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Midseason report card: State of the Dukes (7-5) before A-10 play

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

WIN LOSS PCT A-10 HOME ROAD NEUT
7 5 .583 0-0 4-3 3-1 0-1 

Duquesne turned the page on 2013 with a lopsided 79-55 drubbing of Appalachian State at the Palumbo Center Thursday night. It was the kind of win that makes you think two things: 1. Hey, maybe this team really can scare some folks in the Atlantic 10; and, 2. Could I have suited up and single-handedly put on a better show than the Mountaineers just did?

(Hey, a 6-foot-3 I'd at least have a nice height advantage over Derrick Colter, right?)

At the dawn of Atlantic 10 play, the Dukes are in a familiar position — after plenty of good and plenty of bad in the first three months of the season, here they sit with seven wins, just like last season. Now, you'll remember that a year ago Duquesne was 7-7 going into conference play and subsequently went 1-15 the rest of the way.

So, a 7-5 start isn't half bad, especially since second-year head coach Jim Ferry and the Dukes are working with nine new players on the court this year, but this is where everything really has to come together. Duquesne will host Fordham Wednesday night at the Palumbo Center. "The A-10 is an animal," senior forward Ovie Soko said last week. "It's a beast," Ferry said.

Before we meet the beast, let's take a look back at the first half of the 2013-14 season.



OFFENSE

PTS FG% 3FG% FT% AST OREB  TO
79.2 .466 .364 .678 15.7 11.3 10.2

If we knew only one thing entering the fall, it was that this Duquesne team was built to score. And it has, for the most part. Ferry's hyper-tempo transition offense worked rather well through the nonconference season, though it looked at times like the Dukes were running out of their shoes. There were turnovers galore, especially early, but the offense seems to have settled in, especially since the return of sophomore guard Micah Mason, who was injured in his first start (vs. Albany) and missed five games with a broken hand. Mason is shooting at a ridiculous clip — 20 of 32 (.625) from 3-point range — and has been exactly what Duquesne wanted him to be: a pure shooter who can space out the floor, adding another dimension to the transition offense. The true engine of this offense, of course, is Soko, who is averaging 18.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer restrictions, Soko started hot and has hardly been stopped yet. He's had four double-doubles and has been held to fewer than 14 points just once (6 points vs. UMBC). With that said, Soko also takes 21 percent of Duquesne's shots, and when everything isn't falling, the Dukes are in trouble. Thanks largely to the new, established presences down low in Soko and junior forward Dominique McKoy (10.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Duquesne has relied far less on the 3-pointer this season, attempting more than five fewer 3-pointers than a year ago. Opponents have attempted 50 more 3-pointers than the Dukes have through 12 games. More impressive, though, is that Duquesne has gotten to the line 128 times more than opponents have. The Dukes are averaging 28.2 free-throw attempts per game, and they're succeeding in the stated team goal of making more free throws (230) than the opponents attempts (211).


DEFENSE

PTS FG% 3FG% FT% DRPG STL BLK
74.4 .446 .381 .687 25.6 4.5 2.9

If Duquesne's offense was as good as expected, the defense has been, at most times, far worse. Even Ferry is quick to admit that he thought the defense would have come together quicker. If anything, he told me in November, he had expected the offense to take longer to jell because of all the new pieces working into the rotation. The Dukes are allowing 74.4 points per game, and a couple teams killed them from long range — New Hampshire hit 15 3-pointers, Saint Francis 11, Robert Morris 11 and UMBC 11 — and, all in all, opponents are shooting a healthy 38 percent from deep. The silver lining, of course, is that Duquesne is coming off its best defensive performance of the season, as underwhelming Appalachian State scored just 55 points last week, a game in which the Mountaineers made just 20 buckets and shot 31 percent from the floor. Bringing Mason into the starting lineup has seemed to help, as Ferry calls him one of the team's best defensive players, though sophomore forward Jeremiah Jones appears to be the best on-the-ball defender. Junior guard Tra'Vaughn White, who was replaced by Mason, is a potent offensive threat but wasn't offering much defensively, so bringing him off the bench seems to be a wise compromise.


MIDSEASON GRADES

And now we've reached the part of the show where we look at the roster one player at a time, breaking it down positions, and assign letter grades. Grade inflation is real, but it won't be tolerated here. Here's our rubric — A: superior; B: above average; C: average; D: below average; F: failing.


FRONTCOURT

Ovie Soko (Sr.) — 18.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.8 apg.

  • Soko has been the Dukes' rock through 12 games; as he goes (for better or worse), the team goes. The leading scorer and rebounder, he's been a steady (not spectacular) and has a real knack for getting to the foul line and taking advantage of those freebies. He's on pace to break Duquesne's record for free-throw attempts per game, and he has knocked down 47 of his last 56 free-throw attempts (.839). Soko is an incredibly physical player, as just about every coach and player we speak to after games have said; that came back and bit Soko when he fouled out in consecutive games, losses to Penn State and Robert Morris. Couple those critical foul-outs (he called them "freshman mistakes") with a few subpar shooting performances (UNH, Pitt, UMBC) that truly cost his team, and that leaves him just outside the "superior" range. His media skills and British accent, though, are supreme. Grade: A-

Dominique McKoy (Jr.) — 10.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg.

