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Penguins at Panthers - 12-23-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-First things first. Things don't sound good for Blake Comeau:

-Comeau left the game after sliding into the Florida end boards. He braced for the crash by putting his hands up.

-He's been a pretty important contributor to the Penguins in light of the rash of injuries and ailments he's had to deal with.

-We're not sure how to fairly judge the Penguins in this 4-3 shootout loss to the Panthers. The Penguins entered the day short on bodies. Then they had to send Steve Downie, Thomas Greiss and Brandon Sutter home due to mumps symptoms.  Things were so lean they needed to use Taylor Chorney, the fourth defenseman they've recalled from the AHL this season, as a forward tonight. Yes, there were still some pretty big weapons in the form of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still in the lineup but this was really short-handed team the Penguins dressed tonight.

-All in all, the fact that the Penguins got at least a point out of this game isn't the worst fate.

-Marc-Andre Fleury could have been better. A few of the regulation goals he allowed were softies. That said, given how he's carried this team through this rash of injuries/illnesses, he's permitted to have a night off.

-Additionally, losing a seven-round shootout to Roberto Luongo isn't the worst crime in the world.

-There was a fair amount of physical play in this game. There were plenty of hits and battles on the boards. But this game simply didn't get as nasty as Saturday's contest.

-Patric Hornqvist got his first goal in quite a while. It was his first score in eight games and first score since Nov. 28. Since returning from a suspected head injury, he had been a non-factor for the most part.

-Nick Spaling once again was promoted to a top-six role and he came through with a pretty important goal. Ideally, he's a third liner but he keeps finding ways to contribute when promoted.

-The shot Pouliot took to set up Spaling goal was impressive. He showed a fair amount of patience in waiting for a shooting lane to open up and lobbed it in a place where Spaling could deflect it. Normally, a younger player will just shoot that to get it on net even if there's a threat of it getting blocked. He showed a lot of composure on that.

-Kris Letang (6-foot-0, 201 pounds) was very physical tonight. He stuck Nick Bjugstad (6-foot-6, 218 pounds) on the ice during the second period with a big hit. Additionally, he staggered Dmitry Kulikov (6-foot-1, 204 pounds) with a big hit near the Penguins' net in overtime. Also during that period, he eliminated Tomas Kopecky (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) with a shoulder to shoulder check in the corner.

-We would love to see what Chorney could do playing in a proper role on defense in a real NHL game. He had a really good training camp and was kept on the NHL roster just as the regular season began.

-Sean Bergenheim's late hit on Bobby Farnham should have been called for interference. Given the apparent lack of injury to Farnham, we would suspect it will not be subject to supplemental discipline.

-Evgeni Malkin appeared to be legitimately tripped at Penguins' blue line in overtime but nothing was called. Two things to keep in mind. 1.) It's overtime. Officials are slow to call anything at that time in a game. 2.) Malkin was called for diving twice in Saturday's game. Debate how legitimate either of those calls were Saturday but legit or not, word gets around to officials on alleged divers.

-We can't say either of Jimmy Hayes' goals are going to live on throughout history on YouTube but they were effectively simple. He went to the net and scored. Period.

-The Panthers led in shots on net, 37-27.

-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 53-52.

-Jussi Jokinen led the game in shots with six.

-Fire Jim Rutherford.

-Letang and Marcel Goc each led the Penguins with five shots.

-Fire Dale Tallon.

-Letang led the game with 29:06 of ice time.

-Brian Campbell led the Panthers with 22:50 of ice time.

-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 40-31 (56 percent).

-Goc was 16 for 26 (62 percent).

-Fire Ray Shero.

-Nick Bjugstad was 10 for 16 (63 percent).

-Aaron Ekblad and Dylan Olsen each led the game with three shots.

-Chorney, Letang, Simon Despres and Rob Scuderi each led the Penguins with two shots.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

(Photo: Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

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Uneven performance enough for Robert Morris in win against Delaware

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Consistency can be a tired and even trite topic for an inexperienced team that hasn’t looked the same in any two games it has played in a season.

It’s an issue that Robert Morris nonetheless must face, even after a game in which it never trailed and ultimately won.

Against a Delaware team statistically ranked among the worst 40 squads at the Division I level, the Colonials (4-7) were able to hold on for an 84-81 victory at the Charles Sewall Center in a game that displayed anything but the kind of consistency they hope to achieve.

