Flames at Penguins - 12-21-13

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-If you haven't seen it yet, the Penguins signed Jeff Zatkoff to a two-year contract extension worth a total of $1.2 million. In the final year of a contract with a salary cap hit of $537,500, Zatkoff's new deal will have a cap hit of $600,000. Zatkoff, 26, has appeared in eight games this season and has a record of 6-2-0 with a 2.46 goals against average, .912 save percentage and one shutout. He assumed the backup duties in the preseason when Tomas Vokoun was sidelined due to blood clots.

-A third-round pick of the Kings in 2006, Zatkoff joined the Penguins in the 2012 offseason as a free agent, Zatkoff appeared in 49 games last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and had a 26-20-0-5 record with a 1.93 save percentage, a .920 save percentage and five shutouts. Along with teammate Brad Thiessen, he won the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the AHL.

-Nothing was indicated on the team's press release regarding if Zatkoff's contract was one-way or two-way. Dan Potash of Root Sports reported the deal is one-way. Assuming this is the case, this appears to be a bargain at this point. Zatkoff has been fantastic as of late after a rocky start to the season. He's won six consecutive games for a team which has been struggling with injuries and suspensions. He's quieted quite a few doubts about his ability to be a goaltender at this level. That said, the idea of Zatkoff having to step in for Marc-Andre Fleury in the postseason, as Vokoun did last season, still raises a few eyebrows. If for any reason Fleury needs to be pulled in a playoff game, can Zatkoff be counted on? As much as we've been impressed by his recent success, we admit we still have doubts of him in this regard.

-The relatively small salary for Zatkoff says quite a bit for how much he enjoys playing for this organization, specifically goaltender coach Mike Bales. Bales was his position coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season before being promoted to the same role at the NHL this past offseason. In conversations on and off the record, Zatkoff has expressed quite a bit of appreciation for what Bales has meant for him.

-Another bonus to the contract is that it presumably leaves enough salary cap space to bring in other goaltenders if the organization feels it is necessary. Zatkoff could fall off the face of the earth tomorrow and it wouldn't be difficult to sign another goaltender of some note to assume the No. 2 role.

-We're not sure what impact this has on Vokoun's situation. He could very well retire after his second scare with blood clots. He's very well off financially after a long career in the NHL and has a pretty nice life in Florida with his family. Based on the quotes he's offered since being placed on injured reserve, he seems content with the possibility of retiring. He still wants to play a sport he loves and will try make every reasonable attempt to return to the Penguins but if this is the end for him as an NHL player, he'll be at peace.

-Last season, Vokoun confirmed a report with a Czech media outlet that he was retiring from the Czech national team in order to spend more time with his family. Even before this recent bout with blood clots, he seemed to truly realize what is important in life.

-We're not sure what to expect from this Flames team today. There isn't a lot of talent on this squad, especially with Dennis Wideman out with a hand injury. We'd say this team is rebuilding but the haven't laid a foundation yet. If nothing else, you'll see a lot of hungry players in white jerseys today trying to prove they belong at this level.

-We chatted with a few Flames players yesterday and it seems like a pretty loose, fun room for a team which has had relatively little success. That's always a good sign.

-The Flames have the makings of a Dartmouth alumni chapter with Lee Stempniak, David Jones and T.J. Galiardi. If you throw in Tanner Glass, who won't be playing today, it's an outright reunion for the Big Green.

-The Flames' penalty kill poses a unique challenge for the Penguins today. While it only has a success rate of 81.7 percent, 16th in the NHL, it has scored six short-handed goals, most in the league. With the Penguins using Matt Niskanen and Jussi Jokinen, a forward, at the points, the Flames could be aggressive in how they defend.

-We got a chance to catch up with Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie who earned a little infamy in Pittsburgh a few years ago for wearing No. 66 which is a slightly significant number with the home team. As Galiardi explained back then, he was a rookie and he was given a training camp number. It wasn't his place to demand or even ask for another number. He now wears No. 7. Joe Mullen fans can express outrage.

-While chatting with a few Flames beat writers, they expressed satisfaction with the "nice" weather we have in Pittsburgh the past two days. If you're not in Pittsburgh, it's in the mid-50s, rainy and generally miserable, even for late December. It's not exactly a day you'll see recreated on many postcards. But considering it is currently 7 degrees (Fahrenheit) with snow in Calgary, "nice" can be a relative term.

