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Empty Netter Assists - 03-11-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. "Everybody needs points, especially at this time of year. You could tell they were playing desperate. We're going to expect much the same [tonight]." - Sidney Crosby on facing the Capitals once again tonight.

-The Washington Post's recap. “Every time when we don’t win the game it’s [a] putback in the standings. We now in desperate position and we going to fight through it.” - Capitals captain/forward Alex Ovechkin.

-The Associated Press' recap. "Their big dogs scored." - Capitals coach Adam Oates on the Penguins.

-Highlights:

-Ovechkin slammed Brandon Sutter into the Penguins' bench:

-Washington's Brooks Laich chased down Olli Maatta:

-Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov made his NHL debut:

-Stretchy times for the Capitals:

-Washington's Joel Ward took a tumble near Craig Adams:

-Crosby speaks:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-As is tradition for Penguins fans in Washington, D.C., a postgame rally was held across the street at Smithsonian American Art Museum:

-“We were spending too much time playing in our end. We were defending hard, but we don’t want to play down there all game. We want to get in, retrieve pucks, break up their cycle and get out of there as fast as we can. We’re struggling with that right now.” - Craig Adams.

-“That’s the kind of thing that builds rivalries. I’d imagine that kind of thing doesn’t happen on the schedule by accident. I think it’s fun.” - Tanner Glass on facing the Capitals on back-to-back nights.

-The Flyers will unveil a statue of former head coach Fred Shero near the site of The Spectrum prior to Saturday's game against the Penguins. Shero, who passed away in 1990, was the father of Penguins general manager Ray Shero.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins recalled goaltender Eric Hartzell, forward Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Harrison Ruopp from the Wheeling Nailers.

-Happy 38th birthday to former Penguins forward Nils Ekman. Acquired in the 2006 offseason in a deal which sent a draft pick to the Sharks, Ekman, appeared in 34 games for the 2006-07 Penguins and recorded 15 points. In an 4-3 home loss to the Lightning, Nov. 8, 2006, he did set the franchise record for fastest hat trick when he scored three goals in a span of 4:10 (below). He played in one postseason game that spring and failed to record a point. The following offseason, he signed with Khimik Mytischi in Russia.

-Happy 29th birthday to former Penguins forward Paul Bissonnette. A fourth-round pick in 2003, Bissonnette's only season with the Penguins saw him play in 15 games while recording one assist and 22 penalty minutes in 2008-09. During the 2009 offseason, he was claimed off waivers from the Coyotes. He is still a member of the Coyotes.

-Happy 74th birthday to former Penguins forward Bill LeCaine. A free agent signing in the 1967 offseason, Lecaine's NHL career amounted to four games with the 1968-69 Penguins. The following season, he joined the Port Huron Flags of the IHL.

-After the Jump: A scary night in Dallas.

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Jim Ferry discusses A-10 tourney opener vs. Richmond

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

GoDuquesne.com

Duquesne coach Jim Ferry joined a few media members for a brief roundtable Monday afternoon at Palumbo Center. The 10th-seeded Dukes will fly out Tuesday to Brooklyn, where they wait to meet No. 7 seed Richmond Thursday afternoon.

Here's the bulk of our conversation ...

How are you feeling going into the A-10 tourney?

"I feel good about our team. I've said it all along: it's a resilient group of guys. We haven't had a bad practice all year. Even in our ups and our downs, these guys have come out every single day. I said at the start of the year that with all these news guys we're trying to blend together that we're going to be better at the end of the year. And we're playing really good basketball right now. I know we're only 2-2 over our last four games, but considering who we played and the types of games we had, we're playing really good basketball right now. That's our focus over the next two days of practice is to continue to get better and hopefully peak as we get into tournament time — I know it's a coaches' cliché, but anybody that has seen us understands what I'm talking about. We're clicking right now. Guys understand exactly what their roles are and how to play off each other. We're defending significantly better, with better purpose, with a better sense of urgency. We're rebounding the basketball with everybody in our league right now, with the highest-level teams. When we do that, offensively we can click, and offensively we're hard to match up to."

