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Duquesne drops seventh straight with 83-67 loss to Richmond

Written by Craig Meyer on .

 

The reasons for Duquesne’s prolonged February losing streak and the way it has unfolded have been wide-ranging and change on an almost game-to-game basis.

Sometimes, as it was against Dayton and St. Bonaventure, it was unraveling late against a better team in a trying road environment. On other occasions, like it was against Massachusetts, it’s because of a defense that morphs into a sieve in the game’s final minutes. The twists and turns vary, but they’ve produced a similar plot, one in which the Dukes hang close, sometimes against superior competition, only to fall short.

Their seventh-consecutive loss – an 83-67 defeat against Richmond Saturday night at the Palumbo Center – presented a new and demoralizing wrinkle that perhaps signifies the nadir of a free fall that has upended their season.

Duquesne struggled to defend the Spiders (15-13, 7-9 Atlantic 10) throughout the game, allowing an already potent offensive team to shoot 52.7 percent and make half of its 22 3-pointers. Even when it was able to get close early in the second half, extended offensive droughts ended most any hope of a comeback.

A team that could take solace in its competitiveness during its worst stretch of the season no longer had even that, at least for one night.

“They executed significantly better than we did,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “Their frontcourt totally outplayed our frontcourt. For the first time all year, I felt like as a team we just couldn’t guard.”

With the loss, the Dukes (15-14, 5-11) finished February winless, a far cry from the 15-7 record they carried into it. It just the second time in the past 10 seasons they’ve finished a whole month without a win. For the Spiders, it was their 18th victory in 19 A-10 regular season games against Duquesne.

The Dukes led for only 2:44 and were consistently overmatched and out-maneuvered by a disappointing Richmond team that led them in the conference standings by only one game entering the night. When they weren’t burying 3s, the Spiders utilized their skilled and versatile big men, who helped them shoot 54.5 percent inside the arc. Prior to tonight, Duquesne’s opponents were making just 42 percent of their 2-pointers.

Even when it drew close, its offense betrayed it. A 3 from Derrick Colter got the Dukes within four points with 14 minutes remaining, but after that, they went the next 5:31 without making a shot, a span in which Richmond’s lead swelled to 13. Colter snapped that drought with another 3, but it would be another 4:09 before another Duquesne player besides him made a shot against an effective matchup zone defense.

“There are slips and different pockets to get open shots, but it’s always contested and it’s always a different look,” guard Micah Mason said of Richmond. “It’s a team that plays a different way than anyone we really play.”

Colter finished with 20 points while Mason had 15 points and seven assists. Sophomore Eric James added 16 points.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Duquesne leads 13th-place George Mason by one game. Though it owns a head-to-head tie-breaker against the Patriots, finishing among the bottom four teams in the A-10 would require it to play in the preliminary round of the conference tournament in March.

It’s a situation the Dukes hope to avoid as they try to recapture something from a season that has quickly devolved.

“It’s frustrating,” Mason said. “We didn’t think our senior year would end like this. But there’s still basketball to play and we can make a run in the tournament because we’re a good team. We’ve proven we can play with anyone and lose to anyone.”

 

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

 

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Postgame thoughts - Penguins 4, Jets 1 - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

First things first, the Penguins acquired defenseman Justin Schultz from the Oilers after the game. Click here for our thoughts on that. 

Second, goaltender Matt Murray was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Third, left winger Conor Sheary was injured in the second period when he was crunched into the Jets end boards by defenseman Tyler Myers. He appeared to be struggling with an arm or shoulder. He took one more shift after the hit then retreated to the dressing room.

As far as the game goes, the Penguins just beat a bad and wounded team. They took advantage of their superior skill and picked apart a loose defense. If not for the exploits of Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson, this could have been much more lopsided. 

The Penguins got some contributions from returning centers Nick Bonino and Evgeni Malkin and took an easy two points out of this game.

What happened

After a scoreless first period, the Penguins darted out to a quick 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the second period. Right winger Patric Hornqvist lugged a puck up the right wing wall on a somewhat methodical four-on-three rush into the Jets' zone. He fed a fairly simple pass to Letang trailing in the right circle. Letang popped a one-timer by the glove hand of Hutchinson on the far side. Hornqvist and left winger Chris Kunitz had assists.