-This is a leftover photo from yesterday. The Flames have these need floor mats in front of each stall of their dressing room:

-The barn:

-The ice:

-Alex Kovalev:

-Martin Straka:

-Randy Carlyle:

-Peter Nedved:

-Ben Lovejoy and Mark Letestu together again:

-Milan Kraft:

-Mario Lemieux Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins:

-We were so busy trying to get a picture of this Clark Griswold Blackhawks jersey, we didn't even notice the Joel Kwiatkowski jersey to the right:

-Jersey Foul of the Day: Mike Richards Kings (with a hood no less).

-Fans entering the barn:

-There are a surprising amount of Flames fans on hand. Mark Giordano:

-Robyn Regehr:

-A few ex-Flames/Penguins. Jarome Iginla:

-Jean Pronovost:

-Jersey of the Night: How many times in your life can you boast that you've seen a Tom Lysiak Atlanta Flames jersey?

-Warm ups:

-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Brian Gibbons and Evgeni Malkin.

-The Flames' starters are Mikael Backlund, Paul Byron, Mike Cammalleri, Mark Giordano, Ladislav Smid and Karri Ramo.

-Their scratches are Christopher Breen, T.J. Galiardi and Blair Jones.

-Jeff Jimerson is ready to go:


18:18: Curtis Glencross tries to hit Olli Maatta behind the Penguins' net and crashes into the end boards. He is slow to recover to his feed. He eventually makes his way to the Flames bench with some assistance. On replay, it appears he had his left leg trapped underneath him. he eventually retreats to the dressing room with assistance from a team attendant.

16:57: Samuelsson chucks a wrister from the left point on net. Smid blocks it.

15:51: Niskanen leans down and golfs a one-timer from the right point. Ramo's blocker punches it away.

14:56: Off a turnover by the Flames in their own zone, Kunitz deals a quick feed from the slot to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby leans down and sticks a one-timer on net. Ramo eats it up.

14:22: Off a defensive zone turnover by Kunitz, Backlund whips a rising wrister from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.

13:18: Corralling a puck wrapped around the left wing boards, Jokinen backhands a pass to Neal in the left circle. Neal rushes in and cranks a one-timer off the far post. Argh.

12:04: Off  feel by Byron, Cammalleri goes deep on the left and forces a feed across the front of the crease. Bortuzzo slides down and blocks the pass with his stick.

11:25: After Stempniak makes a nice steel on Bortuzzo in the Penguins' left wing corner, he deals a pass to Backlund who has two chances in the slot. Fleury rejects them both. Bortuzzo owes Fleury a beer.

9:34: Dupuis cashes in on a broken play. Dupuis tries to rip a wrister from the left circle but has it stripped. Crosby is able to jam the loose puck on net and Ramo denies him. The puck comes loose in the blue paint and Dupuis is able to tap it into the open net for an easy goal. Crosby and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" is never broken. Penguins 1-0.

8:15: Taking a pass at the right point, Bortuzzo swats a one-timer at the cage. after hitting off the stick of a Calgary defender, Zolnierczyk is positioned in front and re-directs it behind Ramo. It's his first goal of the season and his first with the Penguins. Bortuzzo and Neal get assists. The "Hey Song" double shifts. Penguins 2-0.

5:22: Shane O'Brien takes a pass at the right point and cranks a slapper. Chris Conner hustles into position and slides down to block it out of play.

3:50: The Flames get the game's first power play as Neal is nabbed for high sticking Brodie. Dupuis, Matt Niskanen, Brandon Sutter and Olli Maatta take the ice.

2:52: Collecting a loose puck at the center point, Cammalleri zips a wrister from above the right circle.

2:30: Cammalleri chucks a wrister from the right circle. Fleury fights it off

2:17: Taking a pass on the left wing, Backlund whacks a slapper from the half wall. Fleury smothers it.

1:50: Neal's minor expires. The Flames puts a few quality shots at the net.

0:57: Niskanen pinches in on the right and whacks a loose puck wide on the near side.

0:24: Taking a pass at the left point, Butler raises a slapper on net as Bortuzzo slides down for a block attempt. Fleury traps the puck against his chest.

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


-While the Penguins have a clear advantage on the scoreboard, that wasn't exactly a one-side period of hockey. The Flames outworked the Penguins much of the first period. The only difference is the Penguins, even as beat up as they are, have a little bit more talent in the lineup.