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Penguins at Capitals - 03-10-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

-If you didn't see it, check out The Pensblog's look at the Penguins' draft history under Ray Shero. It's a very thorough look at the team's in ability to develop forward prospect.

-On aspect we're not sure gets enough scrutiny or attention in this matter is the fact that Shero has traded a number of first, second or third round picks away in order to make the team stronger in the immediate sense. This has been a common practice under Shero going back to his earliest days with the Penguins:

-July 20, 2006 - The Penguins acquired left winger Nils Ekman and goaltender Patrick Ehelechner from the Sharks in exchange for a second round pick in 2007. 

-February 27, 2007 - The Penguins acquired left winger Georges Laraque from the Coyotes in exchange for left winger Daniel Carcillo and a third round pick in 2008

-February 26, 2008 - The Penguins acquired right wingers Pascal Dupuis and Marian Hossa from the Thrashers in exchange for centers Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, right winger Colby Armstrong and a first round pick in 2008. Also, the Penguins acquired defenseman Hal Gill from the Maple Leafs in exchange for a second round pick in 2008 and a fifth round pick in 2009.

-March 4, 2009 - The Penguins acquired right winger Bill Guerin from the Islanders in exchange for a third round pick in 2009.

-March 1, 2010 - The Penguins acquired defenseman Jordan Leopold from the Panther in exchange for second round pick in 2010.

-March 25, 2013 - The Penguins acquired defenseman Douglas Murray from the Sharks in exchange for second round picks in 2013 and 2014.

-March 28, 2013 - The Penguins acquired right winger Jarome Iginla from the Flames in exchange for Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first round pick in 2013.

-March 5, 2014 - The Penguins acquired right winger Lee Stempniak from the Flames in exchange for a third round pick in 2014. Also, the Penguins acquired center Marcel Goc from the Panthers in exchange for a fifth round pick in 2014 and a third round pick in 2013.

-That's a lot of high-end draft picks which have been moved away from the team in order to improve it's immediate chances for the Stanley Cup. It's the price of adding Marian Hossa, Hal Gill and Bill Guerin for those Stanley Cup runs in 2008 and 2009 or even Jordan Leopold for a second round exit in 2008. That price has combined with the salary cap coming down this season and a litany of injuries and illnesses to create the holes the team had up front prior to last week's trade deadline.

-There's hardly any guarantee the Penguins would have drafted a viable NHL forward with any of those draft picks. Their history of being attracted to defensemen and failures of players such as Keven Veilleux would suggest otherwise. But we have to imagine at least on of those picks could have turned into a decent third-line winger. Heck, even one of the forward prospects they did trade such as Dan Carcillo or Angelo Esposito could have turned out to become better NHL players with some presumably better coaching than they received in their other NHL locales.

-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Lee Stempniak, Olli Maatta, Brooks Orpik and Jeff Zatkoff.

-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Gibbons.

-According to the team's Web site, the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings in warmups are:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Taylor Pyatt - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Jussi Jokinen - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale
Tanner Glass - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Olli Maatta
Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

-Pyatt and Jokinen switched late in Friday's game and each line seemed to be sparked by that change. Sutter looked like a completely different player with Jokinen on his line.

-The Capitals' starters are Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Mike Green, Dmitry Orlov and Jaroslav Halak.

-Their scratches are John Erskine and Ryan Stoa.

FIRST PERIOD

19:31: After a defensive zone turnover by Orpik, Chimera deals a pass from the right corner to Fehr trailing in the right circle. Fehr lifts a wrister which Zatkoff fights off.