They doubled the lead 23 seconds later. Corraling a puck at the left point, defenseman Derrick Pouliot fed a pass to defenseman Ian Cole at the right point. Cole whacked a one-timer which left winger Carl Hagelin deflected by Hutchinson's glove hand with his stick. Cole and Pouliot had assists.

The Jets finally got on the scoreboard at the 8:48 mark of the second period. After Malkin was penalized for tripping Jets defenseman Adam Pardy behind Winnipeg's net, the Jets had a power play. Ehlers fed a pass to defenseman Dustin Byfuglien at the right point. Byfuglien lifted a pedestrian wrister at the cage. Right winger Blake Wheeler was positioned to the right of the crease behind defenseman Olli Maatta, reached up with his 6-foot-5 frame and deflected a puck downwards past Fleury's glove hand. Byfuglien and Ehlers netted assists.

 

The Penguins made it a 3-1 game at the 5:19 mark of the third period. After forcing a turnover in the Jets' left corner, Bonino fed a pass to Pouliot at the right point. Pouliot flung a wrister towards the cage. Left winger Scott Wilson was positioned in the crease battling with Pardy and deflected the puck behind Hutchinson's glove hand. Pouliot and Bonino had assists.

They added an insurance goal at 10:02 of the third period. Corralling a puck in the left corner, right winger Phil Kessel took advantage of a slight pick by Malkin on Byfuglien in the corner and fed a pass from the left circle to Hagelin positioned to the right of the cage. Hagelin leaned down and snapped in an easy goal by Hutchinson's left slate. Kessel and Cole had assists.

The Penguins

-Hagelin seemed to benefit a good deal from Malkin's return. While Malkin didn't have a direct hand in either of Hagelin's goals, that line along with Kessel just looked much more comfortable with Malkin at center instead of Matt Cullen. No offense to Cullen who has exceeded most expectations of him, but he's not Evgeni Malkin.

-Malkin had 15:53 of ice time on 24 shifts and recorded three shots.

-The team's bottom defensive pairing came through big and in a timely manner given the addition of Schultz. Pouliot and Cole have really seemed to create a little bit of chemistry in the three games they've played together. We're not sure if there's enough of a body of work between Cole and Pouliot to keep Schultz out of he lineup but they have looked comfortable with one another.

-Bonino looked solid. He was fairly quiet until he made the steal setting up Wilson's goal. But he didn't show any issues as related to his hand injury. He logged 12:59 of ice time on 16 shifts, including 1:03 on the power play and 1:00 on the penalty kill. He had two shots as well.

-Just another game with another goal for Wilson. Today, he scored off a nifty deflection goal while gaining body position on a big defenseman in Pardy (6-foot-4, 220 pounds).

-Sheary's injury looked like a simple matter of a 5-foot-8 178-pound player being hit by a 6-foot-8 229-pound player in Myers. It was a pretty clean play all around.  

-The hit in question:

-The Penguins had one power play today and did not look remarkable whatsoever in executing it. Any expected improvement with Malkin's return was not evident. Furthermore, it looked like Malkin was used on the left wall/point while center Sidney Crosby was on the right wall. Kessel operated a little closer to the left side of the net than he normally does.

-Fleury was outstanding. He had a sequence of saves early in the third period which kept it a 2-1 game. A few shifts later, the Penguins took a 3-1 lead. He came through with some very timely saves throughout this contest.

The Jets

-This looked like a team which just traded its captain [Andrew Ladd] and lost its No. 2 center [Bryan Little] for the rest of the season. The Jets gave an honest effort but just didn't have the ability to match the Penguins' skill.

-As mentioned earlier, Hutchinson was the main reason this game was ever in doubt. He flat-out stole goals with some highlight reel saves. None were better than this bit of robbery against Crosby:

Quotable

 

Head coach Mike Sullivan lauded the  bottom defensive pairing of Pouliot and Cole:

“I thought they simplified their game. They were taking what the game gave them when they had opportunities to get involved in the offense, they did. When it was time to defend, they stayed behind the rush or they stayed behind the attack. I thought they had good sticks in our defensive zone. But I the think that jumped out at me the most is I thought they made really good decisions as far as their first pass helping us getting out of our end zone."

-Pouliot talked about playing with Cole for three games:

"I think we're just building a little more chemistry. We're being more comfortable with each other. We were shooting tonight trying to get the puck on net for the forwards and it worked well for us."