-The biggest difference in talent is in net. Fleury was really strong that period. He saw a few quality shots and made them seem like easy saves.

-Robert Bortuzzo had a pretty up and down start to the game. He had a turnover which led to two good chances for Backlund but then had a handful of nice plays, including a point show which led to Zolnierczyk's goal.

-The Flames don't have much talent to begin with. So losing a solid player like Glencross is a killer. There has been no official update on his status.

-The Flames have a 10-5 lead in shots on net.

-The Flames have a 16-13 lead in attempted shots.

-Backlund leads the game with five shots.

-None of the Penguins has more than one shot.

-Kris Russell leads the game with 9:03 of ice time.

-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 8:18.

-Faceoffs are tied, 10-10 (50 percent).

-Joe Colborne is 3 for 3 (100 percent).

-Zach Sill is 3 for 4 (75 percent).

-Smid and Butler each lead the game with two blocked shots.

-The Penguins are tempting fate by putting three franchise players on the cover of IceTime:

-UPDATE: Glencross is officially out with a "lower-body" injury.


19:12: Russell takes a pass at the left point and chucks a wrister on net. Fleury stops it with his chest and snags the rebound.

18:51: Jones rips a wrister from the right cicle which hits a stick and is deflected out of play.

18:38: Neal spins a wrister in the right circle and puts a low wrister on net which Ramo smothers.

17:34: Giordano lifts a wrister from the right circle which Fleury fights off despite traffic.

16:55: Craig Adams pops Brodie with a solid hit at the red line.

16:20: Sill floats a wrister from the left circle. Ramo eats it up.

16:15: Dupuis whips a heavy wrister from the left circle. Ramo kicks it out.

15:38: The Penguins get their first power play as Giordano is nabbed for holding Crosby in the right wing corner of the Calgary zone. Crosby, Neal, Dumoulin, Jokinen and Kunitz take the ice.

14:26: Off a feed from Dumoulin. Crosby cranks a one-timer from the right circle which Ramo fights off.

13:38: As the power play expires, Stempniak races up the left wing and puts a wrister on net.

13:35:  Giodano leaves the penalty box and pops Sutter with a good shoulder check in the neutral zone.

13:18: Spinning off a check from the right half wall, Colborne whips a wrister at the cage. Fleury makes the save at first but allows the puck to squirt through his gear to the left of the cage. Byron jumps on the rebound and pokes it wide on the near side. Fleury got a little lucky there.

13:03: Fleury isn't lucky this time. Byron cranks a slapper from the high slot. It appears to be deflected a bit and the puck squeaks through Fleury's gear. It's a leaky goal for Fleury, even with the deflection. Colborne and Butler get assists. Penguins 2-1.

9:31: Despres chops a slapper from the left point.

9:23: Despres fires another slapper from the left point. It hits a stick and skids on net and Ramo holds it out. Jiri Hudler is called for hooking Neal. Crosby, Neal, Kunitz, Jokinen and Niskanen take the ice.

9:14: Off a little feed from Crosby, Neal one-touches a wrister from the left circle. Ramo fights it off and covers the rebound.

9:03: Niskanen cranks a one-timer from the left point and Ramo boots it out.

7:45: Working with a little space, Maatta cranks a one-timer from the left circle. Ramo fights it off.

7:23: Hudler's minor is killed. The Penguins looked better with that power-play chance.

6:49: Cammalleri cranks a slapper from center point. It hits a cluster of bodies in front and deflects to the left circle. Russell jumps on the rebound and whips it on net. Fleury slides to his right and kicks it out.

6:31: After an icing call, the Penguins call timeout to get a breather.

6:29: Another power play for the Flames. The great Joe Vitale is called for tripping Jones. Sill, Adams, Niskanen and Maatta take the ice.

6:11: Things are evened up as Colborne is called for hookingxxx in the Penguins slot. We'll have four-on-four for 1:42.

5:16: After Despres forces a turnover by Stempniak in the Penguins' zone, Kunitz pushes the puck to the blueline the one-hands a feed to Crosby in the neutral zone. Crosby takes the puck, twists Brodie around and enters the Flames' zone with speed on the left wing. In the right cirlce, he winds up and cranks a one-timer which explodes off his stick and blows by Ramo's glove hand on the far side. What a shot! Despres created that chance with strong defensive play. Kunitz and Despres get assists. The "Hey Song" is always explosive. Penguins 3-1.

