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About the Blue Jackets - Game 1 - 04-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Blue Jackets.

When and where: 7:30 p.m., EDT. Consol Energy Center.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market); Fox Sports Ohio (Columbus market); NBC Sports Network (Rest of the United States); CBC.

Leading regular season scorer: Ryan Johansen 63 points (33 goals, 30 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 road win against the Panthers, Saturday. Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets.

Last Game against the Penguins: 2-1 home loss, March 28. Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (39-18-5, 2.37 GAA, .915 SV%) for the Penguins. Sergei Bobrovsky (32-20-5, 2.38 GAA, .922 SV%) for the Blue Jackets.

Injuries: For the Penguins, Center Marcel Goc (ankle) is out. Right wingers Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), centers Evgeni Malkin (foot), Joe Vitale ("mid body") and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) are on injured reserve. For the Blue Jackets, defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) is probable. left wingers Nick Foligno ("lower body"), R.J. Umberger ("upper body") are doubtful. Right winger Nathan Horton (abdominal) is out.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins primary lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass - 16 Brandon Sutter - 22 Lee Stempniak
49 Brian Gibbons - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams

7 Paul Martin - 44 Brooks Orpik
4 Rob Scuderi - 58 Kris Letang
2 Matt Niskanen - 3 Olli Maatta

-The Blue Jackets primary lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

38 Boone Jenner - 19 Ryan Johansen - 5 Jack Skille
11 Matt Calvert - 17 Brandon Dubinsky - 13 Cam Atkinson
24 Derek MacKenzie - 42 Artem Anisimov - 14 Blake Comeau
26 Corey Tropp - 55 Mark Letestu - 40 Jared Boll

51 Fedor Tyutin - 7 Jack Johnson (above)
27 Ryan Murray - 21 James Wisniewski
6 Nikita Nikitin - 58 David Savard

Notes:

-The last time the Penguins played the Blue Jackets, this happened:

-If they play, defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Olli Maatta, centers Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff will make their NHL postseason debuts.

-Malkin has 97 career postseason points.

-Our live blog begins at approximately 6:30 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)

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Lightning - Canadiens preview - 04-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Lightning vs. Canadiens

Lightning Leading Regular Season Scorer: Ondrej Palat, 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists).

Canadiens Leading Regular Season Scorer: Thomas Vanek, 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists).

Lightning Expected Starting Goaltender: Anders Lindback, 8-12-2, 2.90 GAA, .891 SV%.

Canadiens Expected Starting Goaltender: Carey Price, 34-20-5, 2.32 GAA, .927 SV%.

Lightning Regular Season Statistics

Canadiens Regular Season Statistics

Lightning Injuries: Center Valtteri Filppula ("lower body") and left winger Ondrej Palat ("upper body") are questionable. Goaltender Ben Bishop (elbow) is out. Defensemen Brian Lee (knee) and Mattias Ohlund (knee) are on injured reserve.

Canadiens Injuries: Center Lars Eller (illness) is probable. Left winger Brandon Prust ("upper body") is questionable. Center Alex Galchenyuk ("lower body") and left winger Travis Moen (concussion) are on injured reserve.

Lightning with Stanley Cup bling: Valtteri Filppula (above), C.

Canadiens with Stanley Cup bling: Brian Gionta, RW; Travis Moen, LW; George Parros, RW.

Something worthwhile about the Lightning: The Lightning scored 10 short-handed goals this season, most among any team in the postseason.

Something worthwhile about the Canadiens: The Canadiens blocked 688 shots this past regular season, most in the NHL among any team in the postseason.

Something useless about the Lightning that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The first home postseason goal in Lightning history was scored by former Penguins right winger Petr Klima in Game 3 of a 1996 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Something useless about the Canadiens that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: The last Canadiens goaltender to stop a postseason penalty shot was Andy Moog. He stopped Penguins right winger Aleksey Morozov in Game 1 of a 1998 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Former Penguins on the Lightning: Ryan Malone, LW.