19:15: The Penguins get an earl lead. Stempniak pushes a puck out of his own zone and deals to Crosby. Crosby pushes it up ice and deals to Kunitz hustling up the left wing. Kunitz blows by a flat-footed Mike Green and attacks the net. He shows forehand then sneaks to his backhand and tucks a shot by the blocker of Halak. Stempniak made a solid play to get the puck out of his own defensive zone and did the most basic, smartest thing a winger on Sidney Crosby can do. Gets the puck to Sidney Crosby. Green completely biffed on how he defended Kunitz while Kunitz showed off some nifty scoring touch. A healthy showing of Penguins fans offer cheers. It's Kunitz's 30th goal. Crosby and Stempniak each get assists. Penguins 1-0.

18:57: Niskanen pounds a slapper from center point. Halak fights it off.

18:41: Niskanen takes a pass at the right point and sails it wide of the cage to the far side.

16:57: Fehr gets a goal this time. Chimera calmly controls the puck on the left half wall and saucers a cross-ice pass to Fehr streaking up the right wing. The puck gets by the stick of Scuderi and Fehr taps it by Zatkoff. What a pass! Scuderi read the play and Pyatt even had solid coverage while back check on Fehr. It was just a perfect pass. Chimera and Ward get assists. Capitals 1, Penguins 1.

16:19: The Penguins will get the game's first power play as Green slashed Crosby. Green's rough night continues. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice.

16:08: And the Penguins don't waste any time. Controlling the puck at center point, Malkin slides a perfect pass into Crosby's wheelhouse in the right circle. Crosby swipes a one-timer by the glove hand of Halak on the near side. What a shot! It's Crosby's 30th goal. Malkin and Maatta get assists. More cheers from Penguins fans. Penguins 2-1.

14:28: Green chucks a wrister from the right point which hits a body or two.

12:18: Penner snaps off a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing. Zatkoff kicks it out.

11:34: Orpik booms a slapper from the right point. It hits a body and deflects away.

8:52: Maatta chops a slapper from the right point wid o fhte cage.

8:40: On a bit of a three-on-two rush, John Carlson has a chance in the right circle but has his stick broken in half by a backchecking Orpik. That's two minutes for slashing. Orpik protests but the evidence is clear as day. Adams, Scuderi, Engelland and Goc take the ice.

8:03: Alex Ovechkin tries to rip a rebound from the right circle but Adams blocks it.

7:32: Green feeds a pass to Ovechkin above the right circle. Ovechkin powers a one-timer to the far side. Zatkoff snags it.

7:08: Off a feed by Troy Brouwer, Chimera races in on net with the puck from the right wing. He foes backhand/forehand and is denied by Zatkoff.

6:40: The Orpik minor is killed. The Capitals had a few decent chances but couldn't get a clean shot on net.

4:45: Off a feed from Jokinen, Maatta whips a wrister from deep on the right wing. Halak knocks it dead and smothers.

3:28: On a delayed penalty, Engelland chops a slapper form the right point. It gets block. Ovechkin is called for elbowing Crosby in the head. Crosby Neal, Malkin, Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice.

3:08: Niskanen swipes a one-timer from the right half wall. It hits a body in front.

2:34: Malkin chops a one-timer from center point. Ward leans down and blocks it. Ward is hobbling afterwards.

2:18: Another one-timer by Malkin from center point is blocked by Backstrom.

2:01: Jokinen sweeps a wrister from the above the left circle. Backstrom blocks it and clears the rebound down ice.

0:59: Green chucks a wrister on net from deep on the right wing. Zatkoff eats it up.

0:30: Capitals rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov is on a line with Ovechkin.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Capitals 1.

FIRST INTERMISSION

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-When did Penguins-Capitals turn into Penguins-Flyers? That was a pretty wide open period of hockey, even by the high-flying standards of these two teams.

-Crosby looks like he wants to do some serious damage tonight. He looks really sharp.

-Stempniak looked a lot more comfortable with Crosby and Kunitz tonight. He seems to have found the pace they play at.

-The Penguins' power play looked pretty dangerous in that period.

-The Fehr-Ward-Chimera line might be the most dangerous line for either team thus far.

-The Capitals have a 9-7 lead in shots.

-The Penguins have a 16-15 edge in attempted shots.

