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Pregame thoughts - Ducks at Penguins - 02-08-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

After allowing a fairly crucial power-play goal in Friday's 6-3 road loss to the Lightning, the Penguins made some changes to their penalty kill for Saturday's 3-2 overtime road win against the Panthers.

The biggest change involved center Sidney Crosby (right) a whole bunch on the penalty kill.

Friday, Crosby logged only 15 seconds of short-handed ice time during two Tampa Bay power plays. Saturday, against five Florida power plays, he logged 1:29 of short-handed ice time.

Since being promoted as head coach, Mike Sullivan has been pretty up front about wanting to spare Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin the wear and tear penalty killing can bring. Today, he talked about why he used Crosby more on the penalty kill in Saturday's game:

"I used more people on Saturday than we normally do. Part of it was the back-to-back [games on consecutive days], trying to spread some of the minutes a little bit. Part of it was because we struggled in the faceoff circle and Sid has been our most consistent center iceman as far as winning faceoffs. If you can win that first faceoff and get that puck 200 feet, a lot of times you can disrupt the rest of the [opponent's] power play if we do a good enough job down the ice. Those are probably the main reasons why he saw more time on Saturday than he did on Friday. He's capable. He can play in that circumstance. I've just just chose to use him a little bit more sparingly in that circumstance until this weekend. I think given the circumstance that we're in with some of the players that we have out, you're probably going to see Sid a lot more in that circumstance."

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-Center Kevin Porter, who lost the faceoff leading to that crucial goal Friday, has seen a slight increase in penalty killing time with centers Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino sidelined. He talked about what changes for him on the penalty kill with those two absent and what was different with Saturday's penalty kill.

You probably get more ice time with Fehr and Bonino out.

"A little bit. I think more guys have gotten in the fold now on the [penalty kill]. So I think we've got six guys now which helps out. You're not that tired going out there every shift. So I think we can have some more energy. We can pressure a little bit more. We have a little bit more playing time with those guys out. It's good to get some other guys in the fold too."

You'll probably be asked to take more faceoffs.

"Definitely got to be better on faceoffs. Haven't exactly won too many the last few games. It's something you've got to work on. Just keep doing it. I've been taking a lot of faceoffs lately. I've got to be better in that area. That's something that I and a lot of other guys are doing. So if I can get out for a couple draws, that's a good thing."

It seemed like the team took more offensive chances short-handed Saturday.

"I think it was just how their power play was moving the puck. They were trying to make low plays and once we picked it off, we had two-on-ones or half breakaways. Stuff like that. So I think it was just more of the way their power play was moving the puck around. They had one guy high and more guys low than the teams we've seen in the past."

So it wasn't necessarily a focus of your team to take more chances?

"I don't think so. We were getting back to pucks and we were breaking them out. I think we were forcing them to chip pucks in and we were getting back and getting those pucks out. We'd get a lucky bounce and an odd-man rush out of that once in a while. So we had a couple chances."

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The topic of discussion the last two days has been the recent trade between the Penguins and Ducks which brought left winger Carl Hagelin to Pittsburgh and sent left winger David Perron to Anaheim. Perron has ripped it up quite a bit with the Ducks while Hagelin has found a home on the wing with Malkin. Neither player was terribly interested in talking about why they struggled with their former team. Each coach had some thoughts on the subject. Sullivan:

"They're both good players in their own right and sometimes a change of scenery for both guys is a good thing. I think it's worked out for both players. They're both very good players. They're different players in what they bring to the table. Certainly I think from Carl's standpoint, what he's brought to our team is that speed factor that I think that helps us keep the puck. He plays predominantly with [Malkin and right winger Phil Kessel] and what he's brought to those guys is through his speed. And he has good enough hockey sense that he can play with those guys and play that give and go game. But I think he's helped them to keep the puck more. He's obviously a threat off the rush because of his speed and I think a guy like [Malkin] or Phil, they're intuitive guys and they know if they can play pucks into space and allow him to chase pucks down, he can be dangerous. So I think both off the rush and in the offensive zone, he's helped those guys in that regard and I think his speed has been a big reason why."

-Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau talked about center Ryan Getzlaf helping Perron:

"We all know he's got good skill and he's finished [scored goals] and he's put himself in the right position. Ryan is pretty adept at getting you the puck. The biggest difference maybe between the two great centers they have here [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] and Ryan is he's a right-handed guy. Right-handed guys, you don't have to pass to your left-hand side on your backhand. Maybe it's as little as that that might make him successful. When he played in Edmonton, he was with [center Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins too."