Former Penguins on the Canadiens: Marc Bergevin, general manager; Jean-Jacques Daigneault, assistant coach; Douglas Murray, D; Michel Therrien, head coach.

Who needs to be the difference for the Lightning: Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Matt Carle, Sami Salo. With the Lightning dealing a questionable goaltending situation thanks to the health of Bishop, the Lightning's blue line needs to reign in the Canadien's fleet crew of skilled forwards.

Who needs to be the difference for the Canadiens: Carey Price (right). He will be facing a pretty skilled group of forwards for the Lightning. He needs to steal goals.

Best Lightning YouTube Video We Could Find: Lightning left winger Alexander Selivanov scoring an overtime goal in a 4-3 win against the Flyers in Game 3 of a 1996 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series:

Best Canadiens YouTube Video We Could Find: Canadiens right winger Russ Courtnall scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime of a 3-2 win against the Hartford Whalers in Game 7 of a 1992 Adams Division semifinal:

EN Prediction: Everything depends on Bishop's health. If he's not available, this will be a brief series. Canadiens 4-2.

(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images and Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 04-16-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Playoff Stuff
Penguins - Blue Jackets

-"Not read too much. Not watch [TV]. And remind myself that I have won one more Stanley Cup than a lot of people." - Marc-Andre Fleury (right) on how he deals with criticism directed his way.

-The Penguins have a considerable advantage over the Blue Jackets in terms of postseason experience.

-Evgeni Malkin returned to practice.

-The Penguins assigned Simon Despres, Chuck Kobasew and Harry Zolnierczyk to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Have these Penguins underachieved?

-“Given the guys that I played with on the ’09 team, you’d think that they were going to be a perennial Cup candidate. But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way." - Rob Scuderi on the Penguins failure to win a Stanley Cup title since 2009.

-“Just because you want to do it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen." - Sidney Crosby on winning the Stanley Cup.

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Fleury speaks:

-Malkin speaks:

-Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Could Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards have been the Penguins' head coach instead of Dan Bylsma?

-“We had good success against them, but it was hard. It’s going to be even harder now.” - Matt Niskanen on the Penguins going 5-0-0 against the Blue Jackets this season.

-“He’s as good a person as he is a hockey player, if you can believe that. But he knows as well as I do that I’m trying to win the Cup as much as he is. It’s well understood between the two of us that we’re going to go as hard as we can. It’s the Stanley Cup. We’ll be friends again afterward.” - Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on his relationship with Crosby.

-Blue Jackets forwards Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky are expected to see plenty of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin this series.

-Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (right) took the road less traveled to become an NHL star.

-The Blue Jackets recalled goaltender Jeremy Smith from Springfield of the AHL.

Rangers - Flyers

-The Flyers signed defenseman Andrew MacDonald to a six-year contract extension worth a total of $30 million. Currently in the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $550,000, MacDonald's new deal will have a cap hit of $5 million. In 82 games this season, MacDonald, 27, had 28 points (four goals, 20 assists). He was acquired from the Islanders at the trade deadline.

-EN Says: MacDonald is just the player the Flyers need. Prior to his arrival, they had mobile defensemen who were old (Kimmo Timonen and Mark Streit) or young defensemen who were immobile (Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn). MacDonald is something in between. He can skate, blocks shots and is fairly durable. A salary cap hit of $5 million might seem high for someone with limited offensive output, but in this market, that's fair value. That said, this drives up the price on someone like Matt Niskanen who is scheduled to become a free agent this upcoming offseason.

-The Flyers signed defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a third-round draft pick in 2012, to an entry-level contract.

-Rangers forward Derick Brassard left practice yesterday due to a suspected back ailment.

-The Rangers signed undrafted free agent defenseman Mat Bodie, formerly of Union College. Terms of the contract were not reported.

Bruins - Red Wings

-“Everybody wants to win. I want to win really badly. I know all the other guys, guys who’ve won before, it’s addicting, you want to win again, you want to be on top. That’s why we play." - Bruins forward and former Penguin Jarome Iginla (right).

-Several of the Bruins are dealing with an illness.