-Fehr and Niskanen each lead the game with three shots.

-Green leads the game with 8:29 of ice time.

-Maatta leads the Penguins with 6:55.

-The Penguins have a 13-9 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).

-Crosby is 6 for 8 (75 percent).

-Laich is 2 for 4 (50 percent).

-Backstrom leads the game with three blocked shots.

-Also:

SECOND PERIOD

18:31: Karl Alzner has a one-timer from the right point blocked b Pyatt.

18:25: After Malkin turns the puck over behind his net, Backstrom deals a pass from below the goal ine to Ovechkin in the left circle. Zatkoff fights it off. Malkin owes Zatkoff a beer.

17:36: Jokinen floats a wrister from the right half wall on net. Halak fights it off.

16:47: Hillen chucks a wrister from the left point wide of the net.

15:55: Green whips a wrister from the right point over the cage.

15:49: Off a feed from behind the cage by Marcus Johansson, Penner chops a shot from the left circle. Zatkoff kicks it out.

15:29: Green pounds a loose puck from the high slot. Zatkoff holds it out and denies Penner on a handful of rebound chances. Crosby, who lost his stick, ends up giving Penner something close to a German suplex. He's called for holding. A dominant shift by the Capitals led to that chacne. Adams, Engelland, Scuderi and Sutter take the ice.

15:15: Laich is denied in tight by Zatkoff.

13:45: Kuznetsov's first career NHL shot is rejected by Zatkoff.

13:29: Two minutes later, the Capitals accomplished little with that power play.

11:40: Off a drop pass by Penner, Beagle whips a wrister from the right circle over the cage.

11:25: Another Capitals power play. The great Joe Vitale usltea after Brower behind the net on on a forecheck and trips him up. That's two minutes for tripping. Adams, Goc, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.

11:22: Off a faceoff win, Ovechkin rockets a one-timer from above the left circle. Adams is able to get into position and blocks the shot which deflects out of play. Adams

11:15: A wrister by Carlson from center point is knocked away by Zatkoff's blocker.

11:03: The Capitals strike. Backstrom takes a pass in the right circle and surveys the offensive zone. As Scuderi guards Laich, Orpik defends Backstrom. The Orpik holds his stick towards the blue line to take away a cross-ice pass to Ovechkin, Backstrom sneaks a feed to Laich down low above the blue paint. Laich gets an inch on Scuderi and deflects the puck by Zatkoff. Orpik and Scuderi can each take a little blame for that one. Capitals 2, Penguins 2.

9:24: Alzner chucks a wrister fromt he right point. Zatkoff fights it off despite traffic.

8:42: Green chucks a wrister from the right point over the cage.

7:46: Despres has a wrister from the left point blocked.

7:20: The Penguin's new first line strike. Off a stretch pass by Niskanen from his own zone, Stempniak taps a pass from the right wing on the Washington blue line to Crosby streaking into the offensive on, Crosby pushes the puck deep in the right circle, turns and deals a pass back to Stempniak above the right circle. Stempniak release a wrister which partially blocked by Hillen. The puck trickels in on Halakn who kicks out a bad rebound to Kunitz charging in from the left circle. Kunitz cleans up the garbage and punches it by Halak's left skate. There was a little chemistry on display there between Crosby and Stempniak as they each get assists. Moore cheers from Penguins fans. Penguins 3-2.

6:15: Pyatt and Neal each chop at a loose puck in the slot. Halak smothers it.

5:11: Crosby whacks a one-timer from the right circle but fans on the shot.

3:46: Adams chucks a wristr on net from the right wing. Halak snags it.

3:00: Battling for the puck behind the net, Orpik drops Ovechkin to the ice with a solid shoulder check.

2:05: Kuznetzov, taking a shift with Ovechkin and Backstrom, rips a heavy shot from the slot. Zatkoff eats it up.

1:39: Kunitz whistles a wrister from the left wing over the cage.

1:33: Off a backhanded feed by Stempniak, Engelland golf a one-timer from the right point. Halak snags it.

