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Hornqvist 'thought it was a dream' being traded to Penguins - 07-03-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

New Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist talked with Pittsburgh media today via conference call for the first time since being acquired from the Predators along with forward Nick Spaling in a trade which sent James Neal to Nashville Friday.

Here is the transcript:

How did you find out about the trade?

"I was actually in bed [in Sweden] because it’s six hours ahead of you guys [on the East Coast]. I was in bed and I saw [Predators general manager] David Poile call me. Obviously I picked up my phone and he told me the news that I got traded to Pittsburgh. Obviously I was shocked. The first couple of hours there, I still thought it was a dream. Obviously, I was so happy Pittsburgh wanted me. I only hear good things about Pittsburgh, the team and the organization. Obviously with [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin there, they always have a chance to win. I’m real excited for the season to start and to join a great organization and good team."

How much do you think you can produce playing with Crosby or Malkin?

"Honestly it’s hard to say how much I can produce playing with them but I’ve got a great opportunity playing with two of the best centermen in the world but I’m not going to change my game. I’m still going to go hard to the net and try to score goals around the net. Obviously I’m so happy about this organization to come to a good organization and a good team and have a great chance to win. I’m excited and looking forward toward the season to start."

How did you develop the skill of being a net-front presence?

"That’s a good question. When I was playing back in Europe, I was more a high-slot guy. When I came to Nashville, I was always trying to go to in front of the net. They put me in front of the net on the power play. After that, I was developed there and got more ice time and got on the power play and all that. The puck started to go in and from there on, I was always trying to go hard to the net and scoring those greasy goals."

Do you have a preference on playing the left or right wing and what differences are there playing in the Western and Eastern Conferences?

"I don’t care left or right to be honest. The difference playing from the west to the east is that is that is probably a little more high-tempo in the East. A little more open than the West. I’m really excited to play in the East. Shorter travel and a little more open game for forwards obviously. More fun."

Have you talked to any of the Penguins' management?

"I talked to both the [general manager] and the coach. They were happy to have me on board. We haven’t really talked about what I’m going to do on the ice or anything like that. The only I know I’ve got to do, I’ve got to be the same player I’ve been in Nashvile. I’ve got to give energy to the team and work as hard as I can every single night and go hard to the net. I can’t change anything. The know what kind of player they’ve got and hopefully I can show it and be good for the organization and for the team."

What can you and Spaling bring to the Penguins' dressing room?

"In Nashville, I was trying to be a good guy in the locker room. Always try to laugh and joke around a little bit before practice. Always be more of a funny guy and stuff like that. Hopefully I can be the same guy in Pittsburgh. Nick was the same way. Always happy around the rink. Hopefully we can bring that to Pittsburgh. I’m sure they already have those kind of guys."

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-03-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-"The main reason for accepting the one-year deal was I thought Pittsburgh was the best fit for me, the best chance at the Stanley Cup." - Christian Ehrhoff.

-The Penguins sign Steve Downie (right).

-“It’s not out of the question for him to be able to play with Sidney Crosby some of the time.” - Rick Tocchet on Downie.

-The Penguins re-signed forward Nick Drazenovic to a one-year two-way contract. He appeared in one NHL game last season and did not score a point. In 63 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season, Drazenovic, 27, scored 43 points (13 goals, 29 assists).

-EN Says: Given the Penguins' depth at the center position, it's hard to see Drazenovic getting a shot at the NHL level unless injuries hit.

-After losing out on the NHL Penguins' head coach position, John Hynes will return as the AHL Penguins' head coach.

-Utica Comets (AHL) coach Travis Green declined an offer to become an assistant coach with the Penguins.

