Crosby on Orpik and Thornton - 12-09-13

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


Penguins captain Sidney Crosby held court with the media following his morning skate. The attack by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton (right, with Crosby) on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was naturally a point of discussions. Crosby offered a few thoughts on both players an even offered a partial defense of Thornton's actions:

Should Orpik have fought Thornton after his hit on Loui Eriksson:

"I think that we all know that when a guy gets hit like that, some teams have that response and try to get the guy to fight. Some guys accept that challenge. For [Orpik], he’s got to play 25 minutes a night against the other team’s players. For him to fight, probably isn’t going help us. I don’t think he has to punish our team because he’s made a big hit on some guy. It don’t think make sense for him to fight there. But that happens. Every team responds like that for the most part. Sometimes guys go, sometimes they don’t. There are other ways to respond."

Is it necessary for a player to start a fight after a teammate is hit legally?

"That’s been around for years. I don’t see a problem with that. I don’t see a problem with Thornton going over to [Orpik] and asking him to fight. That’s the response. But to do what he did was totally unnecessary. It’s terrible. I’m sure he knows that more than everybody. He’s made a living at protecting his teammate and sticking up for them. But to confront [Orpik] and ask him to fight, I think every team wants a player like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. But to do what he did to him is not acceptable. He could have done the exact same thing and gotten a two-minute minor for five shifts in a row. There’s nothing wrong with it. … there’s nothing with [Orpik] saying no either. He’s got to play 25 minutes a night against top guys."

"It doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to pay the price for doing a great job and finishing a hit. It’s a clean hit. He didn’t hit him in the head. There’s nothing there to really respond to there. There are times when guys make a big hit and they want to back it up with responding to that challenge to fight. That’s okay too. To try to get him into a fighting scenario, there’s a penalty. But to do what he did there, that’s terrible…. That’s not really the way you do it. Like I said, of anybody, I’m sure Thornton knows that. He’s been sticking up for guys for a long time."

(Photo: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)


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My AP Poll ballot: Week 16

Written by Sam Werner on .

Each week, I'll go through my AP Top 25 ballot and give a few thoughts on how I voted and how it compares to the overall poll results.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the end of the regular season. For the last time ever, the BCS has picked the two teams that will play for the national title, and I don't think anyone can argue that Florida State and Auburn are the most deserving. For as much flak as the BCS has taken over the years, it's sort of fitting that it goes out with a season where it really gives us a nice 1 vs. 2 matchup. A four-team playoff would have been way, way messier this year and, as is usually the case, the teams sorted themselves out. Here's a link to the full poll, and here's my final AP ballot of the regular season...

  1. Florida State
  2. Auburn
  3. Alabama
  4. Stanford
  5. Michigan State
  6. Baylor
  7. Ohio State
  8. South Carolina
  9. Missouri
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Oregon
  12. Arizona State
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. UCF
  15. LSU
  16. Clemson
  17. UCLA
  18. Louisville
  19. Wisconsin
  20. Texas A&M
  21. Northern Illinois
  22. Duke
  23. Georgia
  24. Notre Dame
  25. Vanderbilt

- Florida State cruised past Duke, and easily holds on to the No. 1 spot. Auburn gets the expected bump up from Ohio State losing. Pretty much what you would expect in the top two spots given the results.

- I have Alabama No. 3, but it wasn't necessarily an easy call. I stuck with the Tide here because their only loss of the year came on the road, against the No. 2 team in the country on one of the most ridiculous plays of this generation. If you look at the rest of Alabama's schedule, they certainly have some nice wins (vs. Virginia Tech, at Texas A&M and vs. LSU) but nothing that really jumps off the page against another top-five type of team. I think it's really pretty close between Alabama, Stanford, Baylor and Michigan State, and I could see putting those four teams in any order.

- I still have Stanford up at No. 4 even though the Cardinal have two losses just because of the number of quality wins they have. Two wins over Arizona State (the latter in the Pac 12 championship game on the road), plus wins over Oregon and UCLA are very impressive. If the Cardinal were a one-loss team, I think they might have a very compelling argument for a spot in the title game instead of Auburn.

- Ohio State drops to No. 7 after losing in the Big Ten title game to Michigan State. I don't think the Buckeyes were "exposed" against the Spartans. I think they're still an excellent team that got beat by another excellent team. Michigan State hasn't gotten a ton of respect this year (and I'm as guilty of that as anyone) but the Spartans were one questionable loss at Notre Dame away from playing for a national title.

- One of the things I really tried to do in this poll was not punish teams for losing in conference championship games. It doesn't seem fair that teams like LSU and UCF should jump Arizona State, for instance, just because the Sun Devils had to play an extra game because they won their division. Missouri drops three spots after losing to Auburn and Arizona State only drops a spot after losing to Stanford. It doesn't seem totally fair that The biggest fall in that regard was the Buckeyes, who really only fell behind teams that won conference titles.

- In a similar theme, most idle teams like Wisconsin and Texas A&M stayed fairly steady this week. Duke also only dropped two spots after getting destroyed by Florida State. The Blue Devils are still very good, Florida State is elite.

- Northern Illinois is still on my ballot even after the Huskies lost to Bowling Green Friday night. I've watched a lot of Northern Illinois games this season (why, what are you doing on Wednesday nights?) and the Huskies are still a very good team. I think, given the right matchup, they could have given a top-15 team trouble in a potential BCS game. They fell short, though, but Jordan Lynch might still make that trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

- The bottom three teams in the poll really could have gone a couple of ways. I don't feel great about any of those three schools, but Georgia and Notre Dame both have a few nice wins (LSU and South Carolina for Georgia, Arizona State and Michigan State for Notre Dame). Vanderbilt might not have the same "Wow" factor, but 8-4 against an SEC schedule is pretty impressive.