0:21: Ovechkin races up the left wing, gains the offensive zone, and deals a cross ice pass to Backstrom in the right circle. Backstrom whips a one-timer which Orpik leans down to block.

0:07: A partial slapper by Ovechkin from the right point is fought off by Zatkoff.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Capitals 2.

SECOND INTERMISSION

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-The Capitals dominated the majority of that period. They controlled the puck in the Penguins' zone and put a lot of shots on net. They even tied the game at one point but the Penguins just needed one shift to reclaim the lead.

-The Penguins aren't doing much with the puck when they do have it. It's remarkable that they've been able to scrape out three goals for as little as they've had the puck.

-It might say more about Halak than it does the Penguins.

-Stempniak has looked miles better on the first line tonight than he did on Friday.

-We're not sure the second and third lines have shown nearly as much as they showed Friday with the Jokinen-Pyatt switch.

-Brooks Orpik has had a fairly up and down game. He's laid out a few big hits but has had a few poor play such as an early turnover at the start of the game which led to a scoring chance for Fehr.

-Zatkoff continues to look sharp.

-The Capitals have a 26-13 lead in shots.

-The Capitals have a 44-30 lead in attempted shots.

-Penner and Niskanen each lead the game with four shots.

-Green leads the game with 16:53 of ice time.

-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 15:50.

-The Penguins have a 24-16 lead in faceoffs (60 percent).

-Crosby is 10 for 13 (77 percent).

-Laich is 3 for 6 (50 percent).

-Carlson and Backstrom each lead the game with three blocked shots.

-Orpik and Pyatt each each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.

-There was a scoring change on the Capitals' second goal:

THIRD PERIOD

18:37: A backhander by Sutter from in tight is denied by Halak.

17:12: Kunitz rips a wrister from the left wing. Halak fights it off.

15:57: Ward leans down and chips a shot from the right circle. Zatkoff fights it off.

13:00: Chimera is called for high sticking Neal. Neal, Malkin, Crosby, Niskanen and Kunitz take the ice. A goal here could ice this game.

12:54: Neal releases a wrister from the right circle. Halak fights it off.

11:00: The Chimera minor is killed with little threat.

9:54: Green tees up a slapper from the right point. Pyatt blocks.

9:43: Racing for a loose puck at the Penguins' right half wall, Pyatt beats Green to it and chips it out of the zone.

7:22: Off a defensive zone turnover by Crosby, Fehr rips a wrister from the slot which glances off the cross bar. So close.

6:40: Niskanen whips a wrister from the right point. Halak  fights it off.

6:27: Alzner chosp a slapper from the right point over the cage.

5:18: The great Joe Vitale chases down a puck in the left wing corner and beat Orlov to it. He fends off Orlov and deals a pass to Sutter moving into the offensive zone. Sutter has an acre of ice to work with and whistles a wrister wide of the cage. He has to get that on net.

4:00: Despres chucks a wrister from the right point which is blocked.

3:37: Fehr settles a puck at the right point and chucks it on net. Zatkoff fights it off.

3:05: Orlov chases down a loose puck at the left point and swipes it at the cage. Chimera is positoned to the left of the cage and re-directs it wide.

2:47: Chimera chops a one-timer from a bad angle in the right circle. Zatkoff fights it off.

2:37: Carlson chops  slapper from above the right circle. Adams blocks it.

2:17: A bad line change hurts the Penguins. They are nabbed for too many men on the ice. Jokine will serve the minor. Orpik, Maata, Adams and Crosby take the ice.

2:09: A one-timer attempted by Carlson from center point is blocked.

1:59: Ovechkin feeds a pass from the right circle to Laich above the blue paint. Laich taps the puck wide.

1:53: A wrister by Carlson from the right point is fought off by Zatkoff.

1:21: With a faceoff in the Penguins zone, the Capitals call timeout and pull Halak.

0:21: As the Penguins minr is about to expire, Carlson has a sone-timer from the center point blocked by Adams.