3:56: Samuelsson whips a wrister from the left point. Ramo snags it.

2:04: Butler rattles Sill with a hit into the left half wall of the Calgary zone.

1:58: A wrister by Samuelsson from the left point hits a stick and pops over the Calgary net.

1:05: Taking a pass from Crosby on the left point, Niskanen whips a wrister at the cage. It glances off the stick of Brodie and deflects behind Ramo. Neal is credited with the goal. Niskanen and get assists. The "Hey Song" double shifts. Penguins 4-1.

0:45: Just as the "Niskanen for Norris" campaign was getting ready to start, Mike Cammalleri strikes. Moving up the left wing, Cammalleri twists Niskanen around, gets by him and rips a wrister to the far side which glances off Fleury's glove hand and hits twine. What a dazzling effort by Cammalleri who has a good history against the Penguins. He embarrassed Niskanen. Giordano gets the only assist. Penguins 4-2.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Flames 2.

-First things first, Maatta did not record a shift in the final 6:11 of that period. There is no word on his status.

-Things opened up quite a bit for both teams that period. There was plenty of skating up and down the ice and several quality scoring chances.

-Marc-Andre Fleury could have been better on both goals he allowed, especially the first one. He needs to button this game down.

-The Flames aren't going away. They have pressured the Penguins quite a bit this game.

-Shots on net are tied, 18-18.

-The Penguins have a 34-28 lead in attempted shots.

-Backlund leads the game with six shots.

-Niskanen, Dupuis and Samuelsson each lead the Penguins with three shots.

-Russell leas the game with 16:00 of ice time.

-Crosby leads the Penguins with 14:45.

-The Penguins have a 23-18 lead in faceoffs (56 percent).

-Jokinen is 5 fo 6 (83 percent).

-Backlund is 6 for 11 (55 percent).

-Butler leads the game with four blocked shots.

-None of the Penguins has more than one blocked shots.


20:00: Maatta begins the period on the ice.

18:57: It's a one-goal game. Corralling a puck behind the Pittsburgh net, Matt Stajan whips a backhanded pass to Hudler all-alone in the slot. Hudler rips an easy shot behind a helpless Fleury. That was a pretty ugly defensive breakdown.  Stajan and Brodie get assists. Penguins 4-3.

17:14: Attendance is announced as 18,663. It is the team's 306th consecutive sellout.

16:27: Adams rattles Stajan with a great shoulder check into the left wing boards of the Penguins' zone. Stajan falls to the ice in discomfort. A few Flames players give Bortuzzo some grief but it was a perfectly legal hit.

15:39: Another power play for the flames. Battling for a position in front of the Calgary net, Crosby bumps into Giordano and knocks him to the ice. That's two minutes for interference. Niskanen, Maatta, Neal and Adams take the ice.

14:51: Giordano rips a wrister from the right point which hits a body in front.

13:58: Taking a pass in the right circle, Butler chucks a wrister on net. Fleury eats it up.

13:48: Giordano fires a slapper from the right point which hits something and bounces in on net like a ground ball. Fleury knocks it dead with his chest and covers the rebound. Backlund whacks Fleury for a rebound a few times. Bortuzzo and Samuelsson give him the business. Cammalleri jumps in and is knocked to the ice by Samuelsson. Nothing more comes of the dust-up.

13:30: As Crosby emerges out out of the penalty, he take puck int he neutral zone, gains the offensive zone on the right wing and deals a backhanded pass to Jokinen trailing on the left wing. Jokinen lifts a wrister over the cage.

11:48: After Jones steals a puck off Bortuzzo behind the Penguins' net, Butler chucks a wrister from the left point wide of the cage.

11:32: Butler rips a wrister from the left point. It hits a body in front. Lance Bouma tries to  settle the puck and shoot but loses the puck.

10:52: Stemniak chucks a wrister from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.

10:30: The Flames a buzzing. Off a feed from the end boards by Hudler, Stajan rips a wrister from the slot. Niskanen leans down to block it with his skate.

10:01: Off another fee from the end boards, Giordano rips a wrister from the slot which Fleury punches away with his blocker.

9:34: Crosby deals a cross-ice pass from the right wing to Despres on the left wing. Smid hustles back and dives to break up the play. He crashes into the end boards awkwardly and looks a little shaken up but remains in the game.

