stalock made 32 saves for the Sharks.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-1 road loss, Dec. 5, 2013. Antti Niemi (right) made 23 saves for the Sharks.

Sharks Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Raffi Torres. He has points in three consecutive games.

Ex-Penguins on the Sharks: Jim Johnson, assistant coach; Tyler Kennedy, RW.

Ex-Sharks on the Penguins: Marcel Goc, C; Tony Granato, assistant coach.

Useless Sharks Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Goc (2000) will become the second former Sharks first-round pick to play for the Penguins. The first was right winger Pat Falloon (1992).

Best Sharks Video We Could Find: Speaking of the devil, here's Falloon scoring a short-handed goal against Kings goaltender Robb Stauber in 1992-93:

Probable goaltenders: Jeff Zatkoff (9-2-1, 2.64 GAA, .909 SV%) for the Penguins. Antti Niemi (29-13-6, 2.40 GAA, .911 SV%) for the Sharks.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defenseman Paul Martin (hand) are out. Right wingers Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), defenseman Kris Letang (stroke) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Sharks, center Tomas Hertl (knee) and defenseman Brad Stuart ("upper body") are on injured reserve

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins' did not hold a full morning skate. Consider this a guess at their lines and defensive pairings for tonight:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 49 Brian Gibbons
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
57 Marcel Goc - 16 Brandon Sutter - 22 Lee Stempniak
15 Tanner Glass - 27 Craig Adams - 5 Deryk Engelland

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

The Sharks lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

8 Joe Pavelski – 19 Joe Thornton – 88 Brent Burns
12 Patrick Marleau – 39 Logan Couture – 83 Matt Nieto
13 Raffi Torres – 15 James Sheppard – 57 Tommy Wingels
9 Marty Havlat – 10 Andrew Desjardins – 18 Mike Brown

44 Marc-Edouard Vlasic – 5 Jason Demers
27 Scott Hannan – 61 Justin Braun
52 Matt Irwin – 22 Dan Boyle

 

Notes:

-The last time the Penguins played the Sharks, this happened:

-This too:

-The Penguins have not won in San Jose since, Oct. 22, 1997. They have gone 0-8-2 since.

-Our live blog, direct from our couch, begins at approximately 10:15 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 03-06-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-"[The Penguins] are a team that plays an up-tempo pace and really skates. Those are my strong suits." - new Penguins forward Lee Stempniak (above).

-“I think Lee Stempniak is a really good hockey player. If he was 10 pounds heavier, he’d be a dynamite hockey player. His deficiencies aren’t from hockey skill. They’re not from hockey IQ. They’re not from effort. They’re from physical limitations.” - Flames general manager Brian Burke on Stempniak.

-"I sit here right now and say, ‘Am I glad I didn’t trade our first-round pick?’ Absolutely." - Ray Shero on not dealing away a high-end draft pick yesterday.

-The Penguins have lost their last 10 games in San Jose.

-What does Chuck Kobasew's assignment mean to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

-Shero speaks:

-Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Tanner Glass speaks:

-How did Peter Mannino become the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins' top goaltender?

-After the Jump: Martin St. Louis, Thomas Vanek and Tim Thomas all change teams.

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Spring preview: Quarterbacks

Written by Sam Werner on .

Doesn't it feel like the 2013 season just ended and just yesterday we were enjoying the beauty of Detroit in December? Well, it's already time to start looking forward. Pitt starts its 2014 spring practices March 16 and, in the 10 days leading up to that date, let's go through and take a look at where each position stands heading into Paul Chryst's third spring session at the helm. First, let's take a look at the guys who will be under center this spring (spoiler alert: there aren't many of them)...

Projected depth chart (returning starters in italics)

1) Chad Voytik, RS So., 6-1, 210 lbs
2) Trey Anderson, Sr., 6-0, 195 lbs

And that's it. Pitt will go through spring practice with just two quarterbacks on the roster. Both guys will obviously don their usual red jerseys, and it wouldn't surprise me if Chryst used up Pitt's entire supply of bubble wrap on Anderson and (especially) Voytik during the spring. While they obviously won't receive any contact, the dearth of options is a unique opportunity to get plenty of worked. I spoke to Voytik earlier this offseason and he said that, despite two years in the system, he's still learning the finer points of the system. As the presumed starter heading into the season, he's going to need all the practice reps he can get. He showed some flashes in the bowl game, but one half of good football is a far cry from being able to start and be successful for an entire season.
The biggest benefit of all these reps in the spring could actually just be Voytik's ability to develop some chemistry with his receivers. Most of Pitt's receiver options are younger guys, who Voytik could already have a rapport with. He has probably thrown plenty of passes to Zach Challingsworth (and other young guys like that) in second-team drills this year, so it'll be interesting to watch which guys he seems to target in the spring.
At this point, Anderson is really more of an emergency option than competitor for the starting job. Barring injury, it'll be Voytik under center (or in the shotgun) for the Delaware game in August. Anderson doesn't really have a big enough body of work to make any judgements on how effective he could be, but a spring with plenty of reps couldn't hurt him either.
The other aspect to watch this spring is the coaching situation. Chryst is now the quarterbacks coach, along with new graduate assistant Jon Budmayr. Voytik had some good things to say about Budmayr when I talked to him, and one thing to keep an eye on is how much Chryst is working exclusively with the quarterbacks versus how much of it is Budmayr. Obviously, Chryst won't be able to spend all of practice with one position group, but I think you'll definitely see an uptick in terms of how much time he spends with his passers.