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-Defenseman David Warsofsky participated in the morning skate today for the first time since he was tripped up by referee Tim Peel and fell on his head in a 5-0 home win against the Hurricanes Jan. 17:

Warsofsky will miss tonight's game but he is progressing in his recovery. He talked about his ordeal today:

You probably didn't have any sense Peel was behind you when you collided.

"Yeah, I was just looking up taking the rush. As a defenseman, you see everything in front of you so you're not expecting to be taken out from behind like that. When it happened, I think I was kind of in shock. I didn't know what happened."

Where are you in your recovery?

"I can start skating and kind of see how I feel every day. If I continue to feel better, it's a new step every day."

Did Peel contact you afterwards?

"Timmy called me. He obviously apologized. He obliviously didn't mean anything by it. He blew and edge and it's hockey. Things happen."

That was a pretty strange play all around.

"I don't think I've ever seen that in hockey and I don't think we'll ever see it again either. It was an unfortunate incident but hopefully I'm on the road to recovery."

(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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WPIAL basketball bracketology ...... let's talk playoff pairings and seedings

Written by Mike White on .

The WPIAL basketball steering committee is meeting today to decide playoff pairings and seedings. The matchups and the seeds will be announced tomorrow night at a meeting in Green Tree.

But let's talk brackets right now. We already know what teams are in the playoffs, but who will be the top seeds? What will be the first-round matchups?

Let's not wait until tomorrow night. Here are Varsity Blog's matchups and seedings for the boys tournament, along with some thoughts.

CLASS AAAA

I truly believe there are maybe 7-8 teams that could win this thing. That's how balanced Class AAAA is this year. There are a number of teams that fall into this prognosis: It wouldn't be surprising if they got to the championship, and it wouldn't be surprising if they lost in the first round.

It seems what is getting a lot of talk is who should be the No. 1 seed, Chartiers Valley or Latrobe? Chartiers Valley is 17-4 and Latrobe 20-1. (Chartiers Valley's Eddie Flohr is pictured in a game against Upper St. Clair). Chartiers Valley's losses are to an out-of-state team, Monessen (No. 1 in Class A), Aliquippa (No. 1 in Class AA) and Peters Township. Latrobe's only loss was to Norwin. Basically, I think these two are just about the same. I'm not a big believer in using past history to determine seedings. But Chartiers Valley is the defending champion and a perennial championship contender.

Latrobe has a slightly better record, but Chartiers Valley plays in a much tougher section. Latrobe plays in Section 1, which has not fared well in the playoffs. That being said, Latrobe is good enough to win it all. That wouldn't surprise me. But I'll go CV No. 1 and Latrobe No. 2.

Another tough thing is where do you put the three teams that tied for the Section 3 championship (Pine-Richland, Central Catholic and North Hills). North Hills had a few out-of-section losses that might hurt its reputation, but the Indians are still a section champ from an excellent section. Should Pine, North Hills and Central all be seeded next to each other?

Also, where does Bethel Park go? The Black Hawks look like they are playing as good as just about anyone lately.

Well, here goes:

(1) Chartiers Valley vs. (16) Hempfield; (2) Latrobe vs. winner of Mt. Lebanon-Franklin Regional; (3) Pine-Richland vs. (14) Norwin; Penn Hills (4) vs. (13) Butler; (5) North Hills vs. (12) Peters Township; (6) Bethel Park vs. (11) Gateway; (7) Central Catholic vs. (10) Baldwin; (8) Plum vs. (9) Penn-Trafford.

CLASS AAA

Problem area is what to do with section champs Indiana and West Allegheny? Yes, West A. is a section champ but the Indians are only 12-10. Indiana is the defending WPIAL champ, but not as good as last season and the Little Indians' section is suspect.

New Castle should get the No. 1 seed, regardless of what it does tonight against Allderdice. Mars is No. 2. (Pictured is New Castle senior guard Marquel Hooker, who averages more than 20 a game).

Also, there are 20 teams in the Class AAA playoffs. To get to a 16-team bracket, you need four play-in games involving eight teams. I believe you should seed those eight teams, and the two worst teams should play, and the winner has to play the No. 1 seed - and so forth.

Well, here goes:

(1) New Castle vs. Mount Pleasant-Thomas Jefferson winner; (2) Mars vs. Southmoreland-Montour winner; (3) Beaver Falls vs. Laurel Highlands-Trinity winner; (4) Steel Valley vs. Yough-Central Valley winner; (5) Highlands vs. (12) South Fayette; (6) Indiana vs. (11) Knoch; (7) West Allegheny vs. (10) Ambridge; (8) West Mifflin vs. (9) Hampton.