At multiple points Monday night, they built a double-digit lead only to see it dissipate, a trend exemplified by a 16-point lead with 6:40 remaining shrinking all the way to three with fewer than 30 seconds remaining.

“At some point in time, we’ve got to have some guys that step up and can be those guys day in and day out,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “If you look at our stats when we win or when we lose, it’s Jekyll and Hyde. You can’t be a very good team if you’re doing that.”

Robert Morris entered the game with a struggling offense – one averaging barely 95 points per 100 possessions – but a hot start gave it 11 points in the game’s opening 1:55 and a 10-point lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.

Though Delaware chipped that early hole to six points at halftime and two nearly midway through the second half, the Colonials went on a 20-6 run that built their lead all the way to 65-49 with under seven minutes remaining.

The Blue Hens (0-10), however, had one final surge in them, badgering their opponent with a full-court press that led to four turnovers in a span of 1:51. In the matter of about two minutes, Delaware had gotten within five points at 65-60 with 4:24 remaining.

Without starting point guard Kavon Stewart – who was serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules – and with star forward Lucky Jones in foul trouble for much of the second half, many Colonials players were thrust into unfamiliar roles and subsequently struggled.

“With foul trouble, everybody was put in different situations on the floor,” guard/forward Rodney Pryor said. “We weren’t organizing as well. We were grabbing the inbounds pass right away and not letting our offense get set. I think that was a big issue for us.”

With its once insurmountable lead nearly erased, Robert Morris steadied itself briefly before a four-point play got Delaware within three points at 82-79 with 21 seconds remaining. A Marcquise Reed free throw followed by a Blue Hens turnover on the other end finally ended any comeback hopes. The Colonials made 17 of their 19 free throws in the game’s final 3:30.

Four Colonials finished with double figures in points, a group led by 20 from Reed. Pryor, the team’s leading scorer, added 19 points on seven of eight shooting while Jones netted 15, nine of which came from the free throw line.

“I hope it’s something we can build off of,” Toole said. “We didn’t play with Lucky against Duquesne and we thought that was something we could build off of, but then we go to Toledo and aren’t ready to play. I guess we’ll have to see what happens at Clemson before we can answer that question. It’s kind of who we are right now.”

 

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

 

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Rapid reaction: Robert Morris 84, Delaware 81

Written by Craig Meyer on .

Robert Morris won a game it really seemed like it had to Monday night, defeating a winless Delaware team, 84-81, in a contest that was largely not close to its final score, but somehow found a way to get there. Here's what helped decide the game and what it means in the context of the Colonials' season:

Turning point: It's kind of hard to choose one in a loopy, up-and-down affair like this one, but the game was probably decided with a 20-6 run by Robert Morris in the second half that turned a two-point lead into a 65-49 advantage with 7:08 remaining. Granted, Delaware -- through some improved shooting and some careless play by its opponent -- was able to get within three with less than 30 seconds remaining, but the 16-point hole was simply too much to dig out of.

Game ball: Rodney Pryor. The junior-college transfer wasn't the team's leading scorer -- that was Marcquise Reed, who had 20 points -- but Pryor played about as efficient of an offensive game as you'll see, scoring 19 points on seven of eight shooting. If you don't include his uncharacteristic one for eight clunker against Toledo (obviously a big 'if'), Pryor has made 20 of his past 26 shots His four turnovers were regrettable Monday, but he helped a stagnant offensive team get off to a hot start that set the tone for much of the game's next 30 minutes.

What it means: It's a win and any team that's just 4-7 on the season won't be too upset about getting one, but there really isn't too much to take from this. It was an incredibly inconsistent performance from a team that's been just that for much of the season. Andy Toole mentioned in the post-game press conference how this is a 'Jekyll and Hyde' team and that you can't achieve much success if you don't know what team's going to show up. Those sort of inconsistencies -- hot streaks broken up by almost inexplicable breakdowns -- have been rampant for much of this season, but on Monday night, they were encapsulated in one game. On a more positive note, though, Robert Morris was able to make 17 of its final 19 free throws in the game's final 3:30, a sign of progress for an inexperienced and sometimes shaky group.

What's next: The Colonials get eight days off before hitting the road to take on Clemson, their final non-conference game of the 2014-15 season. A quick look at the Tigers reveals that they're just about as hard of a team to predict as Robert Morris, albeit one with a much better record at 7-4. They're defeated a ranked Arkansas team and have also dispatched an improved LSU squad along with Bruce Pearl-led Auburn. However, they also have losses to Winthrop, Gardner-Webb and Rutgers, the last of whom just lost at home to Saint Francis (Pa.). With the way the Colonials have been playing thus far this season, it's hard to envision them beating an ACC team on the road...but then again, that was also the case for some of the other small-conference teams Clemson has lost to this season. Needless to say, a win on Dec. 30 would be some kind of catalyst for Robert Morris heading into Northeast Conference play.