-Former Penguins all-star forward Alex Kovalev (right) announced his retirement from professional hockey. One of the first Russian players to win the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the Rangers, Kovalev spent parts of five seasons over two separate stints with the Penguins. Initially coming to the Penguins in a trade early during the 1998-99 season, Kovalev finished that campaign by by playing in 63 games for the Penguins and scoring 46 points. In the 1999 postseason, he played in in 10 games and scored 12 points. His first full season in Pittsburgh was 1999-2000. He appeared in all 82 games and scored 66 points. During that spring's postseason, he saw action in 11 games and scored six points. In 2000-01, Kovalev, who earned an all-star selection played in 79 games and set career highs in goals (44), assists (51) and points (95) while playing primarily on a line with Robert Lang and Martin Straka.  The 2001 postseason saw Kovalev appear in 18 games and score 10 points. In 2001-02, Kovalev was limited to to 67 games, but once again was selected to the all-star game while scoring a team-leading 76 points. After 54 games and 67 points in 2002-03, Kovalev was traded back to the Rangers. After bouncing between the Rangers, Canadiens and Senators, Kovalev returned to Pittsburgh when he was acquired from the Senators at the 2010-11 trade deadline. He saw action in 20 regular season games and contributed seven points. He appeared in seven postseason games and recorded two points. After the season, he went to the KHL. In 355 regular season games with the Penguins, Kovalev had 354 points, 16th-most in franchise history. In 46 postseason games, he scored 30 points. In addition to the Penguins, Rangers, Canadiens and Senators, Kovalev also played for the Panthers. In 1,316 career regular season games in the NHL, Kovalev scored 1,029 points. He spent last season with EHC Visp of Switzerland's NLB.

-Former Penguins forward Kris Beech has joined HC Innsbruck of Austria's EBEL.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-Flyers forward Claude Giroux was jailed overnight in Ottawa Tuesday after he allegedly grabbed the buttocks of a police officer. Giroux, who lives in Ottawa, was not charged with a crime.

-The Flyers signed former Blue Jackets defenseman Nick Schultz to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $3.5 million, Schultz, 31, appeared in 69 games last season and recorded five assists.

-EN Says: This is a depth signing. At one point, Schultz was a pretty reliable second-pairing defender but he's on the back nine holes of his career. He can still function as a No. 6 or 7 defenseman.

-The Flyers re-signed restricted free agent forward Jason Akeson to a one-year two-way contract and signed former Predators forward Zach Stortini as well as former Canucks forward Andrew Gordon to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Islanders signed former Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski ($20 million total) and former Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin ($16.75 million) to four-year contracts. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $3 million, Grabovski's new deal will have a cap hit of $5 million. Appearing in 53 games last season, Grabovski (right), 30, scored 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists). Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.8 million, Kulemin's new deal will have a cap hit of $4,187,500. Appearing in 70 games last season, Kulemin scored 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists).

-EN Says: Grabovski and Kulemin, teammates with the Maple Leafs at one time, appear to have been a tandem signing. If so, that would have ruled out the Penguins signing Kulemin as was rumored. This is a high-risk, high-reward move. Both players are fairly talented and had success as linemates in Toronto. The Islanders are banking on them rediscovering their chemistry on their second line. Both players come with a little baggage as they have underachieved for various reasons throughout their career. For a contract with limited financial resources, this is a big risk at a combined $36 million.

-The Hurricanes signed former Maple Leafs forward Jay McClement to a one-year contract worth $1 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.5 million, McClement, 31, appeared in 81 games last season and scored 10 points (four goals, six assists).

-EN Says: After losing Manny Malhotra to free agency, the Hurricanes needed a replacement fourth-line center. McClement (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) has some decent size and is a pretty tenacious defensive presence. He doesn't offer much offense. This is a decent signing.

-The Hurricanes re-signed former defenseman Tim Gleason (right) to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $4 million, Gleason, 31, appeared in 56 games last season and scored six points (one goal, five assists). The Hurricanes traded him to the Maple Leafs mid-season.

-EN Says: At one point, Gleason was capable of being a top-four defenseman but those days have passed. He's still capable of being a bottom-pairing defenseman. He's capable of being physical and playing a shutdown role but rarely offers anything in terms of offense. This is a fair contract.

-The Hurricanes re-signed restricted free agent forwards Zach Boychuk, a former Penguin, and Greg Nemisz, to one-year two-way contracts.

-The Devils re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Stephen Gionta to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.7 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $562,500, Gionta's new deal will have a cap hit of $850,000. Appearing in 66 games last season, Gionta, 30, scored 11 points (four goals, seven assists).

-EN Say: Despite his small size, Gionta (5-foot-7, 185 pounds) has carved out a solid existence as a bottom-six winger with the Devils. This is a fair contract.

-New Devils forward Martin Havlat will be joining the "Czech boys" in New Jersey. He'll be teamed up with fellow countrymen Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky.

-The Rangers signed former Penguins forward Chris Bourque. Terms of the deal were not reported. He spent last season with Biel of Switzerland's NLA.

-Capitals forward Tom Wilson suffered an ankle injury in a fall at his home in Toronto. The extent of the injury is not known.