0:02: Jokinen is able to tap a puck from the offensive zone to the neutral zone to kill the rest of the clock.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 3, Capitals 2.

POSTGAME

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-First things first, a new injury:

-Something like that isn't even surprising at this point.

-Remember when the Penguins had all kinds of trouble in terms of beating the Capitals? They had a 4-7-4 in regular season games against the Capitals when Bruce Boudreau coached them. Since Boudreau was fired in November of 2011, the Penguins have an 8-1-0 record against the Dale Hunter/Adam Oates Capitals.

-As satisfying as it can be to beat a rival, this wasn't exactly a pretty win. The Capitals had a ton of puck possession tonight. They controlled play in the Penguins' zone most of the night. The difference was in goaltending. Jeff Zatkoff was adequate while Jaroslav Halak was bad.

-The biggest triumph for the Penguins within this game, aside from the two points in the standings, was how and who sealed this win for the Penguins. The Capitals had their power play, which entered the game with the second best conversion rate in the NHL, on the ice with just over two minutes left. The Penguins put Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik and Craig Adams out there at the most important juncture of the game to secure the win. All three of those players have not had outstanding seasons by any stretch of the imagination, particularly since the start of the 2014 calendar year, but they were able to block a ton of shots or passes from a dangerous Capitals power play with what equated to a two-man advantage with Halak pulled. This was a big moment for those three players.

-Orpik had one of his better games since returning from a concussion. He had an early turnover which led to a scoring chance for Eric Fehr but he shook it off have a fair game positionally and he was fairly aggressive with physical play. He seemed to be a little more comfortable with Olli Maatta.

-That was the most obviously beauty mark on this win. There were also come considerable warts.

-What ever chemistry the Penguins got from switching Taylor Pyatt and Jussi Jokinen on the second and third lines in Friday's game against the Ducks was not nearly as evident tonight. Pyatt had some hustle and looked more than willing to be that line's version of Chris Kunitz with his forechecking but he just didn't seem to belong with Evgeni Malkin or James Neal.

-Pyatt did have a pretty strong defensive game.

-Brandon Sutter regressed back to his average level of play tonight after seeming to be sparked by Jokinen's presence Friday.

-The first line did display quite a bit of chemistry. Lee Stempniak seemed to be far more comfortable with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz tonight. The series of passes he had with Crosby which led to Chris Kunitz's game-winning goal were pretty sharp.

-Matt Niskanen and rob Scoderi seemed to have a little more comfort with one another.

-Deryk Engelland and Simon Despres were pretty quite ... and that's probably a good thing.

-Engelland had a solid night on the penalty kill. He was one of the first guys over the boards for the Capitals' first two power plays as Orpik was in the penalty box for the first one and came off a long shift for the second.

-The Penguins' special teams had another solid effort going 1 for 3 on the power play while limiting a dangerous Capitals power play to one goal on four chances.

-Jeff Zatkoff rebounded after a rough game against the Sharks Sunday. He made some tough save through traffic throughout the game.

-Halak looked pretty bad. Each of Kunitz's goals, particularly the second one, were preventable.

-The Capitals' best line was the trio of Eric Fehr, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera. Good for those guys but not good for the Capitals.

-Say what you will about the Penguins' defense, but it found a way to keep Alex Ovechkin, the league's leading goal scorer, off the scoreboard.

-It would be a stretch to say Evgeney Kutznetzov stood out. That said, he more than looked like he belonged on an NHL rink.

-What in the world has happened to Mike Green. He was never Mike Ramsey in terms of being a defensive player, but he looks completely lost at times on the rink. He was a liability.

-The Capitals led in shots, 33-20.

-The Capitals led in attempted shots, 69-45.

-Niskanen led the game with five shots.

-Ovechkin, Fehr, Dustin Penner and Nicklas Backstrom each led the Capitals with four shots.

-Green led the game with 23:45 of ice time.

-Orpik led the Penguins with 23:42.