  • While Soko's impact was fully expected, McKoy has been a very, very pleasant surprise. For a team with extremely limited frontcourt depth early in the season with freshmen forward Isaiah Watkins (knee) and Jordan Robinson (ineligible) out, Watkins ate up big minutes and proved himself early. He's had two double-doubles, has been a good second option in the paint and, most importantly, has shot 71 percent from the floor. Grade: B

Jeremiah Jones (So.) — 8.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 apg.

  • The second-year starter hasn't exactly made a massive leap forward from Year 1 to Year 2, averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game this year (7.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg in 2012-13), but he's been consistent and has proven his mettle on defense. Shooting 48 percent from the floor in limited attempts. Plays second-most minutes on the team. Grade: C+

BACKCOURT

Micah Mason (So.) — 10.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.4 apg.

  • Is it wrong to get penalized for missing time? Well, if you can lose attendance points for being absent in class, I'm going to say yes, a little. And it's been a small (yet impressive) sample size with Mason. The rest here is simple: Mason is one of the best pure shooters in the country. He's shooting 62 percent from 3-point range even though he missed five games to a broken hand. Yes, he broke his right (shooting) hand only to come back and hit 11 of his first 15 3-point attempts (.733). Mason came off the bench for three games (remember, he was coming off of hip surgery and NCAA eligibility questions) before Ferry called him into the starting lineup. Ferry has lauded Mason's defense, too, so there's very little to question about this kid's game. The Dukes certainly could have used him while he was sidelined — they went 2-3 in that month. Grade: B+

Derrick Colter (So.) — 9.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.6 rpg.

  • The team's leading scorer last season (13.5 ppg, 5.2 apg), Colter now sits fifth on the points list (9.3 ppg). There are positives: turnovers are down, cut in half to 1.7 per game, and his shooting percentages are all up (2-pt, 3-pt, free throw). And there are plenty of not-so-positives: The man who handles the transition offense is getting to the line just 2.4 times per game, down 1.8 from an already low total last season; he has the lowest shooting percentage of any starter; and then there's the defense. Ferry has been very clear that if Colter and White didn't refocus on defense, they'd sit. And Colter has. He's averaging six fewer minutes per game from a year ago. A 5-foot-11 guard with defensive lapses is a major problem — you'll notice that it hasn't been the big men killing the Duquesne defense this season. Grade: C-

BENCH

Tra'Vaughn White (Jr.) — 13.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.9 apg.

  • The leading JUCO scorer in the country last season, White has shown his scoring flash. He's also shown his defensive weakness, which, basically, is why he's on the bench now — Mason is more reliable defensively. Still, White is the team's second-leading scorer and even had 14 points off the bench against Appalachian State. The bench had 32 points in that game, and that depth will be needed badly in A-10 play. Grade: C+

Desmond Ridenour (Fr.) — 5.8 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.6 rpg.

  • Athletic kid with a bright future, though he has to continue to improve his decision-making with the ball in his hands — 15 turnovers off the bench. He's finding his feet on defense and is a completely serviceable backup to Colter as a true freshman. Ferry and Co. will take that. Grade: C

Jerry Jones (Jr.) — 5.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.5 apg.

  • Jones has played a significantly diminished role this season with the addition of Mason and White. He's mostly finding minutes now behind the other Jones, who rarely leaves the game from his position as the "3" forward. After 7.3 points and 23.9 minutes per game last season (14 starts), Jones is averaging 4.6 points and just 16.3 minutes per game this season. Still a solid shooter with nice height. Grade: C-

L.G. Gill (Fr.) — 3.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg.

  • A true freshman forced into action from Day 1, Gill has held his own. He, like Lewis, needs time to grow into his body, upping physicality and muscling up on the boards. He's spelled McKoy well, but like the next two guys there's too small of a sample size to give a grade. Grade: N/A

Isaiah Watkins (Fr.) — 1.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg.

  • Has a college-ready body but is only just getting going now after missing the bulk of the nonconference schedule following a surgical procedure on his knee. Grade: N/A

Darius Lewis (Fr.) — 0.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg.

  • Big boy getting just four minutes per game. He's a perfect 2-for-2 from the field but has missed 5 of 6 free-throw attempts. Hmm. Grade: N/A

COACHING 

It would be tough for any coaching staff to bid farewell to 10 guys, usher nine new ones in the door and put together a winning season to keep fans happy. The 7-5 start is bittersweet, I think, because the UNH and Robert Morris losses just look silly when you're trying to build an NCAA Tournament-ready team. Those losses are ugly, but they're bound to happen when you're still piecing and patching a team together. The answers seem to be coming together for this team, and not a minute too soon. The offense is clicking as well as it has all season — assists, bench points, fast-break points all up — and the defense has looked good during most of this four-game winning streak. We saw how well Ferry's system can work when the Dukes pummeled Appalachian State, but, yeah, still Appalachian State. The Atlantic 10 season is where true judgements can be made. I'd say this coaching staff has done well to get to this point, but what matters is how what this team does next. Grade: B-


As far as an overall grade, I'd give Duquesne a C+ for the first half — average, but shading in the right direction. All told, adding in the reserves, the frontcourt is a B-, could nose higher if there was more depth and if Robinson was available, and the backcourt is about a C.