-Could Red Wings captain/forward Henrik Zetterberg return to the lineup during this series? He has been sidelined since the Olympics due to a back injury.

-The Smiths - Detroit's Brendan and Boston's Reilly - are brothers.

Canadiens - Lightning

-With 109 points in 108 career postseason games, Canadiens forward Daniel Briere is a proven playoff performer.

-Canadiens forward Brandon Prust ("upper-body"} is considered a game-time decision for tonight's Game 1.

-The Canadiens plan on having plenty of fans in Tampa.

-Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has taken a big step forward this season.

Avalanche - Wild

-Minnesota forward Mikael Granlund (right) is expected to return to the lineup for Thursday's Game 1. He has been sidelined since March 31 due to a head injury.

-Wild forward and former Penguins prospect Matt Moulson wants two things this summer: The Stanley Cup and his own bed.

Blues - Blackhawks

-“The cavalry is coming." - Blues forward and former Penguins forward Brenden Morrow on his team getting healthier.

Ducks - Stars

-“Think about it every single day of my life. When I’m by myself, when I take a walk … since I’ve been 10 years old. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s not a question of the will and the want not being there. It’s a question of, sometimes you’ve got the opportunity and you’ve got to make good on it.” - Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on the Stanley Cup.

-The Ducks assigned defenseman Mark Fistric to Norfolk of the AHL.

-The Stars signed forward Branden Troock, a fifth-round draft pic in 2012, to a thee-year entry-level contract.

Sharks - Kings

-The Kings recalled forward Linden Vey from Manchester of the AHL.

-Sharks forward Brent Burns was nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.

Non-Playoff Stuff
Penguins

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed  forward Jean-Sebastien Dea, defenseman Clark Seymour and goaltender Matt Murray (right) to amateur tryout agreements. Seymour (fifth round) and Murray (third round) are each 2012 draft picks of the NHL Penguins.

 

-Happy 51st birthday to former Penguins forward Dean Defazio. A ninth-round pick of the club in 1981, Defazio appered in 22 games for the 1983-84 Penguins and recorded two assists. After spending the next two seasons with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Baltimore, Defazio was released.

-Happy 40th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Harry York. Acquired early in the 1998-99 season along with Alex Kovalev in a deal which sent Petr Nedved, Chris Tamer and Sean Pronger to the Rangers, York appeared in all of two games for the Penguins that season. before he was claimed off waivers by the Canucks in December.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Capitals assigned defenseman Tyson Strachan to Hershey of the AHL.

Atlantic Division

-"I don’t like losing. Some of the games … there were periods in games that were embarrassing, the way we played. We got outshot 20-2 in one period, I think it was. That’s not good for any team at any level, let alone the National Hockey League.” - Senators general manager Bryan Murray on his team missing the postseason.

-The Sabres assigned forwards Nicolas Deslauriers, defensemen Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, Chad Ruhwedel, goaltenders Connor Knapp, Nathan Lieuwen and Andrei Makarov to Rochester of the AHL.

Central Division

-The Predators assigned forward Calle Jarnkork to Milwaukee of the AHL.

-Nashville signed forward Felix Girard, a third-round pick in 2013, to a three-year entry-level contract.

Pacific Division

-The Coyotes assigned defensemen Connor Murphy, Brandon Gormley, goaltender Mark Visentin (right) and forward Tyler Gaudet to Portland of the AHL.

Norris Division

-The NHL's draft lottery was held last night. Here is the order for the first 13 picks:

1. Panthers
2. Sabres
3. Oilers
4. Flames
5. Islanders
6. Canucks
7. Hurricanes
8. Maple Leafs
9. Jets
10. Ducks (from Senators)
11. Predators
12. Coyotes
13. Capitals

-Note: The Devils did not make the playoffs but were not be eligible to win the lottery due to punishments relating to salary-cap circumvention. They will select 30th in the first round.

-Another lawsuit was filed by former players against the NHL in regards to concussion.