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Colonials defeat Fairleigh Dickinson in first round of NEC tournament

Written by Craig Meyer on .

When Lucky Jones arrived back to Robert Morris after his team’s 59-48 loss to Wagner last weekend, he did so mired in his worst offensive drought of a season, a slump in which he had missed 51 of his past 64 shots.

So, naturally, he did the only thing he knew how to in that situation – take more shots.

“I kind of got my confidence back when we came back from Wagner,” Jones said. “Immediately that night, me and Chuck [Oliver] went into the gym and just started shooting a lot of shots. From that day until yesterday, we just continued to get shots.”

What happened that night in a lonely gym helped pave the way for a bounce-back performance, one that is partly responsible for the Colonials still having NCAA tournament aspirations.

The junior forward made seven of his 13 shots Wednesday night and had team highs in points (19), rebounds (seven) and assists (four) as Robert Morris overcame a scoreless performance from leading scorer Karvel Anderson in a 60-53 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson at the Sewall Center in the first round of the Northeast Conference tournament.

“I knew when I came into the game that I was going to stay confident and just let it fly,” he said.

Not even 48 hours after being named the NEC player of the year, Anderson struggled, but not without reason, as he was battling an undiagnosed illness. Entering the game averaging 19.6 points per game, he attempted a season-low three shots and sat on the bench for the final 8:37 of play.

“He wasn’t feeling well and he wasn’t being very effective out there, so we had to put people out there that were going to be effective,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.

In the gamut of a conference tournament, one in which a single loss ends a team’s year-long goal, the fact that the Colonials (20-11) were able to win despite an off day from Anderson was encouraging to those on the team.

“I have confidence going into the next game because I know he’s going to have some fire and it’s not going to be pretty for our opponents,” point guard Anthony Myers-Pate said of Anderson.

After taking a 26-24 lead into halftime, the top-seeded Colonials saw their lead grow to eight in the first eight minutes of the second half. For the most part, that advantage held for the remainder of the game, with the eighth-seeded Knights (10-21) getting no closer than five.

It was Robert Morris’ second win against Fairleigh Dickinson in the past six days and in some respects, the games followed a similar script.

“Both games when we had to score, we didn’t score,” Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda said. “We were up 15 with 8:48 to go at our place and we scored two points and then tonight, we never got in an offensive groove.

“I think it had to do with their athleticism on the top of the zone. They not only contest shots, but they contest passes. In this day and age, you don’t see that a lot in the half court. They’re really well-schooled.”

The win gave Robert Morris its sixth 20-win season in the past seven years.

The Colonials will play in the semifinals Saturday against Saint Francis, which upset third-seeded Bryant, 55-54.

Robert Morris swept the season series with the Red Flash, notching those two wins by an average of 5.5 points.

But coming off a night in which his team looked uncharacteristically jittery and sloppy at times, Toole knows his team needs to work on some things if it hopes to advance much further.

“They’ve got to relax and play,” he said. “Everything that’s been accomplished previously is now over and now everybody is 0-0. You have to go out and play. We played like a team that was afraid to lose, in all honesty.”

 

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

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Another mock for Dennard.

Written by Dan Gigler on .

Add Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar to the chorus suggesting the Steelers will take a hard look at selecting Michigan State's "No-Fly Zone" cornerback Darqueze Dennard with the no. 15 pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

In his latest mock draft released yesterday, Farrar writes

After a few rocky drafts, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has a plethora of positional holes to consider. A primary issue is at cornerback, where William Gay was the only pass defender to log an opponent passer rating under 88.1 — Ike Taylor, who had the most passing snaps of any Steelers’ cornerback, allowed a 110.6 passer rating and six touchdowns with no picks. Dennard may have a few holes in his game, but he’s got the athleticism and ball skills to be a considerable improvement right off the bat.

Farrar has Ole Miss WR Mike Evans and Notre Dame NT Louis Nix -- frequently discussed as Steelers first round targets -- both off the board just ahead of Dennard, which is consistent with other national writer's mocks to this point.

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