Here are a few thoughts from Twitter:

Finally, as a personal aside, as a first-year beat man for Duquesne, really appreciate everyone who reads and/or connects via Twitter or email. Feel free to send in your thoughts, and I'll add them. It's been a good first half; looking forward to what's ahead. Hopefully, too, the Palumbo Center will start to fill up a bit more as more prominent opponents visit in the next few months.

Cheers!


Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

 

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Jets at Penguins - 01-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

-The Penguins will be getting Kris Letang back today. Additionally, Evgeni Malkin is a possibility to return.

-It'll be interesting to see how the defensive pairing will shake out with Letang's return. He worked out with Rob Scuderi yesterday. And operating under the assumption that Matt Niskanen will be teamed with Olli Maatta, that leaves a few question marks on the second defensive pairing. Who will Brooks Orpik work with? Simon Despres or Robert Bortuzzo? The Orpik-Despres pairing didn't have a great night against the Rangers Friday.

-We would assume Deryk Engelland will once again work on the team's fourth line in five-on-five play.

-Perhaps the bigger question will be the top three lines with a potential return by Malkin? Assuming Malkin is in, these would be our lines if we had the call:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale
Tanner Glass - Craig Adams - Deryk Engelland

-Gibbons has earn a temporary look on the top two lines given his solid play the last two games.

-Two things returned to Winnipeg when the Thrashers moved there: Hockey and mediocre hockey. Like the old Jets, the new Jets have been an average team at best in their three seasons.

-One of this franchise's most consistent and underrated players players is Bryan Little. He has the fifth-most goals of any player drafted in 2006. The only individuals in front of him are players you could reasonably identify as franchise players:

Player, current team Games
Played
Goals
Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs 547 205
Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks 452 182
Jordan Staal, Hurricanes 521 139
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals 455 119
Bryan Little, Jets 448 113
Chris Stewart, Blues 360 113
Milan Lucic, Bruins 447 109
Claude Giroux, Flyers 375 103
Patrik Berglund, Blues 396 98
Kyle Okposo, Islanders 362 88

-Unlike a lot of players on that list, Little has played on mostly bad teams during his time in the NHL. the Thrashers and the Jets have been pretty putrid during his career. If he were on better/more high profile teams, you'd hear about him more.

-The barn:

-Across the street on Fifth Avenue from the Barn is the Blue Line Grille. It's positive to see some signs of development near the arena finally:

-The ice:

-Rob Scuderi has a fan on hand:

-Rick Tocchet:

-Sergei Gonchar:

-Darius Kasparaitis:

-Tyler Kennedy:

-Fans entering the barn:

-There are a few Jets fans here. Jacob Trouba:

-Andrew Ladd:

-Dustin Byfuglien:

-Attention Steve Yzerman:

-Former Penguins forward prospect Keven Veilleux:

-Aleksey Morozov:

-Jersey of the Night: Former Penguins/Thrashers forward Colby Armstrong:

-Warmups:

-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Brian Gibbons, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Chuck Kobasew.

-The Penguins' lines and defensive pairings in warm ups were:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Makin - James Neal
Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale
Tanner Glass - Zach Sill - Craig Adams

Robert Scuderi - Kris Letang
Deryk Engelland - Brooks Orpik
Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

-The Jets' starters are Michael Frolik, Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom and Al Montoya.

-Their scratches are Keaton Ellerby and Anthony Peluso.

-Jeff Jimerson handles two anthems:

FIRST PERIOD

19:27: Leading a rush out of his own zone, Mark Stuart snaps off a breakout pass to Kane in the neutral zone, Kane gets a step on Kunitz and is off on a mini breakaway. Kan rips a low wrister which Fleury snags with a glove hand. Nice save.

19:02: Trying to control a puck along the end boards, Malkin is slammed hard by  Byfuglien. Malkin seems fine.

18:23: Chris Thorburn has a chance with Fleury out of place. The puck is slideing into the net but the great Joe Vitale sldies down to sweep it out.

18:13: Sneaking up the left wing, Olli Jokinen chips a pass to towards the slot. it hits off a leg leg of a sliding Vitale and deflects right to Trouba above the blue circle. Trouba plunks the puck into an open net behind a helpless Fleury. That was some puck luck there. Olli Jokinen and Adam Pardy get assists. Jets 1-0.

16:27: Off a feed by Eric Tangradi, Wright rips a one-timer from the right circle. Fleury fights it off.

16:21: Tanner Glass drops Stuart with a hit in the Penguins' left wing corner boards.

15:38: Stuart snaps off a wrister from the left point which Ladd re-directs on net from above the blue paint. Fleury knocks it dead and smothers to freeze play.

14:10: The great Joe Vitale whacks a loose puck in the right circle. Zach Bogosian gets a piece of it with his stick.

13:43: The Penguins get the game's first power play. Sutter drives to the net from the left wing but is hauled down by Bogosian. As that happens, the great Joe Vitale drives down the slot and is tripped up by Pardy. That's two minutes for tripping. Neal, Crosby, Mlkin, Kunitz and Letang take the ice. Letang and Malkin are on the points.

12:35: Malkin pushes the puck up the left wing and snaps off a wrister which Montoya fights off.