8:28: Play is halted as Russell is shaken up. Sill took a pass in the slot and tried to shoot. Monahan hit him from behind into Russel's left leg. Russell limps to the bench and is assisted to the dressing room.

8:13: Giordano slew foots Neal. Neal gets him back with a trip. No calls.

7:41: A slapper by Hudler from the left point is blocked.

7:08: Off a steal by Despres at the Penguins blue line, Crosby races up the left wing and lifts a wrister which Ramo denies.

7:03: Dupuis booms one-timer from the left circle. Ramo fights it off.

6:58: Crosby collects the rebound behind the cag eand deal to Dupusi abov eht eblue paint. Dupuis rips a wrister which Ramo fights off.

6:25: WOW! The Flames nearly tie it. Colborne tries to tuck in a forehand shot from the right of the cage. He get it by Fleury's right skate but puts the puck off the far post. It deflects back under Fleury's legs. Officials bow play dead. A scrum breaks out. Despres and Colborne each get roughing minors. Four on four play for two minutes.

5:48: A wrister by Jokinen from the right circle is deflected out of play by Bodie's stick.

4:25: Despres and Colborne return to action.

3:17: Adams rattles Smid with a solid hit in the Flames' right wing corner.

2:09: Colorne whips a wrister from the slot wide of the cage.

1:22: Ramo is pulled for an extra attacker.

1:02: Colborne chips a puck at the net and Maatta gets a piece of it. Cammalleri is to the right of the cage, spins and whips the rebound on net. Fleury fights it off. Colborne crashes in but can't punch it by Fleury. He runs over Fleury instead. A scrum breaks out. Fleury emerges from the pile of bodies. Colborne's helmet has fallen off and Fleury shoots it to the far boards. The Flames call a timeout to get organized.

0:44: Stealing a pass in the neutral zone, Crosby airmails a shot which deflects wide.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 4, Flames 3.


-First things first, there appears to be a scoring change on the Penguins' fourth goal. Matt Niskanen was credited with the Penguins' fourth goal, not James Neal. Sidney Crosby and Robert Bortuzzo get assists.

-Out of all the games the Penguins should not have lost, this certainly wasn't in. If there was a team the Penguins should have run over during this recent stretch of injuries and suspensions, it was these Calgary Flames. While the Penguins have a ton of AHL-caliber players in their lineup, the Flames have a smattering of NHL-caliber players in an NHL lineup. This should have been one-sided game. Instead, the Flames took it to the Penguins and nearly earned a point or two on the road.

-The effort was probably the most disappointing part out of this game. We're not saying the Penguins didn't work hard. It's more that the Flames outworked them. This is a young team with players trying to stick in the NHL. Their young players outworked the Penguins' young players.

-What made the Flames' effort even more impressive was the absences of Curtis Glencross and Kris Russell, two of their better players. Glencross left the game early in the first period while Russell left in the third. For this mostly barren roster, those were two big losses.

-There was no official update on either of their statuses. They each suffered "lower-body" injuries.

-Neither team had sharp goaltending. Fleury could have made a save on one or two of the goals he allowed. That said, he did button things up late as the Flames were pressuring.

-Karri Ramo didn't offer the Flames much today.

-Much will be made of the post Joe Colborne hit late in regulation but don't forget the post James Neal hit in the first period. Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda goals were even.

-The "veteran" defensemen for this current group of Penguins had some up and down days. Matt Niskanen scored the eventual game-winning goal but was absolutely undressed by Mike Cammalleri quickly after that. Bortuzzo was a tough, physcial presence who clogged up some shooting and passing lanes but had a devil of a time in his own end and turned the puck.

-The penalty kill was sharp once again as it went 3 for 3. The power was less so as it went 0 for 3.

-It was just another "ho-hum" three-point effort for Crosby. His ability to drag this team through this rough patch of injuries and suspensions should not be overlooked.

-Harry Zolnierczyk was due for a goal. He had been doing the right things within his skillset. He went to the net and deflected a point shot.

-Cammalleri still brings it against the Penguins. Including playoffs, Cammalleri now has 17 points (12 goals, 5 assists) in 20 career games against the Penguins.

-This was our first good look at rookie Sean Monahan and it was hard to notice him. In fairness to him, he is dealing with a foot ailment.