 

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

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About the Panthers - 12-22-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Panthers.

When and where: 7:30 p.m, EST, BB&T Center.

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports Florida, SportsNet, TVA.

Record: 14-9-8, 36 points. The Panthers are in sixth place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Center Nick Bjugstad, 19 points (12 goals, 7 assists).

Last Game: 3-1 road loss to the Penguins Saturday. Goaltender Roberto Luongo (right) made 31 saves for the Panthers.

Last Game against the Penguins: Ditto.

Panthers Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Center Vince Trocheck. He scored the Panthers' only goal Saturday.

Ex-Penguins on the Panthers: Left winger Jussi Jokinen, professional scout Peter Mahovlich, general manager Dale Tallon.

Ex-Panthers on the Penguins: Assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald, center Marcel Goc, senior advisor of hockey operations Jacques Martin, co-director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton.

Useless Panthers Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Luongo and defenseman Brian Campbell are two of 15 players selected in the 1997 draft held in Pittsburgh who are currently members of the Panthers.

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (19-4-2, 1.97 GAA, .933 SV%) for the Penguins. Roberto Luongo (12-7-6, 2.28 GAA, .926 SV%) for the Panthers.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right winger Steve Downie (illness), goaltender Thomas Greiss (illness) and center Brandon Sutter (illness) are out. Right winger Craig Adams (undisclosed) is out. Right wingers Craig Adams (undisclosed), Beau Bennett (knee), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), defensemen Robert Bortuzzo ("upper body"), Christian Ehrhoff ("lower body"), Olli Maatta ("upper body"), Paul Martin (undisclosed) centers Zach Sill ("upper body") and Scott Wilson (leg) are on injured reserve. For the Panthers, left winger Shawn Thornton ("lower body") is on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins have a full crew of players at today's morning skate. Consider this a guess at their lines and defensive pairings:

14 Chris Kunitz  - 87 Sidney Crosby - 72 Patric Hornqvist
20 Rob Klinkhammer - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 17 Blake Comeau
13 Nick Spaling - 57 Marcel Goc - 36 Bryan Rust
34 Bobby Farnham - 25 Andrew Ebbett - 44 Taylor Chorney

10 Scott Harrington - 58 Kris Letang
8 Brian Dumoulin - 47 Simon Despres
51 Derrick Pouliot - 4 Rob Scuderi

-The Panthers expected lines and defensive pairings are:

11 Jonathan Huberdeau – 27 Nick Bjugstad – 21 Vincent Trocheck
20 Sean Bergenheim – 16 Aleksander Barkov – 73 Brandon Pirri
36 Jussi Jokinen – 63 Dave Bolland – 12 Jimmy Hayes
82 Tomas Kopecky – 17 Derek MacKenzie – 19 Scottie Upshall

51 Brian Campbell – 5 Aaron Ekblad
33 Willie Mitchell – 7 Dmitry Kulikov
44 Erik Gudbranson – 4 Dylan Olsen

Notes:

-Downie, Sutter and Greiss returned to Pittsburgh to be tested for mumps.

-Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Defenseman Taylor Chorney, the son of former Penguins defenseman Marc Chorney, could make his Penguins debut.

-The Penguins will use 11 forwards and seven defensemen with the seventh defenseman serving as a forward.

-Center Nick Spaling has 98 career points.

-The referees are Brad Watson (No. 23) and Kyle Rehman (No. 37). The linesmen are Pierre Racicot (No. 65) and Shandor Alphonso (No. 52).

-Our live blog begins at approximately 7:15 p.m. Please tune in.

-We will not be holding a live blog tonight but will have a post game blog. Our apologies.

(Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 12-22-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Derrick Pouliot (above) joined Mario Lemieux in some pretty elite and random company.

-Two former Penguins have helped Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad become a goal-scorer.

-“We’re lucky we get to play them again on Monday." - Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson on a rematch with the Penguins following Saturday's fight-filled game.

-Sidney Crosby is now the NHL's 150th all-time leading scorer.

-After the Jump: Matt Bartkowski delivers a dangerous a hit.

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