11:43: The Pardy minor is killed. The Penguins' offered little threat there.

10:46: The Jets will get a power play. Adams is given a minor as he tripped up Olli Jokinen near the benches. Jokinen skates offsides and then shot a puck on net, a perceived sign of disrespect. Jokinen fell as a result of the trip. Officials step in before things get too heated. Adams is given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor. We don't think Adams expected Jokinen to fall as he did but it wasn't a very disciplined play. Orpik, Engelland, Sutter and Glass take the ice.

8:46: Two minutes later, the Jets accomplished little with that chance.

8:10: Taking a pass on the right wing, Gibbons gains the offensive zone, pulls up and snaps off a cross-ice pass to Crosby streaking up the left wing. Crosby taps the puck wide of the cage.

7:41: Of a drop pass by Crosby from the right half wall, Engelland launches a one-timer from the right point. Montoya kicks it out.

7:31: Letang chops a slapper from the left point. Montya steers it away.

7:26: Corralling the rebound on the left wall, Neal flings it on net. Montoya smother sit.

7:19: Neal rips a wrister from the left point. Montoya fight sit off. Malkin tries to clean up the rebound with a backhander but puts it wide. Chasing after the rebound in the left corner, Byfuglien shoves Malkin from behind into boards. That's two minutes for interference. Letang, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal and Crosby take the ice.

5:54: Malkin whacks a slapper from above the right circle wide of the cage.

5:43: Things are evened up as Niskanen is nabbed for interference against lake Wheeler. Niskanen fumbled the puck at the right point and basically pinned Wheeler against the boards to keep him from getting the puck. There will be 24 seconds of four-on-four play.

5:19: The Byfuglien minor is killed. The Jets will have a power play for 1:36.

3:43: As the Niskanen minor expires, Bogosian booms a slapper from the right point which Fleury fights off.

3:09: HUGE save. Malkin backhands a pass from the Penguins' right wing wall down ice. The puck finds Crosby near the Winnipeg blue line and his off to the races. With Stuart in pursuit, Crosby motors down the slot on net and fires a wrister which Montoya fights off with a glove hand. Stuart hooked up Crosby and a penalty shot i awards. After Byfuglien and Engelland are sent off for roughing minors, Crosby takes his shot. Picking up the puck, he veers slightly to the right, attacks the net and snaps off a forehand shot which glances off Montoya's blocker and deflects to the left. Play will resume in a four-on-four situation.

2:11: Tobias Enstrom whacks a slapper from the right point which Letang blocks.

2:00: Off a feed from Crosby, Maatta pinches in on the left wing and lifts a wrister which Montoya kicks out.

1:35: Neal releases a tricky wrister from the right circle but Stuart blocks it.

1:12: Stuart pops a quick slapper from the right point which Fleury snags.

1:09: Engelland and Byfuglien return to the ice.

0:18: Byfuglien launches a slapper from the right point. Fleur kicks it out and

0:03: Oof. The Penguins give up a late goal. Kane beats Scuderi to a loose puck on the right and centers a pass to Scheifele in the slot. Letang gives Scheifele just enough space to release a clean wrister behind Fleury. That was a defensive breakdown. Kane and Bogosian get assists. Jets 2-0.

0:00: End of period. Jets 2, Penguins 0.

FIRST INTERMISSION

-The Penguins played well four most of that period. The only problem was, they were awful in the first handful of minutes and the final few seconds.

-The Jets had an early surge which led to their first goal. They kept the puck in the Penguins' zone and create a few shots that way. After the Trouba goal, play moved back to the Jets' zone and the Penguins put more than a few shots on net.

-Montoya has been lights out. The Penguins have challenged him quite a bit thus far and he's been up to the task.

-Malkin has been pretty physical thus far. He hasn't been afraid to bump with a big body like Byfuglien. It's almost like he's trying to prove he's back physically.

-Letang looked fine up until the Scheifele goal.

-The Penguins' "new" power play with Malkin and Letang looked pretty flat.

-Did Mark Stuart ever leave the ice that period? It looked like he was involved in every play on the ice.

-Shots on net are tied, 11-11.

-The Jets have an 18-17 edge in attempted shots.

-Neal, Jussi Jokinen and Stuart each lead the game with two shots.

-The Penguins aren't exactly easing Letang into the lineup. He already has 10:13 of ice time.

-Enstrom leads the Jets with 9:35.

-The Jets have an 11-9 lead in faceoffs (55 percent).

-Scheifele is 4 for 6 (67 percent).

-Malkin is 2 for 4 (50 percent).

-Stuart leads the game with two blocked shots.

-The cover of Icetime has a vaguely patriotic "Chris-Kunitz-Should-Be-On-Your-Team-Canada" feel to it:

SECOND PERIOD

19:26: Kunitz smacks Frolik into the left wing boards of the Jets' zone.

18:54: Evgeni Malkin to rescue. As Byfuglien tries to skate the puck out of his zone, Jokinen pokes it off his stick and the puck deflects right to Malkin the right circle. Malkin moves in and releases a laser of a wrister under Montoya's blocker on the far side. What a pretty shot. Jokinen gets the only assist. Neal also had a hand in the turnover has he gave chase to Byfuglien. The "Hey Song" and the almost forgotten "Malkinmania" clip are played. Jets 2-1.

