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Empty Netter Assists - 04-12-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-"I expect it to be a Philly-Pittsburgh game regardless of the circumstances of the schedule, the game it is, and what position we're both in or not in in the playoff picture." - Dan Bylsma on facing the Flyers today.

-When will Evgeni Malkin (above) return?

-The Penguins recalled forward Harry Zolnierczyk from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In 11 NHL games this season, Zolnierczyk has scored two goals.

-Who has drawn the most penalties for the Penguins this season?

-Beau Bennett and Robert paid a visit to some victims of Wednesday's stabbing attack at Franklin Regional High School:

-Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Matt Niskanen speaks:

-Tomas Vokoun made 23 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 3-2 shootout win against the Syracuse Crunch. Anton Zlobin and Spencer Machacek scored in the shootout for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Chuck Kobasew scored each of the Penguins' regulation goals while teammate Brian Dumoulin recorded two assists.

-Highlights:

-“Physically, I feel good. Hopefully, all those (health) issues have been addressed and resolved. I didn’t feel great playing-wise, but that’s a whole-other story. You’re not as confident as you would normally be. As the game went on, I felt a little bit better.’’ - Vokoun on playing his first game of consequence since June.

-Dumoulin left the game in the third period due to an "upper-body" injury.

-Eric Hartzell made 33 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Tom Kuhnhackl, Denver Manderson and Derek Army each had a goal and an assist for Wheeling.

-Penguins defensive prospect Derrick Pouliot, currently a member of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, injured Victoria Royals defenseman Joe Hicketts with a punch during a line brawl during a playoff game Thursday:

(+1 to EN reader Rob Luther for the heads up.)

-Happy 41st birthday to former Penguins forward Krzysztof Oliwa. Acquired midway through the 2000-01 season in a deal which sent a draft pick to the Blue Jackets, "The Polish Hammer" spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He finished 2000-01 by appearing in 26 games for the Penguins and scoring three points while accumulating a massive 131 penalty minutes. In five postseason games that spring, he failed to record a poitn and netted 16 penalty minutes. During 2001-02, he played in 58 games, recorded two assists and accumulated a team-leading 150 penalty minutes. During the 2002 offseason, he was traded to the Rangers in exchange for a draft pick. One of eight natives of Poland to play in the NHL, Oliwa appeared in 83 games for the Penguins, scored five points and recorded 281 penalty minutes.

-Happy 43rd birthday to former Penguins forward Kent Manderville. Acquired at the 2002 trade deadline in a deal which sent Billy Tibbetts to the Flyers, Manderville spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He finished 2001-02 by playing in four games for the Penguins and scoring one goal. In 2002-03, Manderville played in all 82 game and scored seven points. He retired following the season. In 86 games for the Penguins, Manderville scored eight points.

-After the Jump: The NHL gets a new discipline czar.

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Drawing power - 04-11-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

For a team with the league's best power play at 23.7 percent, drawing penalties is important to the Penguins.

Who has been the best at drawing penalties for the Penguins this season? Not surprising, a few all-stars are the top of the list. Somewhat surprisingly, a few journeymen are among their peers on a per-game basis.

Here's a look at every skater who has appeared in a least one game for the Penguins this season and how many penalties they have drawn:

Player, position Games
Played
Penalties
Drawn
Penalties Drawn
Per Game
Harry Zolniercyzk, LW 11 8 0.77
Evgeni Malkin, C 60 36 0.60
Sidney Crosby, C 79 32 0.41
James Neal, LW 57 22 0.39
Tanner Glass, RW 65 22 0.34
Brian Gibbons, C 39 13 0.33
Robert Bortuzzo, D 53 17 0.32
Kris Letang, D 35 10 0.29
Chris Kunitz, LW 77 20 0.26
Joe Vitale, C 53 13 0.25
Brandon Sutter, C 80 18 0.23
Deryk Engelland, D 55 12 0.22
Lee Stempniak, RW 19 4 0.21
Simon Despres, D 33 7 0.21
Jayson Megna, C 34 7 0.21
Chuck Kobasew, W 32 6 0.19
Pascal Dupuis, RW 39 7 0.18
Brian Dumoulin 6 1 0.17
Marcel Goc, C 12 2 0.17
Beau Bennett, RW 19 3 0.16
Olli Maatta 76 11 0.14
Brooks Orpik, D 71 10 0.14
Jussi Jokinen, LW 79 11 0.14
Craig Adams, RW 80 11 0.14
Matt D’Agostini, RW 8 1 0.13
Andrew Ebbett, C 9 1 0.11
Chris Conner, RW 19 2 0.11
Paul Martin, D 37 4 0.11
Zach Sill, C 20 2 0.10
Matt Niskanen, D 80 8 0.10
Rob Scuderi 51 4 0.08
Taylor Pyatt, C 33 2 0.06
Nick Drazenovic, C 1 0 0.00
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond 1 0 0.00
Adam Payerl, C 2 0 0.00
Philip Samuelsson, D 5 0 0.00
Dustin Jeffrey, C 10 0 0.00

Note: The total number of penalties drawn are via the Extra Skater Web site.