-The Penguins led the game in faceoffs, 30-22 (58 percent).

-Crosby was 14 for 19 (74 percent).

-Backstrom was 7 for 14 (50 percent).

-The Penguins recorded their 99th regular season win against the Capitals all-time (98-83-16-5). They can record 100 tomorrow at Consol Energy Center.

-The only teams the Penguins have recorded more wins against all time are the Rangers (115) and Islanders (110).

-Crosby's three points moved him past 750 of his career (752).

-Stempniak recorded his first two points with the Penguins.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

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About the Capitals - 03-10-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Capitals.

When and where: 7 p.m. EDT. Verizon Center.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), CSN-Washington (Washington D.C. market), NHL Network (rest of the United States).

Record: 30-25-10, 70 points. The Capitals are in fifth place in the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division.

Leading Scorer: Alex Ovechkin, 67 points (44 goals, 23 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 home win against the Coyotes, Saturday. Jaroslav Halak (right) made 31 saves for the Capitals.

Last Game against the Penguins: 4-3 road loss, Jan. 15. Marcus Johansson recorded two assists for the Capitals.

Capitals Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Alex Ovechkin. Just because.

Ex-Penguins on the Capitals: None.

Ex-Capitals on the Penguins: Tomas Vokoun, G.

Useless Capitals Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Capitals coach Adam Oates is one of two members of the 2002-03 Mighty Ducks team which went to the Stanley Cup Final who have become a head coach in the NHl. The other is Dan Bylsma.

Best Capitals Video We Could Find: Former Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson scoring a wrister off the right wing against the Maple Leafs in 1997-98:

Probable goaltenders: Jeff Zatkoff (9-3-1, 2.75 GAA, .910 SV%) for the Penguins. Jaroslav Halak (25-9-4, 2.22 GAA, .918 SV%) for the Capitals.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo ("upper body") and center Brian Gibbons ("lower body") are questionable. Right wingers Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), defensemen Kris Letang (stroke), Paul Martin (hand) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Capitals, center Mikhail Grabovski (left ankle) is out. Left winger Aaron Volpatti ("upper body") is on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins' held an optional skate. Consider this a guess at their lines and defensive pairigns based on yesterday's practice:

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

4 Rob Scuderi - 2 Matt Niskanen
44 Brooks Orpik - 3 Olli Maatta
47 Simon Despres - 5 Deryk Engelland

The Capitals expected lines and defensive pairings are:

21 Brooks Laich - 19 Nicklas Backstrom - 8 Alex Ovechkin
17 Dustin Penner - 90 Marcus Johansson - 20 Troy Brouwer
25 Jason Chimera - 16 Eric Fehr - 42 Joel Ward
92 Evgeny Kuznetsov - 83 Jay Beagle - 43 Tom Wilson

27 Karl Alzner - 74 John Carlson
81 Dmitry Orlov - 52 Mike Green
38 Jack Hillen - 58 Connor Carrick

Notes:

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

-Bortuzzo and Gibbons could be in the lineup.

-The Penguins have a six-game winning streak against the Capitals.

-Carlson has appeared in 299 career games.

-Goaltender Braden Holtby has appeared in 99 career games.

-Brouwer has 97 career assists.

-Kuznetsov, a first round pick in 2010, is expected to make his NHL debut tonight.

-Our live blog, direct from our couch, begins at approximately 6:45 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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Former Western Pa. standouts McConnell, Kane, Wilson, Reed pick up big honors

Written by Mike White on .

Western Pennsylvania doesn't have a reputation for producing much top Division I college basketball talent over the past couple decades, but some former players from the district have done some big things this season, evidenced by the honors they received in the past couple days.

You'll be hard-pressed to come up with a year when this many former WPIAL-City League players got this many honors at the Division I level. On top of that, we could see a handful of WPIAL-City League players in the NCAA tournament this year (see below).

But first, the all-conference honors:

T.J. McConnell

University of Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell was named second-team all-Pac 12. While that's quite an honor in a power conference, McConnell might be just as proud of this honor: He was named to the five-player all-Pac 12 defensive team.

