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Jersey hunt - Kings at Penguins - 12-11-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The best jerseys at tonight's Penguins-Kings game:

-Randy Carlyle has a fan on hand:

-Denis Herron:

-Phil Kessel is popular in Toronto form:

-And Team USA form:

-The Kings have a healthy showing of fans here. Jonathan Quick:

-The best defenseman in the NHL, Drew Doughty:

-Anze Kopitar:

-Dustin Brown:

-Dustin Brown purple and yellow:

-A Ducks fan is here to troll the rival Kings:

-A Teemu Selanne Ducks and Jamie Benn Stars fan are here too:

-That rare Sidney Crosby Team Canada/Jeff Carter Kings duo:

-This is sharp. Patrick Lalime:

-Normally former Kings/Penguins left winger Luc Robitaille would be Jersey of the Night for a Penguins-Kings game:

-Jerseys of the Night: We have to go with the great Pascal Dupuis:

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Pregame thoughts - Kings at Penguins - 12-11-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

-Defenseman Kris Letang is absent tonight due to an "upper-body" injury. Head coach Mike Johnston provided a few details:

"He sustained another injury in the last game. It's different from the injury he had before. He's not available tonight [and] he won't be for the next little bit. We'll find out exactly from the doctors where he's at."

-That means Rob Scuderi will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Colorado Wednesday. That decision was met with a lot of dispute from Penguins fans. We can only imagine how they feel about tonight's cover of Icetime:

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With Letang absent, that means even more ice time for Olli Maatta. Maatta has played very well since he returned form his latest injury. He has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past three games. Maatta said he's been focusing on his shot as of late:

"Yeah, I think you want to focus on getting it through. It doesn't have to be the hardest shot. I'm trying to get as many shots through as I can. It's going to create a lot of havoc. You can get some scoring chances that way. … There's lots of people around the net. You never know what's going to happen."

Maatta has also seen an increase in his role on the penalty kill. He logged 3:48 of penalty kill time in Colorado. Johnston explained that the coaching staff was hesitant to throw to much at him as he worked his way back from shoulder surgery last season:

"We want to get Olli involved in both special teams when he came back into the lineup. It's a matter of starting to use him and then getting confidence in him. He's done a good job in every area of the game. Early in the season, he wasn't where we thought he would be but that's understandable just because of the time off [following his shoulder surgery last season]. You see his game really ramping up right now."

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After right winger Daniel Sprong was limited to 6:06 of ice time in Colorado, Johnston was asked to assess his play today:

“[Sprong] has very good offensive instincts. Very competitive player. It's much like any other young kid. It's just learning the game at this level, specifically on the defensive side of things. He created the one chance in the slot [against the Avalanche]. [Center Matt] Cullen made a really good play to him in the slot. He got open and available there. He plays with good energy and he's strong on pucks. That's what he has to show. Every time he gets to play, it's an experience for him to learn the game at this level because the positioning of five feet, three feet here or there is very important.

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-Right winger Beau Bennett discussed playing on the top line with left winger Chris Kunitz and captain/center Sidney Crosby:

"Me and [Kunitz] have played together in the past. We have pretty contrasting styles in the way we play so it works pretty good. When Sid's out there, he clears so much space because he can beat guys out of the corner one on one. Everyone's looking for him on the ice. It's kind of nice for us."

-Bennett said he's a little less automatic in just giving the puck to Crosby than he may have been in the past:

"In years past, when I was a little slower, I would always try to get the puck up to him just because he was moving at such a fast pace. I feel a little bit more comfortable now being a little bit faster and trying to keep up with him. I think the big thing is just taking what's given."

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-Kunitz's first 23 games of the season saw him fail to record a single assist. His last four games have seen him record six. Kunitz was asked where the outburst has come from:

"The puck's bouncing the right way I guess. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Feeling a little bit better the last three weeks with puck control and a little bit of confidence. It definitely helps when you have confidence. The puck seems to go your way."

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-Center Eric Fehr is expected to man the left wing of the third line once again tonight. He talked about the difference between that role and his previous role, the fourth-line right wing:

 

"It's quite different, especially in the [defensive] zone … the options you have on the breakouts. It's little bit tougher to get up ice when you get the puck. Just try to keep plays simple and make sure pucks get out. That's the main thing for our line is push the puck up ice and try to get it below their goal line."

-Fehr also spoke about what changes for the penalty kill with right winger Pascal Dupuis unofficially retired:

"A little more ice time. We were joking ... a little open tryout for some of the guys there. The guys that were in there, I think it was [Kunitz], Sid and [left winger Sergei Plotnikov]. Those guys all know how to kill and they'll all fill in. We'll obviously miss [Dupuis] but we're going to find a way to fill the hole."

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-Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff returns to Pittsburgh. We talked with him yesterday. Today, we talked to his teammate, defenseman Drew Doughty and asked if Ehrhoff has been able to replace anything which was lost on the ice by the departure of defenseman Slava Voynov:

"I don't know. He brings a big shot to the power play which Voynov had and good vision on the power play which Voynov had. I don't really think they're too similar players. It's hard to replace Slava. There's not too many players in this league that could do it."

The Kings cut ties with Voynov after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge last season.

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-Doughty talked a bit about how difficult it is to shoot the puck these days:

"The league's really changed into basically everyone's just shot blockers. Back in the day, I don't think shots were blocked close to as much. Now these guys have all this padding on their skates and whatnot that they're not afraid to block anything. It's a lot more difficult to get shots through. When I'm out there, I'm just trying to get it past the first guy, the guy that's directly in front of me. Whatever happens after that, it's on the forwards."