-Cole was excited to get two assistsbut had other things in focus:

"Any time you get points, that's good. It's not a bad thing. But I think there's a lot more to the game than just getting points. There's a lot of times where you throw two pucks on net and they just happen to go into the net. You have two goals and everybody's like, 'Oh my God he had a great game,' and you could have a terrible game the rest of the game. And vice versa you have a great game and not score for 20 games or 30 games. And everyone's like, 'What's happening?' … You start to play well and stuff starts to happen for you. Obviously, it's nice to get points but I think we're more concerned about playing well, playing hard."

-Pouliot explained the play leading to Wilson's goal:

“I'm trying to put it around a certain height so maybe he can touch it or if it gets to the net, there's a rebound.”

-Pouliot said there are instances of chemistry between forwards and defensemen who played in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:

"A little bit. For me and [Wilson] I think it's more on the power play. When he was on my flank there, we'd have that one-timer shot. He told me float a wrister through to the net and he's going to be here. I tried to do that and he tipped it."

-Wilson talked about that chemistry:

"Me and him have had a lot of power-play time down there and being on the ice together, I kind of know his tendencies so I think just like all the [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton] guys, I kind of know what they're thinking and I think that's helped a great deal."

-Sullivan liked what he saw in the returns of Bonino and Malkin:

"I thought they were both really good. We used them in different capacities but you can see the impact that they had on the game. [Malkin] I thought was really strong. I think his conditioning will only get better as he gets his timing back and gets back into game mode. But I thought he made some real nice plays. I think his line is a different line when he is there. He's that kind of a player. [Bonino], we used him on the penalty kill. He played on that second power-play unit. I thought he was solid on both ends of the rink. He had a couple of scoring chances he was involved with."

-Pouliot talked about Malkin's return:

"He's such a presence. His skill is unbelievable and he's one of the best players in his league. He really helps our lineup. He's dangerous offensively and he's playing pretty good defensively too. He's a real threat out there and teams have to honor that with the four lines we have."

Sullivan really liked what he saw from the second line with Malkin, Kessel and Hagelin:

"They're a threat every time they're on the ice, both off the rush and in the offensive zone. I think when those three guys play together, obviously, their speed is evident. All three of them are skaters and they like to play a speed game and I think that's why they're so dangerous off the rush."

-Hagelin liked how his team responded coming off a bad loss:

"We weren't happy with how we played in Boston [Wednesday] especially giving up five goals to a team we wanted to beat. But I think we responded well today. Didn't have a great first [period] but then after that, we took over and dominated the last two periods."

Sullivan said Fleury was big:

"He certainly made some timely saves tonight. He's made timely saves for a while for us that's helped us to get some of the wins we've enjoyed the last little while. I thought Marc was really good tonight. There was some momentum swings. Winnipeg had momentum at times and we needed the save, we got it. I thought Marc was really solid in goal. It's hard to win in this league when you don't get that and that's what he provides for us. I think our team has a lot of faith in him. I think they believe in him and I think he has a calming influence when he's rock solid in there."

Numbers

-The Penguins controlled shots, 33-28.

-Hagelin led the game with six shots.

-Byfuglien and defenseman Ben Chiarot led the Jets with four shots each.

-Byfuglien led the game with 25:54 of ice time.

-Letang led the Penguins with 25:19 of ice time.

-Penguins had a 31-23 lead in faceoffs (57 percent).

-Cullen was 13 for 16 (81 percent).

-Jets center Andrew Copp was 5 for 7 (71 percent).

Cole and Jets center Mark Schiefele led the game with three blocked shots each.

Historically speaking

-The Penguins increased their franchise record for longest home-winning streak against an individual franchise to 15 games against the Jets/Thrashers. The last time the Penguins lost at home to this franchise was a 4-2 defeat to the Thrashers at the Mellon Arena, Dec. 27, 2006. That was so long ago, right winger Marian Hossa was in the lineup ... for the Thrashers.

-The Penguins are 24-3-1 all-time at home against this franchise.

-Cole recorded a point for the first time since Dec. 6.

-Wilson has four goals in his past five games.

-Center Marko Dano made his Jets debut.

Visuals

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

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Penguins acquire Schultz from Oilers - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Following today's 4-1 win against the Jets, the Penguins fortified their blue line by acquiring defenseman Justin Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2016 third-round draft pick. Schultz, 25, is on a one-year contract with a salary cap hit of $3.9 million. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent when it expires. As a condition of the trade, the Oilers will retain half of his salary cap hit.