CLASS AA

A big question is what to do with Quaker Valley? The Quakers are only a second-place team, but they are 18-3. Despite being a second-place team, could they be a No. 4 or 5 seed? 

Aliquippa is definitely the No. 1 seed. The Quips are undefeated and aiming to become only the second team in WPIAL history to win back-to-back WPIAL titles with undefeated records. New Castle did it a few years ago. Before that, it never happened. (Pictured is Aliquippa's Jassir Jordan, the team's leading scorer).

Another big question is what to do with Brownsville? The Falcons are a section champ, but the section is weak and has done nothing in the playoffs in recent history. I put Brownsville at the No. 7 seed, and that might be generous.

I didn't give every matchup in Class AA because I do not know what the WPIAL plans to do with 21 teams. I seeded the first 12. The remaining nine in order would be: Avonworth, Shady Side Academy, East Allegheny, Charleroi, Riverside, Chartiers-Houston, Waynesburg, Frazier, Beth-Center. Not sure how the WPIAL will bracket them.

Here goes:

(1) Aliquippa vs. a preliminary-round game winner; (2) Lincoln Park vs. preliminary-round winner; (3) Greensburg Central Catholic vs. preliminary-round game winner; (4) Bishop Canevin vs. preliminary-round winner; (5) Quaker Valley vs. (12) Wilkinsburg; (6) Washington vs. (11) OLSH; (7)  Neshannock vs. (10) Seton-LaSalle; (8) Brownsville vs. (9) Laurel.

CLASS A

Monessen is the easy No. 1 seed. The Greyhounds finished the regular season averaging 92.1 points. (Pictured is leading scorer Dwight Moore).

A big question is where do you seed Jeannette and Clairton, who tied for a section title? They should probably be seeded next to each other, but my idea is to seed them two spots away from each other so that they are on opposite sides of the bracket and don't meet in the quarterfinals.

Also, how high should Eden Christian be seeded? The team finished in second place in Class A Section 1, but has an 18-3 record with losses only to Sewickley Academy, OLSH and Quaker Valley.

Here are Varsity Blog's matchups:

(1) Monessen vs. (16) Leechburg; (2) Sewickley Academy vs. (15) Avella; (3) Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. (14) West Greene; (4) Clairton vs. (13) Cornell; (5) Eden Christian vs. (12) Trinity Christian; (6) Jeannette vs. (11) Springdale; (7) Vincentian vs. (10) Winchester-Thurston; (8) Union vs. (9) California.

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About the Ducks - 02-08-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Ducks.

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

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports West.

Record: 25-18-7, 57 points. The Ducks are in third place in the Pacific Division.

Leading Scorer: Right winger Corey Perry, 35 points (21 goals, 14 assists).

Last Game: 5-2 home win vs. the Coyotes Friday. Left winger Patrick Maroon had a goal and two assists for the Ducks.

Last Game against the Penguins: 2-1 home win Dec. 6. Goaltender John Gibson (right) made 23 saves for the Ducks.

Ducks Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Center Ryan Getzlaf. He has 12 points in 12 career games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Ducks: Defenseman Simon Despres, left winger David Perron, scout Mike Stapleton and center Harry Zolnierczyk.

Ex-Ducks on the Penguins: Centers Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, left wingers Carl Hagelin, Chris Kunitz and defensman Ben Lovejoy.

Useless Ducks Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Defenseman Simon Despres (2009) is one of two former Penguins first-round draft picks who have played for the Ducks. The other is defenseman Ryan Whitney (2002).

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (20-12-5, 2.44 GAA, .919 SV%) for the Penguins. John Gibson (12-7-2, 1.92 GAA, .923 SV%) for the Ducks.

Injuries: For the Penguins, center Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed) is out. Right winger Beau Bennett (right shoulder), Pascal Dupuis (blood clots), centers Nick Bonino (hand), Eric Fehr ("lower body") and defenseman David Warsofsky (concussion) are on injured reserve. For the Ducks, defenseman Clayton Stoner (hip flexor) is on injured reserve.