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Arizona recruit Matijevic off to blazing start ..... Roundball tomorrow ..... other notes

Written by Mike White on .

Norwin baseball player J.J Matijevic had a pretty lofty reputation entering the season. That comes when you sign with the University of Arizona.

But Matijevic has only enhanced that reputation this season.

The kid with two initials for his first name has become synonymous with two other letters. It's J.J. for HR.

Matijevic has hit a home run in five consecutive games. Norwin has played only six games. He did not hit a home run in the season opener against Penn Hills. But he hit one against Valley, two against North Allegheny, one against Albert Gallatin and one against Connellsville. Matijevic, a 6-foot, 190-pound senior shortstop, has six home runs and 20 RBIs.

"We've had some good hitters here, but hands down he is the best one we've ever had," said Norwin coach Mike Liebdzinski. "Our single-season record at Norwin for home runs is seven. He's one behind in the first six games."

Matijevic has helped Norwin to a 5-1 record.

"He has a ton of power, and the home run he hit against Valley was the farthest home run I've seen hit live on any level," Liebdzinski said. "I don't get down to many Pirate games, but that would've been way out in any ballpark in the country. He has power that most people his age don't have."

Matijevic might be a first baseman at the University of Arizona.

"That's if he gets there," Liebdzinski said. "We've had anywhere from three to seven [major-league] scouts at our games."

McKay's impressive stats

Blackhawk pitcher Brendan McKay is putting together statistics that are unheard of in the WPIAL.

McKay, a senior left-hander, now has a 37-inning scoreless streak going back to last year. No one has WPIAL records for the longest scoreless streak. But I've been covering WPIAL sports for more than three decades and there certainly haven't been many - if any - Brendan McKayto put together such a streak.

But what's hard to believe is that McKay had a similar streak as a sophomore. He went 35 consecutive innings without giving up a run as a 10th grader. In case you didn't realize a 37-inning scoreless streak is more than five high school games.

A few more scoreless games and McKay will be approaching national marks. According to the National Federation of High School Associations, a 52-inning scoreless streak will put McKay in the top 10 all time.

But McKay has a ways to go to reach the national record. In 1973, Joey Porter of South Natchez-Adams High in Natchez, Miss., had an 80-inning scoreless streak.

About 20 major-league scouts were on hand when McKay pitched a no-hitter Wednesday against West Allegheny.

"I hate to say it, but he really wasn't even at his best," said Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia. "He hadn't pitched in 10 days. He was only hitting 86 or 87 and he just wasn't at his best. It was still pretty good, though."

Amalia said the attention from major-league scouts is getting "crazy."

In case you are interested in seeing McKay pitch, Amalia said he is tentatively scheduled to pitch Monday at home against Ambridge. Check back here on the "Varsity Blog" Monday morning and I will give an update on whether McKay is going to pitch.

Son of Fedko shines

There is now a Fedko zone at Vincentian baseball games.

It's at shortstop. That's where Christian Fedko resides.

Christian Fedko, son of the sportscaster, is starting at shortstop for Vincentian. Although Christian is only a freshman, he is one of the team's top hitters with a .455 average. Vincentian is 6-0.

I wonder if we'll see a chopper over Vincentian games now. 

Rounball Classic tomorrow

The stars will come out tomorrow at Geneva College. That's when the Roundball Classic will be played.

The Roundball is an annual all-star basketball event run by Allen Deep. It is now four games with the top seniors in the WPIAL, City League and a few surrounding districts. 

Deep is touting this as possibly the most talent he has assembled for the boys and girls games. A total of 20 all-state players from Western Pennsylvania will be included. The two girls games are at 2 and 4, and the two boys games at 6 and 8. Tickets are available at the door.

All of the seniors on the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 teams will play. That includes New Castle's Malik Hooker, Hampton's Ryan Luther and Obama's D.J. Porter on the boys side, and Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias and Seton-LaSalle's Yacine Diop on the girls side.

I've been to the Roundball. The games, at least on the boys side, are usually high scoring. It's a little like the NBA All-Star game. Defense is foreign to a lot of the guys. But if you like offense, then check out the games.

Lincoln Park's Elijah Minnie is one of the players in the game. He is visiting Robert Morris.

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Empty Netter Assists - 04-11-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins' third and fourth lines are still a work in progress.

-James Neal is getting a look at the right wing on Sidney Crosby's line.

-"If I didn't take it seriously, I wouldn't be here. I'm going to be as focused on the game as if I was playing in Pittsburgh or in playoffs in the NHL. Playing this long and being around, I've played on different levels. Every game I play, I don't care if it's today four-on-four after practice, you're trying hard. That never changes." - Tomas Vokoun (right) on being in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a conditioning assignment.

-Former Penguins forward Dan Lacouture is one of nine former NHL players who filed a lawsuit against the NHL in regards to concussions they suffered during their careers.

-Happy 63rd birthday to former Penguins defenseman Ron Jones. Claimed from the Bruins in the 1973 intra-league draft, Jones appeared in 25 games for the 1973-74 Penguins and recorded three assists. Midway through the 1974-75 season, he was traded to the Capitals in exchange for Pete Laframboise.