In 45 games this seaoson, Schultz has 10 points (three goals, seven assists). A native of Kelowna, B.C., he is not expected to join the Penguins until "Wednesday or Thursday" due to the immigration process according to general manager Jim Rutherford.

The Ducks drafted Schultz in the second round (No. 43 overall) in 2008 but he never played for that organization. Following his junior season at the University of Wisconsin, Schultz opted to turn professional. By that point, Shultz was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent as the Ducks had lost exclusive signing rights to him. Several teams engaged in a bidding process for Schultz before he ultimately signed with the Oilers June 30, 2012.

Schultz has largely struggled in his four seasons with the Oilers. In 2013-14, he appeared in 74 games and set career highs with 11 goals and 33 points but his production has regressed since then. This season, he has averaged only 20:07 of ice time per game, only fourth-most among all Oilers defensemen.

Schultz joins a Penguins team which is currently playing without injured defenseman Ben Lovejoy who is sidelined long term due to a long-term injury. Additionally, reserve defenseman David Warsofsky is currently on a conditioning assignment in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as he recovers from a concussion he suffered in Jan. 15. 

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A few highlights:

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EN Says: This is a reclamation project. At one time, Schultz was expected to be a key player who would finally provide stability to the Oilers' graveyard of a blue line. Former general manager Craig MacTavish suggested he could win a Norris Trophy. But with that organization constantly changing general managers and coaches, Schultz, like a lot of other players in Edmonton, struggled to meet his potential.

We're not sure how to fairly evaluate Schultz given Edmonton's doldrums. He's clearly a skilled player and has been able to produce a respectable amount of points at as recently as last season when he had 31 points in 81 games. But he slid down the Oilers' depth chart this season and was even a healthy scratch on a few occasions.

Going back to his days with the Hurricanes, Rutherford has never been afraid to take on a reclamation project and he has even done that in his brief tenure with the Penguins. Heck, right winger Phil Kessel is a reclamation project in some respects.

Schultz seems like a low-risk, high-reward project. Sergei Gonchar, the team's defenseman development coach will presumably work quite a bit with him. We're not sure if Gonchar, who has only been on the job for a few months, is capable of truly helping defensemen develop their game, but he'll have his work cut out with him in Schultz. 

As far as his style of play, Schultz is a puck mover. He takes offensive chances and will occasionally vacate his defensive responsibility to create some offense. While his game is perhaps undisciplined, he seems like a good fit for how head coach Mike Sullivan wants defensemen to play.

An aspect of this trade which shouldn't be overlooked is Lovejoy's injury. His absence seemed to shift the Penguins' focus to fortifying their blue line. Also, like Lovejoy, Schultz is right-handed. Ian Cole, who has replaced Lovejoy for the past three games, is left handed. Presumably, Schultz will play with defenseman Derrick Pouliot, a left-handed shot.

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Rutherford spoke with media following the trade. He's a partial transcript:

On Schultz:

"He's still a pretty young guy. There's some things that he has to work on his game. We think a change of scenery for him is going to be good and we'll see how it goes. We retain his rights for at least one more year and we'll see how the fit is."

Why did he struggle with the Oilers:

"That's hard to say. That's a team that's been building with a lot of young players. They've been going through that rebuilding. Just have really a lot of young skilled players and it hasn't come all together. I think they're coming closer now. Sometimes, when you have that many young players, that can be difficult for everybody. We're hoping a change for him can be good."

Would he play with Pouliot:

"That would be two younger offensive guys playing together. That's something the coach has to sort out. We want to get as many NHL guys here so we have depth at all positions. Very good on the offensive side. Still needs some work on the defensive side."

Have the Penguins filled all their needs prior to the trade deadline:

"We're still in business. I'm not saying we're doing something else but why would we close the door when we have a couple more days here. You never know what comes up."

On giving up a draft pick and not a player in the trade:

“It's turned out when you have injuries, there's good and bad to it. The good was is we got to see some of these young guys that we believed in come in here and play. A lot of teams have been asking for our young guys. That's one thing I really wanted to stay away from."