Atlantic Division

-“When I kind of sat down and thought about it, it was pretty neat. A team trades a big name and a big player like that and they’re looking for you. It means a lot.” - New Senators forward Alex Chiasson (right) on being the primary return in a deal which sent star forward Jason Spezza to the Stars.

-"This was my childhood team growing up. It’s a dream to play for them and to put on the jersey.” - New Sabres forward Brian Gionta, a native of Rochester, N.Y.

-Hall-of-fame Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret has been diagnosed with throat cancer. Jeannerett, 71, is dealing with stage III cancer and that he has an 85 percent chance of recovery. He is expected to work some Sabres games next season.

-The Red Wings signed former Coyotes forward Andy Miele to a one-year contract believed to be a two-way deal.

-The Panthers signed goaltender Sam Brittain, a fourth-round pick in 2010, to a three-year entry-level contract.

-The Lightning hired former general manager Jay Feaster as executive director of community hockey development. Feaster was the team's general manager when it won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Central Division

-The Predators signed former Jets forward Olli Jokinen to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $4.5 million, Jokinen, 35, appeared in 82 games last season and scored 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists).

-EN Says: James Neal has new center. While Jokinen (right) is hardly Evgeni Malkin and he's well past his own prime, Jokinen is still capable of being a top-six center. Presumably, he'll team up with Neal to give the Predators a potent duo on the top line. The Predators tried to trade for Jason Spezza and lost out on trading for Paul Statsny. Jokinen is their consolation prize.

-The Stars re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Vernon Fiddler to a two-year contract worth a total of $2.5 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $1.8 million, Fiddler's new deal will have a cap hit of $1.25 million. Appearing in 76 games last season, Fiddler, 24, scored 23 points (six goals, 17 assists).

-EN Says: Fiddler allegedly turned down a few more lucrative offers to return to Dallas. That says quite a bit for what general manager Jim Nill and head coach Lindy Ruff are doing with this franchise. Fiddler is an effective bottom-six center who is strong in the faceoff circle and can agitate the opponent's top forwards. 

-The Stars signed forward Brendan Ranford to a three-year entry-level contract. He was a seventh-round pick of the Flyers in 2010.

-The Wild signed former Capitals forward Joel Rechlicz to a one-year two-way contract.

-The Blackhawks signed former Avalanche defenseman Kyle Cumiskey to a one-year contract believed to be a two-way deal.

-Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Ryan Schnell has joined the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawk's AHL affiliate.

-The Jets re-signed restricted free agent goaltender Michael Hutchinson to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.15 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $600,000, Hutchinson's new deal will have a cap hit of $575,000. Appearing in three games last season, Hutchinson, 24, had a 2-1-0 record with a 1.64 goals against average and a .943 save percentage.

-EN Says: With Al Montoya leaving as a free agent, Hutchinson will take over as the No. 2 goaltender. After leading the Jet's AHL affiliate in St. John's to the Calder Cup final, he's ready for the promotion.

Pacific Division

-The Canucks signed former Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata (right) to a two-year contract worth a total of $10 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $3 million, Vrbata's new contract will have a salary cap hit of $5 million. Appearing in 80 games last season, Vrbata, 33, scored 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists).

-EN Says: For whatever reason, Vrbata has never enjoyed the same level of success he has had with the Coyotes as he has with other NHL teams. He topped the 20-goal mark four times in his career with the Coyotes but never reached that plateau with four other NHL teams. So there is risk in him leaving for Vancouver. That said, if he can play at that level with the Canucks, he is a viable top-six winger who offers a skilled perimeter game.

-The Canucks signed former Penguins forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Cal O'Reilly and former Hurricanes defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti. Terms were not reported. Jeffrey spent last season with the Stars while O'Reilly spent last season with the Canucks' AHL affiliate in Utica.

-The Ducks signed former Oilers goaltender Jason LaBarbera to a one-year contract worth $750,000. In seven games last season, LaBarbera, 34, had a 1-3-0 record with a 3.28 goals against average and .870 save percentage.

-EN Says: At one point, LaBarbera was a steady backup goaltender but he labored through a poor 2013-14 season primarily in the AHL. He figures to be the third organizational goaltender in Anaheim next season.

-“I talked to Brian Burke, Brad Treliving and Bob Hartley all within about 12 hours on the first day. I was expecting a call from one of them — not all three of them. To hear from all three of them, it just showed how interested they were.” - Former Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland (right) on being courted by Flames management.