-The Flames led in shots on net, 30-23.

-The Flames led in attempted shots, 52-48.

-Cammalleri and Mikael Backlund each led the game with six shots.

-Crosby and Pascal Dupuis each led the Penguins with four shots.

-Cammalleri led the game with 23:01 of ice time.

-Niskanen led the Penguins with 22:58.

-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 33-24 (58 percent).

-Crosby was 11-for-19 (58 percent).

-Cammalleri was 5 for 8 (63 percent).

-Chris Butler led the game with five blocked shots.

-Niskanen led the Penguins with three blocked shots.

-The Penguins won their seventh consecutive game and 10th straight at home.

-Crosby broke through into the top 200 scorers in NHL history with 219 points. He is tied with Dave Gagner, Olli Jokinen and Alexei Zhamnov for 198th place.

-Technically, Crosby is in 200th place. Gagner (318) and Jokinen (307) have more goals than Crosby (258). Zhamnov has 249 goals.

-Crosby reached the 20-goal mark for the seventh time in his career.

-Zolnierczyk is the 467th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.

-Chris Kunitz scored his 250th career point with the Penguins.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.


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About the Flames - 12-21-13

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Flames.

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

TV: Root Sports, SportsNet West.

Record: 13-16-6, 32 points. The Flames is in sixth place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Jiri Hudler, 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 overtime loss to the Red Wings, Thursday. Mike Cammalleri (right) had two assists for the Flames.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-3 home loss, Oct. 8, 2011. Miikka Kiprusoff made 32 saves for the Flames.

Flames Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: David Jones. He has five points in four career games against the Penguins.

Ex-Penguins on the Flames: None.

Ex-Flames on the Penguins: Jason Botterill, assistant general manager; Chuck Kobasew, right winger.

Useless Flames Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Two members of the Flames played for current Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma when he was an assistant coach of the AHL's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in 2004-05. Left winger Curtis Glencross and defenseman Shane O'Brien.

Best Flames Video We Could Find: You Can't Touch a Flame When It's Red Hot:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (20-8-1, 2.00 GAA, .924 SV%) for the Penguins. Karri Ramo (6-5-3, 2.70 GAA, .908 SV%) for the Flames.

Injuries: For the Penguins, center Evgeni Malkin ("lower-body") is day to day. Defensemen Kris Letang ("upper body"), Paul Martin (leg), Brooks Orpik (head), Rob Scuderi (ankle), centers Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Jayson Megna ("lower body"), right winger Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), left winger Tanner Glass (hand) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Flames, defenseman Dennis Wideman (hand) is on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: Neither team held a morning skate due to the early afternoon game. The Penguins primary lines and defensive pairings at practice yesterday were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 9 Pascal Dupuis
39 Harry Zolnierczyk - 36 Jussi Jokinen - 18 James Neal
23 Chris Conner - 16 Brandon Sutter - 46 Joe Vitale
27 Craig Adams - 36 Zach Sill - 12 Chuck Kobasew

2 Matt Niskanen - 3 Olli Maatta
41 Robert Bortuzzo - 8 Brian Dumoulin
47 Simon Despres - 55 Philip Samuelsson

The Flames held an optional practice Friday. Their primary lines and defensive pairings against the Red Wings Thursday were:

20 Curtis Gencross - 18 Matt Stajan - 22 Lee Stempniak
13 Mike Cammalleri - 11 Mikael Backund - 54 David Jones
32 Paul Byron - 23 Sean Monahan - 24 Jiri Hudler
17 Lance Bouma - 8 Joe Colborne - 16 Brian McGrattan

4 Kris Russell - 7 T.J. Brodie
5 Mark Giordano - 3  Ladislav Smid
44 Chris Butler - 55 Shane O'Brien


-The last time the Penguins payed the Flames, this happened:

-Deryk Engelland is suspended.

-Crosby has 716 career points and needs three to break into the top-200 career scorers in NHL history.

-Russell has played in 399 career games.

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

(Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 12-21-13

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Welcome back Brooks Orpik (right) ... to practice.

-"He’s always been a pretty good friend of mine." - Orpik on Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.

-Welcome back Tanner Glass ... soon?

-"In 2008, I want to say we had seven or eight guys. I remember [Marc-Andre Fleury] was out and Ty Conklin played a chunk of games. Since then, I don’t remember seeing it like this." - Sidney Crosby on the team's recent run of injuries.