17:01: Sill chips a puck from the right wing. Montoya gloves it.

16:23: Off a feed from Crosby, Gibbons sneaks in off the left wing and lifts a wrister. Montoya fights it off.

15:48: After Jokinen chases down a pass in the left wing corner of the Jets' zone, he taps a drop pass to the left circle. Malkin take the puck and dances around Stuart. As Stuart ties up him a bit, Malkin pushes a wrister on net. Montoya fights it off. Wheeler is called for tripping Malkin. Malkin, Neal, Crosby, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.

15:35: Tie game. Off a give and go with Letang, Neal takes a feed in the left circle and lifts a wrister over Montoya's right shoulder on the near side. What a nasty shot. That said, Montoya could have made that save. Letang and Crosby get assists.  The Jets call a timeout to get organized. The "Hey Song" is always organized. Jets 2, Penguins 2.

15:01: The comeback is on. After Jussi Jokinen forces Enstrom into a turnover in the left wing corner, Neal steals the puck on the left half wall and flings a wrister which glances off the stick of Bogosian and deflects by Montoya's left skate on the far side. That was some rotten luck for the Jets. The goal is unassisted. The "Hey Song" is never rotten. Penguins 3-2.

13:58: This game is officially wide open. After a turnover by Orpik in his own zone, Wheeler jumps on a loose, bouncing puck in the right circle and rips a wrister by the blocker of Fleury on the far side. That was another nasty shot. This game is off the hook. Little gets the only assist. Jets 3, Penguins 3.

12:24: Eric Tangradi drops Craig Adams while battling for a puck in the left wing corner of the Winnipeg zone.

12:18: Glass smacks Bogosian in the Jet's right wing corner and Bogosian looks a little shaken up.

11:00: A wrister by Kane from the right wing is steered away by by Fleury.

10:47: Kane snaps off a wrister from above the right circle. Fleury kicks it out.

10:00: Adam Pardy lifts a half slapper from the left point which Fleury eats up.

8:53: Engelland pounds a slapper from the right point which Crosby deflcts side.

8:31: Neal lifts a wrister from the right circle well over the cage.

8:22: Jussi Jokinen, left winger, Off some puck movement, Malkin deals a pass from the right wing corner to Joine, As Neal drives to the cage. Jokinen rips a wrister which hits off a stick or two and flutters by Montoya's glove hand. More puck puck. Malkin and Orpik get assists. The "Hey Song" may get an maintenance day tomorrow. Penguins 4-3.

6:49: Controlling a puck behind the cage, Gibbons taps a little pass to Kunitz above the blue paint. Montoya fights it off.

5:54: The Jets will get another power play as Malkin is penalized for hooking Byfuglien. Engelland, Orpik, Crosby and Adams take the ice.

4:52: Shot-handed, Sill snaps off a wrister from the right circle. Montoya kicks it out.

4:39: A wrister by Enstrom from the right point is blocked in front.

3:59: Enstrom whacks a one-timer from the right point. Fleury traps it against his chest.

3:54: The Malkin minor is killed with little threat from teh jets

2:39: Trying to spin off a check at the left point, Orpik falls and offers a brutal turnover to Kane. Kane takes the puck at his blue line and is off to the races. As Scuderi gives chase, Kane races in on net and lifts backhander by the blocker of Fleury. Ouch. Put that one squarely on Orpik. The goal is unassisted. Jets 4, Penguins 4.

1:41: Attendance is announced as 18,652. It is the team's 308th consecutive sellout.

0:40: Frolik sneaks a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing whic Fleury kicks out.

0:18: You knew that was coming. After a turnover by Pyatt in his own zone, Frolik deals a pass from the right wing to the slot. There's a scrum for the puck. Scheifele gets a stick on the puck. Ultimately Kane is able to sweep a backhander by the blocker of Fleury on the near side. The Penguins just looked horrendous around their cage on that play. Scheifele and Frolik get assists. Jets 5-4.

0:00: End of period. Jets 5, Penguins 4.

SECOND INTERMISSION

-What in blue heck happened during that period? How do you even analyze that? It was wide open, sloppy and entertaining.

-The good for the Penguins - The reunited second line is clicking at a high pace. Jussi Jokinen clearly likes playing the left wing over playing center. Playing as a left winger is even better when Malkin is the center.

-Malkin can still score. That's nice to see.

-The bad for the Penguins - Just about everything else.

-Scuderi continues to look sluggish in his return. He still doesn't looke like he's totally back.

-Evander Kane can flat out score. What a dangerous player.

-We're not sure it's fair to evaluate the goalies in this game. This is way to wide open for any goaltender to flourish.

-The Jets have a 24-22 lead in shots on net.

-The Jets lead in attempted shots, 39-32.

-Jussi Jokinen and Kane each lead the game with five shots.

-Letang leads the game with 16:21 of ice time.

-Enstrom leads the Jets with 15:45.

-The Penguins have a 23-16 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).

-Crosby is 11 for 18 (61 percent).

-Little is 6 for 11 (55 percent).

-Maatta leads the game with three blocked shots.

-Stuart, Enstrom and Bogosian each lead the Jets with two blocked shots.