-After the Jump: Mike Rupp injuries T.J. Oshie and a frantic finish in the Frozen Four.

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Talkin' Bout Practice - April 10

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt took things outside for the first time this spring today. Given the harsh winter we've had in Pittsburgh this year, it was a welcome change. It was mostly individual work today, with scrimmages and team drills mostly reserved for Friday practices. Even then, I would expect things will be toned down a bit with both James Conner and Isaac Bennett out for the rest of the spring. Here are a few notes from today's session...

- It's getting to the point in spring where it's becoming less and less likely that guys being held out will get a chance to return. We already knew about Bennett and Conner, but I would also expect LaQuentin SmithReggie GreenEjuan Price and Bam Bradley to be at least limited the rest of the way. Green was on crutches today, and the other guys were all just milling around in jerseys and no pads. None of the injuries, though, are serious enough that they're even doubtful for summer conditioning. It sounds like Pitt is just being overly cautious with most of these guys, not wanting to risk serious injury that could put them in doubt for the season.

- Offensive line coach Jim Hueber had probably the best quote of this spring after today's practice, regarding the current makeup of the roster (now almost entirely Paul Chryst recruits).
"When we came in here, there was a reason we got hired and it wasn't because this was utopia," Hueber said. "I think we fought through that. We had kids that didn't want to buy in to our way. You look around now, there's not much bitching and moaning, there's not many guys missing. We don't have the problems that we had before.
"How that pans out in wins and losses we'll only know as these recruiting classes get older."
That's a topic that has been talked about a lot over the last two years. Given the coaching turmoil in 2010-11, Pitt's roster was a hodgepodge of Wannstedt recruits, Graham recruits and Chryst recruits. Now, I don't think it's impossible for these three factions to coexist, but there were a number of guys on the roster in previous years who thought that this current iteration of Pitt football wasn't what they signed up for. Pretty much all of those guys are gone now, and that's what Hueber is referring to. All the guys Chryst recruited are obviously on board with this coaching staff's method and philosophy, and any seniors who were recruited by Wannstedt/Graham have stuck around long enough and have the right character to buy in to this staff, as well (Isaac Bennett comes to mind as a good example, but it really applies to everyone in those '10 and '11 recruiting classes).
Moreover, there's simply the roster depth aspect to it. This applies most importantly to Hueber's position, offensive line, because that's the area where it's really most important just to have bodies and experience, and you can't fix it with one (or, really, even two) good recruiting classes. Pitt has 11 offensive linemen on the roster now (nine of which are healthy) and will grow to 14 before the season starts. Even accounting for injuries, Hueber should be able to have two full groups of five offensive linemen for practices next fall, a luxury he hasn't had in his first two years at Pitt. That'll allow the older guys to rest and let the younger guys develop a little more cleanly because they're not worried about bouncing around just to fill personnel gaps.

- One of the questions lingering last season was whether or not Dorian Johnson would end up at guard or tackle. He played tackle at Belle Vernon, but had the potential to really do either. Through 12 spring practices, he has played every one at left guard, and is the pretty clear favorite to land that job on opening day.
"I think right now if you watch him, I think being in space creates some problems for him, just his body type," Hueber said. "I think when he's in a smaller area, he can use his strength. He's got to get used to the techniques inside because he didn't play there in high school."

- I've mentioned him before, but Tyrique Jarrett continued to get some pretty extensive work with the first team today. KK Mosley-Smith and Darryl Render are still the first guys out there, but it looks like Jarrett will have a role on the line this fall, and more defensive linemen that can help is only a good thing for Pitt.

- Chad Voytik has been a little up and down this spring, which is fine, for now, given that the opener is still five months away. He's working on some mechanical issues, and said spring has been eye-opening about all the different areas he can still improve by the fall.
"I learned a lot, but as you learn you kind of see how much more you have to learn," Voytik said. "I'm experiencing that. It's exciting because I see that room for improvement and now it's just time to do it. I'm excited for the process."
Voytik is in an interesting position this spring. It's pretty rare for a quarterback job to open up and not have any real competition for the vacant spot. Most times, there's a true competition or at least a charade of a competition (like Savage/Voytik last year). It's no secret that, barring injury, Voytik will be the starter against Delaware Aug. 30, and that's a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to his spring and offseason preparation. On the one hand, competition is always good. Even though Savage was the heavy favorite last offseason, he and Voytik could push each other for playing time. If one guy sees his competition for the starting job doing well, that's going to make him work harder to try and beat him. On the other hand, the lack of competition has its benefits for Voytik because it means he can take the spring and summer working on mechanical details in his game (he talked earlier this spring about adjusting his stride and foot placement) without having to worry about impressing the coaches to earn the starting gig. You can go either way on this idea, but it's just something to think about.

- Pitt spent some time today working on option drills with the quarterbacks and running backs (since it was non-contact, even Bennett was involved). With Chad Voytik running the show, this will obviously be an area to watch in 2014. I don't think Chryst will go crazy with it, but he did effectively use Russell Wilson's mobility during one year at Wisconsin, so it will definitely have its place in the offense.

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