IIHF World Championship

-Panthers forward Vince Trocheck (right), a native of Upper St. Clair, was named to the United States' roster for next month's IIHF World Championship tournament. The roster thus far:

Forwards - Jimmy Hayes, Panthers; Kevin Hayes, Boston College; Peter Mueller, Kloten - (NLA - Switzerland); Brock Nelson, Islanders; Drew Shore, Panthers; Craig Smith, Predators; Tim Stapleton, Ak Bars Kazan (KHL); Vince Trocheck, Panthers.

Defensemen - Matt Donovan, Islanders; Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs; Seth Jones, Predators; Jake McCabe, Sabres; Jeff Petry, Oilers; Jacob Trouba, Jets.

Goaltender - Connor Hellebuyck, Massachusetts-Lowell.

-Former Islanders/Hurricanes/Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette was named the head coach of Team USA.

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Paul Bereswill/Getty Images, Christian Petersen/Getty Images, Jamie Sabau/Getty Images and Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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Pitt wraps up spring practice

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt had its 15th and final spring practice down on the South Side today. It was a bit of an abbreviated session with some fun thrown in at the end, but here are a couple of notes...

- Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jahmahl Pardner was absent today, and Paul Chryst said after practice that Pardner has decided to leave the team (though he is still enrolled at the university). I would imagine that Pardner will likely finish up this semester at Pitt and then transfer somewhere else to continue his football career. He came on with some really good promise early in the 2012 season as Pitt's starting nickelback, but tore his ACL against Virginia Tech and really was never the same after that. He came back to a much more limited role last year, but was fighting for playing time heading into 2014. It likely would've been an uphill battle — Lafayette PittsTrenton Coles and Titus Howard are both ahead of him at cornerback and Reggie Mitchell appeared to have passed him in nickel situations, too — but he likely would've seen some sort of role on the team next year.
That said, though, if there's one position Pitt could probably afford to take a hit depth-wise, it's in the secondary. The Panthers have all the guys I mentioned above, plus four more defensive backs coming in this summer as freshmen. It's never good to lose a guy who could've contributed but this is a much better situation than if Pitt had lost, say, a defensive end (where depth is pretty dire).

- Pitt was in full pads today, something they haven't done too much this spring (usually they haven't been wearing leg pads) but didn't tackle to the ground in any of their drills. They did some scrimmage-type stuff, but running backs stayed upright the whole time.

- In said scrimmage situations, the secondary looked pretty active early on with Howard, in particular, logging a couple of breakups. Terrish Webb, who appears to have locked down the starting safety job next to Ray Vinopal, also made a couple of nice plays. Those two guys have had really good springs, and will be critical pieces for Pitt next season.
"Those guys both have a lot of ability," Vinopal said. "Everyone on the team knows that and they trust their ability. It's just getting the mental side of the game down, and they're putting their time in in the meeting room, studying, watching film. They definitely are getting it. I'm very comfortable with both of them on the field, everybody on the back end I'm comfortable with."

- Wide receiver Jester Weah had a nice practice today. He beat Coles deep on a route in third-down drills, and also had a couple of nice touchdown catches in red zone drills. The first one was over Coles and the second one came over Pitts on a nice back shoulder throw from Voytik. I think Weah's still probably towards the back of the line when it comes to receivers who will see the field for Pitt in 2014, but his raw potential is so tantalizing that whenever you see flashes of it, it's impossible not to wonder what happens if he figures out how to harness that rawness into football ability.

JP Holtz also had some nice grabs down in the red zone. Obviously he's a nice target down there, but last year Pitt had to keep him in and block so much to make up for offensive line deficiencies, he really wasn't deployed as an offensive weapon to his full potential. I think there will still be a lot of that in 2014, but if they can let Holtz loose a little bit more, he seems to do a good job creating space and getting open around the end zone.

- Sticking with tight ends, Voytik appears to have a good connection with Scott Orndoff. He has looked for him a lot this spring, and today had two long completions to convert 3rd-and-15 and 3rd-and-18 situations. Orndoff lost the end of last year with an injury, but showed good potential as a receiver early on in the season.