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Neal suspended five games - 12-09-13

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


The NHL has suspended Penguins forward James Neal five games for his actions in a 3-2 road loss to the Bruins Saturday. At 11:06 of the first period, Neal struck Bruins forward Brad Marchand's head with his knee and  was given a two-minute minor penalty for kneeing.

The NHL's video explaining the suspension:

In the video, NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan said, "While Neal does not kick or violently thrust his leg toward Marchand, it is our belief after reviewing this incident is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player. While looking down directly at Marchand, Neal turns his skates and turns his left leg ensuring contact is made directly with Marchand's head."

Marchand remained in the game and recorded a secondary assist on the eventual game-winning goal by Bruins captain/defenseman Zdeno Chara near the end of regulation.

Under the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA, this is the maximum length of suspension the league can impose for a player who undergoes a disciplinary hearing over the phone.

This is the third suspension of Neal's career. He was previously suspended one game in the 2012 postseason for a hit against Flyers forward Claude Giroux:

As noted in the first video, Neal is not considered a repeat offender by the terms the CBA. His hit on Giroux occurred April 15, 2012, approximately 20 months ago. Despite that, Shanahan said Neal's history with discipline can not be ignored.

Neal's first suspension occurred in 2009. While with the Dallas Stars, Neal boarded and injured Blue Jackets forward Derek Dorsett:

Neal was suspended two games for this hit.

He has also been fined by the NHL for a slash to Canadiens defenseman PK Subban in 2011.

Neal, 26, has appeared in 16 games this season and has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists). The first game of his suspension will be served tonight when the Penguins host the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will forfeit $128,205.15 of salary as a result of the suspension.

A one-time all-star, Neal did not speak with media following today's morning skate. Following Saturday's game, Neal was asked if he intended to hit Marchand in the head. Neal responded, "I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I'm going by him. I didn't get out of the way, like I said. I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I'm not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that."

EN Says: We understand the criteria which were outlined in the and video and operating within the parameters of what is permissible under the CBA, we agree with this suspension. Neal has a "clean" history going by the window for a what is considered a "repeat offender." And the lack of an apparent injury for Marchand played a role in how the NHL acted on this. Considering all those factors, this suspension is consistent with how Shanahan's office has operated in the past.

Still, considering the history between these two players and Neal's overall history, not the legalese "official" history within the span of 18 months, this suspension is not enough. We would have gone upwards of eight or nine games.

While it has been a lengthy 20 months between suspensions for Neal, this pattern of play has to be room for concern for Penguins management.

Considering the investment the team has made in him in the form of a six-year, $30 million contract and what he means for this team and the success of franchise center Evgeni Malkin, Penguins management should take steps to eliminate this part of Neal's game much the way it did with former forward Matt Cooke.

After a 17-game suspension for Cooke in 2010-11, Penguins management made it very clear to Cooke that he needed to fix his game. Spending countless hours with coaches in video sessions, Cooke eliminated many of the dangerous plays which marred his career. As a result, Cooke reduced his penalty minute totals by 85 and scored a career-high 19 goals in 2011-12.

The Penguins invested many hours in fixing a third-line role player such as Cooke. They should do the same, if not more, for an all-star core player like Neal.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Dravon Henry selects WVU over Pitt and Miami, projects as CB

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

West Virginia landed the commitment today of Dravon Henry, a consensus four-star defensive back from Aliquippa, Pa.

Henry (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) was selecting between West Virginia, Pitt and Miami. He projects as a cornerback for the Mountaineers. 

He also had offers from Louisville, Maryland, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Kent State, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Temple, Tennessee, Toledo, UCLA, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington and Wisconsin.

Rivals: No. 14 safety, No. 149 player nationally, No. 3 in Pennsylvania.

Scout: No. 11 cornerback; strengths: anticipation, closing speed, instincts; areas for improvement: backpedal quickness, jamming ability, size.

"Henry breaks on the ball well and has very good acceleration. He reads plays in front of him and has very good ball-tracking skills. He can turn his hips to run with a receiver and has a very good feel for the game. He also is comfortable coming up to the line of scrimmage in run support to make a tackle. His backpedal needs works and he needs to get stronger to be more effective against bigger receivers at the line of scrimmage."

ESPN: No. 17 athlete, No. 136 player in country, No. 13 in region, No. 1 in Pennsylvania. Grade: 83. Traits: versatility, ball skills, playmaker.

247: No. 149 player in nation, No. 9 athlete, No. 1 in Pennsylvania. Grade: 94. 

Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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Central Catholic moves up in national rankings

Written by Mike White on .

The Central Catholic football team will play for a state championship this weekend, but the Vikings are now getting national attention.

Central Catholic moved into the No. 25 spot in CBS Maxpreps Xcellent 25 rankings.

A few other polls haven't been released this week, but last week Central Catholic was No. 17 in the National Prep Football Poll and on the verge of cracking the top 25 in USA Today. The Vikings were No. 26 last week.

Also, in my high school football notebook in today's paper, Central Catholic linebacker Niko Thorpe is the lead subject.

Favre wins state championship

Brett Favre was part of a state championship team in Mississippi.

Favre is offensive coordinator at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Miss. and the team won the 6A state championship.

MaxPreps has a small story and some photos.

Starting in the Bahamas

Most district basketball teams started the season by playing in a tournament in Western Pennsylvania this past weekend. The Chartiers Valley boys started a little farther away.

In the Bahamas.

Chartiers Valley traveled to the Bahamas to play in the KSA Atlantis Tournament in Nassau. The Colts went 3-0. They play at home Friday night against Keystone Oaks.


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