And McConnell, a former Chartiers Valley High School star, has been named one of the 24 finalists for the Cousy Award, given annually to the top college point guard in the country. (McConnell is pictured during his Chartiers Valley days).

McConnell is averaging 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and leads the team in steals with 57. He is 16th in the country in turnover-to-assist ratio (172 to 57) and 30th in the country in assists.

It makes me chuckle that some people are surprised that McConnell would play this much or have such an impact for Arizona. But when McConnell decided to leave Duquesne University and Arizona coach Sean Miller courted him, Miller's design all along was to have McConnell as a starting point guard.

"He's the missing piece to our team's puzzle," Miller said two years ago when McConnell decided to go to Arizona.

Oh, by the way. Shoutout for Miller, the former Blackhawk High School and Pitt point guard who was named the Pac-12 coach of the year. 

DeAndre Kane

Kane is a senior guard at Iowa State who was named first-team all-Big 12 Conference. On top of that, Kane was named today as a third-team All-American by Sporting News, BleacherReport.com and NBCSports.com.

Kane and PopeKane, a former star at Schenley High School in the City League, averages 17.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and finished the regular season 20th in the country in assists at 5.9. (The photo is of Kane in his junior year playing against Aliquippa's Herb Pope in a regular-season game in 2006. It was sort of Kane's coming-out party when he scored 18 points early in the season for a team that featured DeJuan Blair, D.J. Kennedy and Onion Bryant).

Like McConnell, Kane is a Cousy Award finalist. Who would've thunk it: Two Western Pa. players, who attended high schools only 12 miles from each other, are finalists for the Cousy Award. I say tremendous. McConnell and Kane are good examples of how Western Pa. guys can be better than a lot of people - or college coaches - think.

Jesse Reed

Reed isn't as well-known as McConnell and Kane, and he isn't playing on a level like the Pac-12 or Big 12, but what Reed has done is awfully impressive also.

Reed is a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard at American University and named second-team all-Patriot League. He also was named the conference's scholar athlete of the year for basketball.

Jesse ReedReed played at Greensburg Central Catholic and then attended Kiski School in Saltsburg for one post-graduate year. (Reed is pictured during his senior year at GCC). He has helped American reach the championship game of the Patriot League tournament and American plays Boston U. Wednesday night for the right to go to the NCAA tournament.

Reed averages 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals a game. He is shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 472 percent from 3-point range (57 of 125).

Devin Wilson

Virginia Tech got involved with Devin Wilson late in the recruiting process last year when he was a senior at Montour. But the Hokies ended up signing Wilson and Wilson ended up one of the top freshmen in the ACC.

Virginia Tech is having a rough year record-wise, but Wilson (pictured at Montour) has been a bright spot. He was named to the all-ACC freshman team. And how is this for select company. Only five players were named to the team and the others were Jabari Parker of Duke, Tyler Ennis of Syracuse, Kennedy Meeks of North Carolina and London Perrantes of Virginia.

Wilson is fourth in the ACC in assists at 4.8 a game. He is averaging 9.2 points and 3.3 rebounds. He is playing 34 minutes a game and is the only player on the team to start all 30 games.

Consider what McConnell, Kane, Reed and Wilson have done this year, and throw in that Duquesne's Micah Mason (Highlands) led the country in 3-point percentage during the regular season, and it's been quite a year for former Western Pa. players.

Now about the NCAA tournament. Could we see as many as four players from the area in the tourney? McConnell and Kane are in because their teams are locks. I thought Sewickley Academy's Tom Droney might also get in at Davidson, but Davidson lost in the Southern Conference tourney final in overtime last night.

Reed makes it if American beats Boston U. in the Patriot League tourney final Wednesday night. And Gateway's Barnett Harris could make it. He is a freshman at Delaware and Delaware is playing in the Colonial Athletic Association championship tonight against William & Mary. Harris has played in 27 games for Delaware.

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