- I'm interested to see how Dontez Ford fits into the offense next season. He's a guy who has clearly been getting more and more work (and, appropriately, getting better and better) as spring has progressed. They seem to like him a lot on short crossing routes, and he caught a couple of passes in those situations today. He looks noticeably trimmer and more in-tune with the offense than he did even in Detroit last year (where he saw some limited action).

- Pitt ended practice today with some fun stuff to send the players off into summer. First it was offensive and defensive linemen catching punts (most of them did all right), followed by a team-wide game of dodgeball. It ultimately ended with a few defenders against backup quarterback Trey Anderson, but Anderson rallied and pared it down to just he and Coles. After a brief wrestling match, it looked like Coles got the final throw in on Anderson. Here's video of the whole game...

I'll have some more stuff coming later this week, including trying to piece together what the depth chart will probably look like come August, so stay tuned.

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Canon-McMillan's Piechnick had 10-hit streak ..... other notes

Written by Mike White on .

Some items that fell off my laptop.

Streaking has become popular in WPIAL baseball this spring, and nobody has taken off their clothes.

This blog has documented impressive streaks of Blackhawk's Brendan McKay and Norwin's J.J. Matijevic. McKay hasn't allowed a run in 37 innings dating back to last season. Matijevic has hit a home run in six consecutive games and is riding a string of 10 consecutive hits.

Add Canon-McMillan's Teagan Piechnick to those who have had a memorable streak. Piechnick, a senior center fielder, also had a streak of 10 consecutive hits. He had 16 plate appearances in the streak that included six walks, which meant he reached base 16 consecutive times. The streak ended Monday with a flyout against Peters Township.

During the streak, Piechnick had four home runs, three doubles and three singles. He had 12 runs and 10 RBIs during the streak.

For the season, he is batting .633 (19 of 30) with an on-base percentage of .744. He has six home runs and 17 RBIs. He has helped Canon-McMillan to a 7-2 record.

***** Weather-wise, this is starting to look like a bad year for spring sports. Baseball and softball teams are starting to get behind in games played. This is only year after this area had one of the best springs for sports. There were very few bad weather days last year.

***** It was interesting to see one of the MVPs in Saturday's Roundball Classic all-star basketball games. It was Elijah Cottrill of Beaver Falls. He got the MVP for the Class AA team.

Elijah CottrillCottrill didn't play for Beaver Falls from mid-January on - because of a knee injury. Cottrill also missed most of football season because of an injury to the same knee.

The Roundball was Cottrill's first game since he sustained the injury. Cottrill was considered a Division I college prospect and made the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 as a junior. Creighton offered him a scholarship during his junior year. He accepted a football scholarship from Akron last summer, but the two eventually parted ways.

Cottrill (pictured) might still have Division I basketball in the future, but only after a year or two. Academic issues will force him to either a prep school or a junior college. There is a chance he might attend Polk, a junior college in Florida. Polk is coached by former Robert Morris coach Matt Furjanic. Former Beaver Falls star Sheldon Jeter is attending Polk this school year, but not playing basketball. Jeter played as a freshman at Vanderbilt, left after one year and will play for Pitt next year. 

Lance Jeter is another Beaver Falls player who played at Polk before signing and playing at the University of Nebraska.

***** Will former Plum star Nolan Cressler be the next WPIAL player who wasn't heavily recruited in high school but makes a name for himself at the big-time college level? Cressler played at Cornell of the Ivy League the past two seasons before deciding to leave the team after this school year. He accepted a scholarship from Vanderbilt last night.

Notre Dame, Dayton and Rutgers also had offered scholarships and a number of other teams were interested in him. Plum coach Ron Richards said Michigan might have offered a scholarship any day. All of those big-time schools don't show interest or offer a scholarship to a marginal player.

A few former WPIAL/City League players did very well this season after transfers. Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell transferred from Duquesne to Arizona, and Schenley's DeAndre Kane transferred from Marshall to Iowa State.

Cressler is a shooting guard who led Cornell in scoring this past season at 16 points a game. This should tell you how much Vanderbilt wanted Cressler: After Cressler got his release from Cornell, Vanderbilt's entire staff flew to Cornell to meet with him.

 

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