THIRD PERIOD

19:17: Stuart rips a wrister from the right point wide to the far side.

18:45: Wheeler rips a wrister from the right circle which is blocked.

18:37: Off a drop pass by Crosby, Maatta lifts a wrister from the left circle which Montoya eats up.

15:40: Stealing a puck off Pardy at the Penguins' right point, Gibbons hustles up the right wing, coast to the slot and releases a wrister which Monotya fights off.

15:30: A slapper by Maatta from the left point glances off the far post.

13:44: Malkin controls a puck behind the Winnpeg net and sneaks a pass to Jokinen creeping down the slot. Jokinen snaps off a wrister which Montoya smothers.

13:08: Kunitz tries to jam in a backhanded wraparound from the left of the cage. Montoya holds it out.

12:53:  Kunitz snaps off a wrister from the left wing which Montoya fights off.

11:31: Tie game ... again. Corralling a loose puck in the slot, Neal rips a wrister on net. Pavelec fight sit of but allows a rebound to his right. Malkin is Johnny-On-The_Spot and taps the rebound into the cage by Montoya glove hand. Neal gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played ... again. Jets 5, Penguins 5.

8:52: Frolik taps a backahander on net from the right wing. Fleury scoops it up.

7:59: Pushing a puck up the right wing, Glass has his stick poked out of hands by Pardy. No penalty.

7:48: Taking a feed int he slot, Little lifts a wrister over the cage.

7:26: Racing up the left wing, Malkin gains the Winnipeg blue line, veers to the slot, gets a step on Bogosian and lifts a backhander on net. Pavelec eats it up.

7:22: The "old" No. 1 defenseman comes though. After Crosby wins a faceoff in the Winnipeg right circle, Maatta takes the puck at the left point and deals a pass to Niskanen at center point. Niskanen has  one-timer teed up and whacks a shot under Montoya's right leg to regain the lead. What a game. Maatta and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 6-5.

5:56: Off a give and go with Jussi Jokinen, Neal races up he left wing lifts a wrister on net. Pavelec fights it off.

5:49: Malkin whacks a slapper from the right circle. Montoya fights it off. Jussi Jokinen hacks at a rebound but no dice.

4:28: Kunitz thumps Scheifele with a solid hit near the Jets' right wing corner.

2:56: A wrister by Devin Setoguchi from the left circle is blocked by Orpik.

2:25: WOW! What a save! Bogogian hammers a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off despite traffic. Ladd has the rebound to the left of the cage with a point blank chance. Fleury stretches to his right and kicks it out. Wheeler gets a chance on the second rebound but all he can muster is a wrister into Fleury's chest which is eaten up.

1:35: The Jets pull Montoya for an extra attacker.

1:03: Kane chucks a wrister from the right point

0:47: Letang tries to hit Malkin with a stretch pass but ends up icing the puck. The Penguins call time out to get a breather.

0:21: Neal whips a puck down ice from near his bench juuuuuust wide of the open cage. That's icing.

0:01: WHoa! Enstrom chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a stick and skips juuust wide of the cage and a stretched out Fleury.

0:00: End of game Penguins 6, Jets 5.

POSTGAME

-We've used this analogy before, but if there's a basketball equivalent to a Jets-Penguins game, it's a 6-foot-7 guy trying to dunk on a 7-foot-2 guy. The 6-foot-7 guy is pretty tall but he's not that tall.

-The Jets have plenty of nice players with nice skillsets. They just don't have MVPs the way the Penguins do. Heck, they don't even have all-stars the way the Penguins do. There isn't a day under the sun the Jets are going to beat the Penguins by running-and-gunning them.

-The Penguins are just as guilty of what happened today. They allowed the Jets to break this game open. This happens far too often against teams with speed up front. The Jets, Islanders, Maple Leafs and Flyers always seem to lure the Penguins into games like this.

-Matt Niskanen had a pretty good explanation as to why it does happen:

It’s tempting because they’ve got four guys on the rush on every play. They’re [defensemen] are really active. They’re down sniffing around the crease. They scored their first goal that way. So when you do break up one of their plays and they have four guys deep, you do want to go on offense and counter attack but for the most part we want to avoid that back-and-forth action by taking care of the puck when we do have it. We have the attitude where if we have space and the puck on our stick, then make something happen. But you’ve got to manage it sometimes when it’s not going your way in the game and you just realize how the game is going. You’ve got to just take care of the puck in the right situations. “

-Jets coach Claude Noel was a little more succint in describing the wide open nature of the game:

"They gave us five goals. We gave them six. If you’re giving up six goals, that’s not the game plan is to go out and try to win the game, 7-6. Giving up six goals is not the right way to play and we know that."

-Either way, it was a pretty entertaining way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

-The Penguins had a lot of issues on the blue line. Brooks Orpik had a brutal turnover which led to a breakaway goal for Evander Kane. Rob Scuderi looked awful after a rebound game Friday. Kris Letang looked a little hesitant at times. Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta were probably the team's most stable defensive pairing.

-The Penguins' second line was outstanding. After a shaky first period, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Jussi Jokinen played as if they were back in November when they were ripping things up. They looked very, very dangerous today.

-It's become pretty clear Jussi Jokinen enjoys life on the left wing much more than he does at center. We talked about that with him Saturday. We'll have a Q&A with him on that subject later this week.