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

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 72 Patric Hornqvist
62 Carl Hagelin - 7 Matt Cullen - 81 Phil Kessel
34 Tom Kuhnhackl - 40 Oskar Sundqvist 17 Bryan Rust
43 Conor Sheary - 11 Kevin Porter23 Scott Wilson

58 Kris Letang - 3 Olli Maatta
6  
Trevor Daley - 8 Brian Dumoulin 
12 Ben Lovejoy - 51 Derrick Pouliot

-The Ducks had an optional morning skate. Their lines and pairings at Sunday's practice were:

57 David Perron - 15 Ryan Getzlaf - 29 Chris Stewart
19 Patrick Maroon - 67 Rickard Rakell - 10 Corey Perry
7 Andrew Cogliano - 17 Ryan Kesler - 33 Jakob Silfverberg
16 Ryan Garbutt - 44 Nate Thompson  - 25 Mike Santorelli

4 Cam Fowler - 2 Kevin Bieksa
47 Hampus Lindholm - 42 Josh Manson
24 Simon Despres - 45 Sami Vatanen

Notes:

-Ducks right winger Jakob Silfverberg has 98 career points.

-The Ducks are 13-3-1 since Dec. 26.

-Ducks center Andrew Cogliano has played in 672 consecutive games. That is the longest active streak in the NHL and seventh-longest all-time.

-The referees are (No. 32) Tom Kowal and (No. 36) Dean Morton. The linesmen are (No. 95) Johnny Murray and (No. 75) Derek Amell.

(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - Perron, Despres return - 02-08-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Left winger Carl Hagelin faces each of his former teams this week in the Ducks and Rangers.

-"Just having fun playing the game. That's what's it's all about. Finding the confidence back and playing and knowing you're a good player in this league. Maybe I lost that a little bit there [with the Penguins]." - Ducks left winger David Perron on his success since leaving the Penguins via trade last month.

-“I guarantee that I’ll be a little bit emotional for the game [tonight].” - Ducks defenseman Simon Despres (right) on playing in Consol Energy Center tonight for the first time since being traded by the Penguins last season.

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed Wheeling Nailers forward Jarrett Burton to a professional tryout contract.

-Happy 41st birthday to former Penguins right winger Andre Roy. A free agent signing following the 2004-05 lockout, Roy worked as the Penguins' primary enforcer for parts of two seasons. In 2005-06, he appeared in 42 games recording three points and 116 penalty minutes. Roy would appear in five games and fail to record a point in 2006-07 before being put on waivers and claimed by his former team, the Lightning. In 47 games with the Penguins, he scored three points and 128 penalty minutes. He is currently a broadcaster with RDS.

-Happy 63rd birthday to former Penguins right winger Kelly Pratt. A free agent signing in the 1974 offseason, Pratt's NHL career amounted to 22 games with the 1974-75 Penguins. He recorded six points.In the 1975 offseason, he was sold to Hershey of the AHL.

-Happy 31st birthday former Penguins center Trevor Smith. A free agent signing in the 2012 offseason, Smith's Penguins' career amounted to one game and no points in 2012-13. During the 2013 offseason, he joined the Maple Leafs as a free agent. He is currently a member of SC Bern in Switzerland's NLA.

-After the Jump: Drew Stafford faces discipline.

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Perron: 'I'm happy I got a new start' - 02-07-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Stop us if you've heard this one before.

David Perron is off to a fast start with a new team.

Since joining the Ducks Jan. 16, Perron has scored eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games, mostly on a line with center Ryan Getzlaf and right winger Chris Stewart.

Something similar happened the last time he was traded.

After the Penguins acquired him from the Oilers Jan. 2, 2015, Perron racked up 12 points in his first 16 games while primary playing on the top line with center Sidney Crosby and right winger Patric Hornqvist. Over the course of his next 70 games in a Penguins jersey, Perron played with a variety of linemates and could only muster 26 points.

No one seems to understand why Perron struggled as badly as he did during the late stages of his Penguins career. General manager Jim Rutherford said, "I don't know what happened the last part of last year." Following his current team's practice at Consol Energy Center today, Perron declined to get into specifics on his struggles with the Penguins.

He did discuss his current success, why he enjoyed playing for the Penguins and how the late night trade to Anaheim - in exchange for left winger Carl Hagelin - went down.

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How have things been so far with the Ducks?

"It's been good. It's been fun the way the team has been playing. I'm very impressed with this team because of the way they battled back from the start [of the season] they had. We're positioned right now in a good spot. We've just got to keep winning and we're going to be fine."

What has worked with you on this line with Getzlaf and Stewart?

"We're just playing hockey. We're playing hard. Cycling the puck and finding each other. Just having fun playing the game. That's what's it's all about. Finding the confidence back and playing and knowing you're a good player in this league. Maybe I lost that a little bit there [with the Penguins]."

You had a fast start with the Penguins after you arrived via trade. Any similarities?