-The Sharks acquired restricted free agent forward Tye McGinn from the Flyers in exchange for a third-round pick in 2015. McGinn, 23, appeared in 18 games last season and scored five points (one goal, four assists).

-EN Says: McGinn (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) has solid size and a little bit of scoring touch. He has shown an ability to produce at the AHL and junior levels but hasn't had many opportunities to do so at the NHL level.

-The Sharks signed forward/enforcer John Scott to a one-year contract worth $700,000. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $750,000, Scott, 31, appeared in 56 games last season and scored one goal while recording 125 penalty minutes.

-EN Says: Why? What in the world would possess the Sharks to sign this goon? Granted, Scott (6-foot-8, 259 pounds) is one of the largest players in the game and will drop the gloves with anyone, but he is prone to having some really brain dead moments which hurt his team.

-The Coyotes signed former Blue Jackets goaltender Mike McKenna to a one-year two-way contract.

Patrick Division

-Former Devils forward Mattias Tedenby has joined Atlant Mytishchi of Russia's KHL.

(Photos: Claus Andersen/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Donald Miralle/Allsport and Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Ehrhoff: 'I can play in every situation' - 07-02-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

New Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff talked with media today on a conference call. here is a transcript of the highlights:

What chose you to take a one-year contract?

"The main reason for accepting the one-year deal was I thought Pittsburgh was the best fit for me, the best chance at the Stanley Cup. With the salary cap issues for Pittsburgh this year, it was not possible to get a higher number. That was their best number for me. So I decided to go with it. For me, it keeps the option open for later to either re-sign [if] it hopefully works out well. The term wasn’t the biggest point for me going into this free agency."

On having other offers:

"I had a few others I was thinking about but when Pittsburgh came up, it was really my preference."

On playing with fellow Germans Marcel Goc and Thomas Greiss:

"It’s definitely nice when you know some people We played together in San Jose togehter. Especially Marcel, we’ve played together for quite a while. We know each other very well. It definitely helps when you know somebody on the team. On the other side, it wasn’t a selling point for me or something that all the Germans are on the team. It’s very nice to have."

On being bought out by the Sabres:

"I was really, really surprised when I got the news Sunday afternoon. I had thought I would probably get traded this summer. Obviously the new rules in the [collective bargaining agreement] with the penalty [a team] would receive if a player retires early out of his contract scared off Buffalo and they decided to just make the contract go away. It was definitively a surprise to me. I was very disappointed last season and frustrated most of the time, I’m happy for a new start."

How well do you know new head coach Mike Johnston's system?

"I don’t know much about his system yet but I’m sure I’ll talk to him the next little while. For me, definitely a puck possession game is huge. I’m a player that likes to move the puck, get the puck to the forwards quick and try to be involved in the offense to. It would definitely fit my style of play."

The importance of playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin:

"When you have [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin on the team, it’s pretty obvious you have two of the top players in the game. Especially at the center position, it’s huge to have two guys like that in the lineup. The supporting cast is very good too. The defense still looks good too. I think all-around, we have a good lineup. Pittsburgh is one of the teams that is mentioned when you talk about teams that have a chance to win the Cup. That’s what I found here."

Given the turnover on the roster, do you expect the team to take a step back?

"No, I don’t think so. It’s not really a big concern for me. It’s obviously a fresh start for everybody. A new [general manager], a new coach, a few new faces on the roster. I’m sure everybody going to be pretty excited about the fresh start. There’s not really any concern for me with all the new changes."

How did you hear about the buyout?

"I was at my home in Germany. It was just before 1 [p.m.] my time so it was really early for my agent. Almost [7 a.m.] his time when I saw his number on my cell phone. I thought right away, this must be something important when he calls me that early. My initial shot was that I might have been traded. It was different news. I don’t think I have to do anything special for motivation. I’m just really excited to get going, to be on a team that has a chance to compete this year. That is motivation enough for me."

With Kris Letang and Paul Martin on the roster, are you concerned about getting enough power-play time:

No, not really. I think the coaches will figure that out. I see myself as an all-around defenseman. The last four or five years, I’ve played a lot of minutes. I can play in every situation. I don’t really see myself as a power-play specialist. We’ll see how it plays out with the minutes. I’m just excited to be on a contender. I work really hard for my minutes and will try to earn them."

(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

 

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Penguins sign Downie - 07-02-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The Penguins add another Flyer by way of a connection through Tampa Bay.