-While it did help produce the game-winning goal, the first line was held in check for the most part. Despite, that, Brian Gibbons fit in well on the right wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. He set up a handful of crafty, little scoring chances in tight spaces and most importantly, he played at the pace Crosby and Kunitz do. His only issue is his shot which isn't all that impressive. Other than that, he more than earned another game on that line.

-The numbers are going to look horrendous for Marc-Andre Fleury after this game but he was outstanding. He stole a few goals at key times. He stoned Evander Kane on a breakaway in the first period and even stole a goal late off Andrew Ladd on a rebound play late in regulation. This was a classic, "one goal fewer" win for Fleury.

-Taylor Pyatt's second game was not very good. He had a turnover in his own zone which led to a goal and any physical presence he may offer was hard to notice.

-Evander Kane looked really good today. He gave the Penguins so many issues. The Penguins defensemen looked foolish at times in trying to defend him.

-Mark Scheifele is a pretty exciting player. He has some nice chemistry with Kane.

-Kane had a funny quote about Scheifele playing against Crosby, a player he has looked up to, for the first time:

"I was getting on [Scheifele] telling him, ‘I don’t care who he is, get after him. I thought he did a good job. He won that first faceoff. It’s his first time playing Sidney Crosby, a guy he looked up to. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t star struck before the game. I told him I’d hit him if he was.”

-For a goaltender who allowed six goals, Al Montoya didn't play that badly. He was just overwhelmed by the pace of this crazy game.

-The Penguins led in shots on net, 39-34.

-The Jets led in attempted shots, 60-54.

-Jussi Jokinen led the game with eight shots.

-Kane led the Jets with six shots.

-Letang led the game with 24:31 of ice time.

-Enstrom led the Jets with 24:04.

-The Penguins had a 32-25 lead in faceoffs (56 percent).

-Brandon Sutter was 9 for 14 (64 percent).

-Bryan Little was 8 for 14 (57 percent).

-Enstrom led the game with five blocked shots.

-Maatta and Orpik each led the Penguins with three blocked shots.

-Dan Bylsma tied Eddie Johnston's franchise career mark for coaching wins with 232.

-Matt Niskanen tied a single-season franchise record with his fourth game-winning goal. He now shares that mark with Alex Goligoski (2010-11), Larry Murphy (1993-94), Michal Rozsival (2001-02) and Brad Werenka (1998-99).

-How in the world did Brad Werenka get on that list?

-Niskanen leads all defensemen with four game-winning goals this season.

-The Penguins tied a franchise record with their 12th consecutive home win.

-The Penguins have won 13 consecutive home games against the Jets/Thrashers.

-Malkin (604) moved ahead of Jean Pronovost (603) for sixth-most points in franchise history.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

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About the Jets - 01-04-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Jets.

When and where: 1 p.m. EST. Consol Energy Center.

TV: Root Sports, TSN-Jets.

Record: 19-20-5, 43 points. The Jets are in sixth place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Bryan Little (right), 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists).

Last Game: 4-1 road loss to the Bruins, yesterday. Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves for the Jets.

Last Game against the Penguins: 4-0 road shutout, March 28, 2013. Al Montoya made 39 saves for the Jets.

Jets Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Dustin Byfuglien. He has three points in his past two games.

Ex-Penguins on the Jets: Eric Tangradi, LW; Chris Thorburn, RW.

Ex-Jets/Thrashers on the Penguins: Jason Botterill, assistant general manager; Pascal Dupuis, RW; Tanner Glass, LW; Chris Kunitz, LW; Todd Reirden, assistant coach; Don Waddell, professional scout.

Useless Jets/Thrashers Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Pavelec has the third most career losses of any Czech-born goaltender. Only Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun and former Blackhawks/Sabres/Red Wings/Senators goaltender Dominik Hasek (223) have more.

Best Jets/Thrashers Video We Could Find: Former Stars right winger Adam Burish throwing a glove of Tanner Glass, then of the Jets, into the crowd, during a game in the 2011-12 season:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (23-10-1, 2.15 GAA, .921 SV%) for the Penguins. The Jets have not indicated if Al Montoya (8-3-1, 2.02 GAA, .929 SV%) or Ondrej Pavelec (11-17-4, 3.06 GAA, .901 SV%) will start.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right winger Chuck Kobasew ("lower body") is day to day. Defensemen Kris Letang ("upper body"), Paul Martin (leg), right winger Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), centers Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Evgeni Malkin ("lower body"), Jayson Megna ("lower body"), and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Jets, defensemen Grant Clitsome ("upper body"), Paul Postma ("lower body"), right winger Matt Halischuk ("upper body") and center Jim Slater ("lower body") are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins did not hold a morning skate. Their primary lines and defensive pairings at yesterday's practice were:

 14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 18 James Neal
36 Jussi Jokinen - 16 Brandon Sutter - 49 Brian Gibbons
17 Taylor Pyatt - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams
15 Tanner Glass - 36 Zach Sill - 5 Deryk Engelland

58 Kris Letang Rob Scuderi
2
Matt Niskanen - 3 Olli Maatta
44 Brooks Orpik - 47 Simon Despres

-The Jets did not hold a morning skate. Their primary lines and defensive pairings against the Bruins yesterday were:

16 Andrew Ladd - 18 Bryan Little - 26 Blake Wheeler
9 Evander Kane - 55 Mark Scheifele - 67 Michael Frolik
22 Chris Thorburn - 12 Olli Jokinen - 40 Devin Setoguchi
27 Eric Tangradi - 17 James Wright - 14 Anthony Peluso

7 Keaton Ellerby - 33 Dustin Byfuglien
39 Tobias Enstrom - 8 Jacob Trouba
5 Mark Stuart - 44 Zach Bogosian

Notes:

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

-Dan Bylsma (231) trails Eddie Johnson (232) by one win for the most coaching wins in franchise history.