"Maybe the points but I don't think anything else is similar. Obviously I was scoring in Pittsburgh early on but I don't think I was affecting the game as much. I like the way I control the puck right now. I want to keep doing that. Obviously, it's nice to get points too but I think it goes with the success of the team we have. Three lines, it's tough to figure which one is going to be the line that's going to score. It's a good thing for us. Teams are going to have a hard time to check us."

What happened here? You had such a fast start and the production just dried up for you.

"I don't want to talk about that. I loved the organization and I loved the guys in that [dressing] room over there. I made some great relationships. Some really good friends. Sid and [and defenseman Kris Letang] and [goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury], those guys, we always had dinners on the road. [Left winger Chris Kunitz], I couldn't name them all. It was a lot of fun. The only thing, it didn't work. That's what what [general manager] Jim Rutherford and I and [head coach] Mike Sullivan talked when the trade happened. I wish it would have been different but that's the way it goes sometimes. It didn't click as good as you wanted it to be. I'm happy I got a new start and it's going well."

You grew up a fan of former Penguins right winger Alexei Kovalev. Playing for the Penguins meant something to you.

"Absolutely. I loved it. I think at the time, you look at the opportunity, it's one of the best I got in my career to play with those guys and it didn't work out the way that I liked or they liked. I'm glad they could find in a way a fit for me somewhere else. It's going well so far. You look at the way we played against [Los Angeles Feb. 4], it's one of the toughest if not the toughest team in the league to play against, and we dominated them. We played them really hard and found a way to have a really good game. We been on a streak and we've got to just keep going."

How different is it playing in the Pacific Division and Western Conference compared to the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference?

"I think the [Western Conference] is obviously a more grinding type of game. I'm not the biggest guy but I think that fits my style. I'm not always on the go or something like that or always wanting to get a break or something like that. Yeah, it's nice if you get two-on-ones and stuff like that but I think I like to cycle the puck in the [offensive] zone. Even for Hagelin coming to Pittsburgh, I think it's good. They play that style a lot more and I think it's going to fit him well here."

Sullivan really wants the Penguins to skate and play at a high pace. Were you comfortable with playing that way?

"Oh yeah. It's fine. Sometimes the fit with guys didn't work as well as we wanted. It's not negative. It's just that's what hockey is. I don't know what to say. Sometimes there's better chemistry with others. I thought early on, it was there. It's not negative. Those guys are amazing players in the league and it didn't work out for me. I'm going to move on and hopefully it works out here."

You're scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. From that stanpoint, how important is it for you to finish this season strong and help the Ducks do well in the playoffs?

"It's definitely important for me. I like the way I can control the puck and impact the game. That's what I want to do here. I want to be a difference maker. I feel I can do that here. Obviously [Getzlaf] is another great player to play with. A different style of play than the guys maybe over there [with the Penguins]. I had so much fun there in Pittsburgh. Texting with the guys still for a while. I made a really close friend in [Letang]. We're going to be in touch probably the rest of our lives just because that one year we played together."

You were used as a F1 forward [lead forechecker] with the Penguins this season while playing with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger Phil Kessel. How different is your role with the Ducks?

"It's kind of the same. I played with [Stewart] before in St. Louis. He's a big guy. He goes in the corners. I think our game gets better once we're five, 10, 15 seconds in the [offensive] zone. That's when we really start to come on and we can cycle the puck. This team is really good at doing that. Just playing against them, it's so hard to play against. It's hard to play against the [Los Angeles] Kings and San Jose. It's a big Western [road] trip when teams go there [to California], you know that before going in. It's a tough three games. It's fun to be on that side of it and playing with those guys that have been so hard to play against for a lot of years."

When the Penguins traded you to the Ducks, it happened early in the morning after you guys flew back from Tampa. What that day like?

"It happened on the plane. As I was coming off, it was 2 a.m. Jim [Rutherford] grabbed me as I was about to walk out. You just know. Things weren't really working great for the team either or myself and you know that something maybe will happen. I'm not saying I was shocked. I wasn't expecting anything to happen right away but I wasn't shocked at the same time. He was a gentleman with me the whole time, treating me well. That's a first class organization, all the guys. Sid is a really good leader. Same with [Malkin] and all those guys. So I don't think they're far from the goal of winning either. The good part about being traded at night is you have time to relax a little bit without getting killed by media calling you or friends or whatever. I had time to settle down a little bit, go home, relax for a couple hours. Actually, [Letang] came over to my house until probably 6 a.m. that day [and] we talked."

(Photo: Michael Goulding/The Orange County Register)

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