Former Flyers forward Steve Downie has signed a one-year contract with the Penguins worth $1 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $2.65 million, Downie, 27, appeared in 62 games last season and scored 24 points (four goals, 20 assists).

A first round pick in 2005, Downie has spent time with the Flyers, Lightning and Avalanche during his career. His most productive season was in 2009-10 when he appeared in 79 games and set career highs in goals (22), assists (24) and points (46). Downie enjoyed that success while playing for head coach Rick Tocchet, now an assistant coach with the Penguins.

During the 2011 postseason, Downie produced some solid numbers by scoring 12 points in 17 postseason games and helped the Lightning reach the Eastern Conference final. During their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series win against the Penguins, Downie had six points in six games.

-A few highlights:

-One of Downie's attributes has been his abilities to agitate the opponent's top players. A few highlights of this "skill:"

Downie's career has been marred by discipline and health issues. In a 2007 preseason game, Downie was suspended twenty games by the NHL after he launched himself in the head of Senators forward Dean McAmmond:

During Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Penguins, Downie was suspended one game for a high hit against Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy:

-Late in the 2009-2010 season, Downie did not face supplemental discipline for a low hit against Penguins captain/forward Sidney Crosby:

Downie himself is no stranger to being injured. A rough-and-tumble player who isn't afraid to fight or mix it up physically, he has missed many games throughout his career due to head or "upper-body" injuries. He missed the final eight games of this past regular season and all seven of the Flyers' postseason games due to an "upper-body" injury.

-EN Says: There's a lot to sift through with this signing.

First and foremost, Downie comes with a ton of red flags. He behavior throughout this career has made him a liability. The only time he showed any substantial level of composure was that 2009-10 season under Tocchet.

Tocchet kept Downie on a tight leash and worked with him quite a bit to remain discipline and as a result Downie was able to show off the abilities which made him a first-round pick.

But that has been the exception and not the rule throughout his career. Downie has had far too many meltdowns throughout his career to be considered a reliable player.

Injuries have also been a factor for Downie's inconsistent play. In addition to his multiple head injuries, Downie missed the final 46 games of the 2012-13 season due to a knee injury.

Those factors why he only received a one-year contract. The Penguins are taking a chance that Tocchet can once again reign in Downie.

As far as how Downie will be used, one would assume he would get a crack at the third line alongside Brandon Sutter. He would provide an upgrade over many of the players used on that line last season.

We wouldn't rule out Downie being considered for the top two lines either. In 2009-10, he played primarily with superstar forwards Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. He has played and succeeded with elite talent before in his career.

This is a risk worth taking.

(Photos: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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PBC Pro-Am: A first look at the 2014-15 Duquesne Dukes

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

GoDuquesne.com

Duquesne was at the center of a controversial buzzer-beating finish at Montour High School Monday in the third night of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club’s Pro-Am summer league.

Desmond Ridenour, UPMC’s point guard, brought the ball up-court trailing by one point and with just a handful of seconds left on the clock. Ridenour cut into the lane and lofted a short floater. The ball rolled around the rim and then off. Dominique McKoy’s first put-back attempt came plenty early, but it bounced back to him. This time, most definitely in the final second, McKoy gathered again and laid the ball in.

Had the horn sounded?

The referee bolted across the baseline and, while wearing a half smirk, emphatically signaled the basket good. McKoy whooped and hollered; Jeremiah Jones and his PGT teammates objected; the referees quickly grabbed their bags and scurried toward the exit.

Such is life in the PBC Pro-Am, a summer basketball wonderland where scores are sky-high, where defense is optional, and where it really doesn’t matter if McKoy’s layup beat the buzzer.

It was good,” McKoy said afterward, grinning. “The ref said it was good, at least, so that means it's good.”

It’s difficult to say how much can truly be gleaned from watching summer-league action. Some players look decent, others look great, and none of it really means all that much until they’re back in uniform this fall. Still, even if it’s no surefire way to gauge players’ growth from one year to the next, it’s certainly a valuable look at their progression and their off-season priorities. Plus, it’s a first look at the five Dukes newcomers.

All 12 Duquesne scholarship players are involved in the league and already have a few games under their belts. I’ll be at as many Pro-Am nights as possible but won’t be doing game-by-game updates. If you’re looking for those, our friends at We Wear the Ring have you covered.

Instead, here are a few scattered thoughts on what I’ve seen and heard about each of the Dukes. I’ve watched just about a full game of each player so far, minus TySean Powell, who missed the first night with an ankle injury.

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