-Scuderi has appeared in 599 career games.

-Our live blog begins at approximately noon. Please tune in.

(Photo: Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Dan Byslma needs one more win to tie Eddie Johnston (above) for the most wins in franchise history.

-Kris Letang (elbow) and Evgeni Malkin ("lower body") will be evaluated for today's game.

-Things are status quo for Tomas Vokoun.

-"We know we can compete. And we can win." - Paul Martin on Team USA's chances in the Olympics.

-Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made 22 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a 4-2 loss against the Manchester Monarchs.

-Highlights:

-Mathieu Corbeil made 33 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Elmira Jackals.

-How big is the jump from the ECHL to the AHL?

 

-Happy 30th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Corey Potter. A free agent signing in the 2010 offseason, Potter's Penguins' career amounted to one game and no points in 2010-11. During the 2011 offseason, he joined the Oilers and remains with that franchise.

 

-Happy 56th birthday to former Penguins forward Jiri Hrdina (right). Acquired midway through the 1990-91 season in a deal which sent Jim Kyte to the Flames, Hrdina spent parts of two seasons in Pittsburgh. While acting as a mentor to fellow Czechoslovakian Jaromir Jagr during his rookie season, the veteran Hrdina appeared in 37 games for the Penguins in 1990-91 and contributed 20 points. In the 1991 postseason, Hrdina saw action in 14 games and scored four points while helping the club claim its first Stanley Cup championship. Hrdina's final NHL season was 1991-92. He played in 56 games for the Penguins and recorded 16 points. In the postseason, Hrdina appeared in 21 games and recorded two points as the club successfully defended its title. He retired in the 1992 offseason. In 93 career regular season games for the Penguins, Hrdina scored 36 points. In 36 career postseason games, he scored six points. Hrdina currently serves as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars.

-After the Jump: Daniel Carcillo is on the move again while Andrew Cogliano gets paid.

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-04-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. "It's always been one of my strengths, that I can get open in those soft areas. And he was able to find me." - Jussi Jokinen on Brian Gibbons.

-The [New York] Daily News' recap. “I’m just disappointed. That’s my feeling. Not surprised. . . . It was just too easy for them to create great chances.” - Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

-Newsday's recap. "In the first period, we were letting them impose their will on us and we weren't doing anything to bring our game to them." - Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

-The Bergen (N.J.) Record's recap. “We were kind of standing around watching. We weren’t getting our feet going and utilizing our speed and we weren’t on the right side of their guys. They were coming through the neutral zone pretty hard.” - Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on the Penguins.

-The Associated Press' recap. ''We know at this point there's going to be different combinations,'' Crosby said. ''With guys out of the lineup like we've had, it's what we've gotten used to.'' - Sidney Crosby on the Penguins using different line combinations.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lange's goal calls.

-Hit of the Night: New York's John Moore was actually credited with a hit in this collision with Deryk Engelland:

-McDonagh couldn't beat Marc-Andre Fleury here:

-Craig Adams couldn't beat Lundqvist here:

-If you're wondering what Pyatt looks like in a Penguins jersey, here you go:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Jokinen speaks:

-Taylor Pyatt speaks:

-"To get picked up by Pittsburgh, to get a fresh start, an opportunity there, it worked out pretty well." - Pyatt on being claimed off waivers by the Penguins.

-"I told Marc-Andre [Fleury] good luck the other day. I think he deserves to have one of those spots." - Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur on the Canadian Olympic team. A four-time Olympian and a two-time gold medal winner, Brodeur does not expect to be selected for the 2014 games.

-Crosby has a new commercial for Tim Horton:

-Shootout goals by Nick Drazenovic and Paul Thompson gave the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 2-1 win against the Hartford Wolfpack. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made 24 saves for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-An overtime goal by Myles Harvey gave the Wheeling Nailers a 3-2 home win against the Elmira Jackals. Jack MacLellan had a goal and an assist for Wheeling while teammate Sahir Gill recorded two assists. Mathieu Corbeil made 34 saves in the victory

-Happy 26th birthday to former Penguins defensive prospect Brian Strait. A third-round pick in 2006, Strait spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. After appearing in three NHL games in 2010-11 and not recording a point, Strait played in nine games in 2011-12 and recorded one assist. He appeared in three postseason games that spring and did not have a point. In 12 regular season games with the Penguins, Strait had one point. Prior to the 2012-13 season, he was claimed of waivers by the Islanders and currently remains with that team.

-After the Jump: Former Penguin Ben Lovejoy becomes a dad and celebrates the best way possible.

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