On the Oilers retaining salary:

"It was important for them to retain some salary because we've got to be careful with our cap. As for where he fits in, time will tell. He won't even get here until Wednesday or Thursday because of immigration. It's just another option for the coach. We're going to play a lot of games in March. Hopefully we're going to play a lot of games right through to June and you need a lot of players. There will be a lot of time for everybody. "

(Photo: Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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Jersey hunt - Jets at Penguins - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The best jerseys at today's Penguins-Jets game:

-Lets start with No. 1. Brent Johnson:

-No. 10 is a popular choice. Ron Francis:

-Brenden Morrow!

-Darius Kasparaitis:

-Nick Bonino:

-Petr Sykora:

-We're pretty sure the is the first Carl Hagelin jersey we've encountered:

-A rare Rick Tocchet/Martin Straka combination:

-The old third line is represented here with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy:

-And Matt Cooke:

-There's a Wisconsin fan here today:

-The only Jets fans we've spotted today is wearing the jersey of the recently traded Andrew Ladd:

-Penguins scout and former Cleveland Barons goaltender Gilles Meloche:

-This is hardcore. Dany Sabourin Wheeling Nailers:

-This is was sharp. A Pittsburgh Hornets jersey from their seasons in the early 1960s:

-Based on record we've been able to find, this jersey is either for center Gary Collins or defenseman Keith Walsh:

-All-Star jerseys are popular. Marc-Andre Fleury:

-And Evgeni Malkin:

-Patrick Lalime:

-Former Thrashers and current Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis:

-Jerseys of the Day: Several fans are remembering the original No. 9 in franchise history, the late, great Andy Bathgate, today:

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Pregame thoughts - Jets at Penguins - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

According to head coach Mike Sullivan, right winger Tom Kuhnhackl remain a game-time decisions due to a "lower-body" injury. We're not certain if this ailment is related, but he appeared to be hobbled a bit after blocking a shot during Wednesday's 5-1 road loss to the Bruins Wednesday. Regardless, he was working up a sweat in the hallway near his team's dressing room playing "warm-up" soccer with right winger Bryan Rust just prior to 1 p.m.

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To no surprise, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been confirmed as the starter. 

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Centers Evgeni Malkin (above) and Nick Bonino are slated to return today after recovering from injuries. Malkin's return figures to impact the power play which has been 1 for 23 (4.3 percent) in his absence.

"We hope so," Sullivan said. "We certainly hope so. It certainly was going pretty strong there for a long period of time, not just a short stretch. We know that he's going to have an impact there. Whether it will take some time to re-stablish that chemistry, we he can have an impact. I think he will. He's a really great player. He has great instincts. I think him and Sid, they really work well on that side as far as creating motion and movement and being instinctive. And I think because of that, they are difficult to handle. But certainly our hope is they can re-establish that chemistry before [Malkin] got hurt."

-Malkin has scored more than a few goals with that thundercracker of a one-timer from the right wall. Sullivan was asked if that shot from that spot by Malkin is unique:

"I think there's a lot of guys that have good one-timers. I think what makes [Malkin] unique is a combination of a great shot but also his playmaking ability. He has both attributes. Not only can he shoot the puck but he's dangerous but he's just as dangerous making plays and passing the puck off that flank as he is with the one-timer. I think that's what made that power play or at least helped that power play enjoy the success it had before he got hurt. He's a unique player."

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The return of Bonino (and to a lesser extent Malkin) will ease the work load for centers Sidney Crosby and Matt Cullen who have been asked to take a lot of faceoffs the last few weeks with those players as well as center Eric Fehr each sidelined due to injuries. Bonino is the team's third-best faceoff specialist with a success rate of 53.3 percent.

Crosby doesn't seem to mind if he has to take fewer faceoffs.

"Both guys are able to take draws," Crosby said. "It's probably going to cut down on minutes too. You don't want to get stuck out there in the [defensive] zone sometimes. If you lose a draw, sometimes it happens. I think the flow and getting everyone back into it, it will be good those are guys are back in a lot of areas, but definitely there."

Sullivan concurred.

“It helps a lot," Sullivan said. "They're both veteran guys that have the ability to win draws. I think it will hopefully take some pressure off of Sid in particular in taking some of the defensive zone draws.”

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-The Coyotes are scheduled to have 11 members of their front office, including general manager Don Maloney, in the press box tonight. Before you get too excited and start working out any trades for any Coyotes players, they are playing in Pittsburgh Monday.

(Photos: Harry How/Getty Images)

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