-“He’s playing like he played with us last year. It’s like he hasn’t missed a beat.” - London Knights assistant coach Dylan Hunter on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta.

-Orpik speaks:

-Chris Kunitz speaks:

-The Penguins made their annual trip to Children's Hospital:

-Eric Hartzell made 16 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 4-1 loss to the Worcester Sharks.


-Mathieu Corbeil made 13 saves for the Wheeling Nailers who lost to the Evansville IceMen, 6-3.

-Happy 32nd birthday to former Penguins forward Shane Endicott. A second round pick in 2000, "Endo" spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2001-02, Endicott appeared in four games and recorded one assist. After spending the next three seasons with the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Endicott appeared in 41 games at the NHL level in 2005-06 and recorded two points. In the 2006 offseason, he joined the Predators as a free agent. In 45 games with the Penguins, Endicott scored three points. He currently runs his own hockey skills training service in Saskatchewan.

-After the Jump: More new jerseys.

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Rice resigns as strength and conditioning coach

Written by Sam Werner on .

Strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice has resigned from his position, a Pitt spokesman confirmed tonight. Rice spent the last two years as Pitt's head strength and conditioning coach, and previously held the same title at N.C. State, Boston College and Cal.

Pitt did not provide a reason for the resignation, and said that it will hire a full-time replacement some time after Jan. 1.

Most of the reviews I heard from current and former players about Rice were not necessarily glowing, and Pitt dealt with a spate of back injuries (usually, though not always, indicative of a conditioning issue) along the offensive line. Left guard Cory King and left tackle Adam Bisnowaty both missed multiple games with back injuries this season. Chryst said earlier in the year that he would re-evaluate to see what the cause of the injuries was.

"You are concerned about [injuries]," Chryst said. "You don't know what drove those. Did it just happen? Is it something we are doing? You go through all of that and try to answer it."

This is a significant move because the strength and conditioning coach is arguably the most important assistant coach on the staff. They are allowed to be with the players during voluntary offseason workouts, which means they interact with the players much more than the other coaches.

As for potential replacements, I haven't gotten an indication of potential candidates, but here are a couple of guys to keep an eye on:

The first is a familiar one for Pitt fans: Buddy Morris. Morris served as Pitt's S&C coach from 1980-89, 1997-2001 and 2007-2010. He also worked at the University of Buffalo and with the Cleveland Browns. Morris is currently working as a personal trainer in Buffalo, N.Y., so it would just be a matter of convincing him to move back to Pittsburgh if that's the direction Chryst wants to go.

The other guy is current Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert. Herbert is a 2002 Wisconsin grad who served on the Badgers' staff when Chryst was the offensive coordinator there. He was an assistant S&C coach from 2003-2009, and the head S&C coach from 2009-2012, at which point he followed coach Bret Bielema and took the same job at Arkansas. Hertbert is also a Pittsburgh native and a West Allegheny grad, so it would be a homecoming of sorts for him, too. The tricky part here would be luring him away from Arkansas, which might not be easy, but potentially the draw of coming home would be enough to do the trick.

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Washington's Shai McKenzie chooses Virginia Tech

Written by Mike White on .

I remember talking to Washington running back Shai McKenzie this summer about recruiting. I asked him if he had a favorite at the time?

He answered Virginia Tech.

His comment created a stir in some recruiting circles and McKenzie seemed to back off the statement in following days and weeks, saying he didn't had a favorite after all.

Well, today McKenzie again said Virginia Tech was his favorite. And this time he told everyone.

McKenzie announced he will attend Virginia Tech. Pitt was his other top choice and Georgia Tech was third.

McKenzie played in only three games this year before sustaining a torn ACL in his knee. He said today he expects to be ready for fall camp. I think a redshirt might be in order.

For Pitt, it was more bad news. In the past 11 days, four WPIAL players announced their college choices. Three of them had news conferences, which I hate, to announce their choice. Every one who had a news conference didn't pick Pitt. Aliquippa defensive back Dravon Henry chose West Virginia and Gateway defensive back Montae Nicholson chose Michigan State.

Mt. Lebanon offensive lineman Alex Bookser didn't feel the need to have a news conference (thank you). He chose Pitt.

Getting maybe a few more of the top Western Pa. recruits would've helped boost Pitt's recruiting class. Oh well.


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