-Doughty also talked about how his team has been able to find size and physical play while not sacrificing speed:

"I think our team, we're happy playing the physical, hard, tough game. We have a lot of big guys that want to play physical. At the same time, they can move. Our team, we're a sound defensive team. That's our main focus. We're not looking to score four or five goals a game. We would like to obviously but we're more focused on giving up one or two goals at the most. I think we've done a good job at that. I'm happy with the way we play. I love playing this system. I think it's the way to win. I think it's the way to win championships. Obviously, we've got to perfect it to win but we're on the right track."

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Kings coach Darryl Sutter spoke about the difference in travel between the Eastern and Western Conference:

"We do that quite often, the travel. We sort of laugh about it when you come [into buildings] and you hear about teams, ‘oh, it was a tough trip,’ and they were three days. Like, ‘oh, gee, that was a hard trip.’ I’ve only coached in the Western Conference, so you just get used to it. We don’t look at it like it’s an advantage at all. You look at it like ‘game day is game day.’ Yesterday or tomorrow really doesn’t matter."

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-Kings rookie left winger Michael Mersch is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. A fourth-round pick in 2011, he was an All-American player at Wisconsin. Born in 1992, approximately a year after former Penguisn coach "Badger" Bob Johnson died, Mersch talked about the impact Johnson still has at Wisconsin:

"The rink there is the Kohl Center and they named the ice after him. The ice rink, it says, “Bob Johnson” and “It's A Great Day For Hockey” underneath. His family is very involved. His son Mark is the coach of the women's team. [Mark Johnson's] daughter plays on the women's team. Then I played with his son Patrick for a year at Wisconsin. Really involved.”

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This was special to see today. The Kings still wear a decal on their helmets in memory of scouts Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis:

Bailey and Bavis were on United Airlines Flight 175 which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. Nearly a decade and a half later, the Kings are still making efforts to make sure they are remembered.

(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

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About the Kings - 12-11-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Kings.

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

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports West.

Record: 18-8-1, 37 points. The Kings are in first place in the Pacific Division.

Leading Scorer: Center Jeff Carter, 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 overtime road win against the Blue Jackets. Defenseman Alec Martinez (right) had a goal and an assist for the Kings.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-3 home win Saturday. Left winger Milan Lucic had two goals for the Kings.

Kings Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Carter. He has a seven-game scoring streak.

Ex-Penguins on the Kings: Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Jake Muzzin (Muzzin is a former Penguins prospect who never played for the organization), player development coach Glen Murray and president - business operations Luc Robitaille.

Ex-Kings on the Penguins: Head coach Mike Johnston, general manager Jim Rutherford, defenseman Rob Scuderi, assistant coach Rick Tocchet and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (Zatkoff is a former Kings prospect but never played for the organization above the AHL level).

Useless Kings Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Among players from the Penguins' past 10 draft classes, the only player with more career games than Muzzin (235) is center Jordan Staal (635) .

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

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (13-9-1, 2.23 GAA, .926 SV%) for the Penguins. Jonathan Quick (15-7-1, 2.18 GAA, .917 SV%) for the Kings.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defenseman Kris Letang ("upper body") is out. Right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) is on injured reserve. For the Kings, center Trevor Lewis ("upper body") is out. Defenseman Matt Greene (shoulder) and left winger Dwight King ("lower body") are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins did not have formal line rushes at today's morning skate. Consider this a guess:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
39 David Perron - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 81 Phil Kessel
16 Eric Fehr - 13 Nick Bonino - 72 Patric Hornqvist
61 Sergei Plotnikov - 7 Matt Cullen - 41 Daniel Sprong 

 5  David Warsofsky - Olli Maatta
Brian Dumoulin - 12 Ben Lovejoy
4 Rob Scuderi - 28 Ian Cole

-The Kings held an optional morning skate. Their line and pairing at practice yesterday were: 

70 Tanner Pearson - 11 Anze Kopitar - 12 Marian Gaborik
17 Milan Lucic - 77 Jeff Carter - 73 Tyler Toffoli
49 Michael Mersch - 21 Nick Shore - 23 Dustin Brown
15 Andy Andreoff - 19 Jordan Weal - 71 Jordan Nolan

3 Brayden McNabb - 8 Drew Doughty
6 Jake Muzzin - 27 Alec Martinez
10 Christian Ehrhoff - 5 Jamie McBain

Notes:

-Letang suffered a new injury during a 4-2 road win against the Avalanche Wednesday. According to head coach Mike Johnston, Letang will be sidelined for "a little bit."

-Kings left winger Michael Mersch is expected to make his NHL debut.

-The referees are (No. 33) Kevin Pollock and (No. 25) Marc Joannette. The linesmen are (No. 52) Shandor Alphonso and (No. 84) Tony Sericolo.

(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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VIDEO: Pat Narduzzi, Allen Edwards, Dewayne Hendrix, Ben DiNucci

Written by Sam Werner on .

Coach Pat Narduzzi:

Defensive end Allen Edwards:

Defensive end Dewayne Hendrix:

Quarterback Ben DiNucci:

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Stats and notes from Pitt's "Showtime" scrimmage

Written by Sam Werner on .

Pitt opened up its "Showtime" scrimmage — designed for the younger players to get some live action — today, and here are a couple of stats, notes and videos from the session. First off, here's the roster we got to see...

ShowtimeDC

Now with these stats, keep in mind they only ran 21 plays total, so I wouldn't take a whole lot away from them. I'll have more in the notes afterwards...

Passing
Ben DiNucci: 1/8, 21 yds, 2 INT
Adam Bertke: 1/3, 23 yds, 1 INT

Rushing
Chris James: 5 car, 15 yds
Darrin Hall: 2 car, 3 yds

Receiving
Gentry Ivery: 1 rec, 21 yds
Quadree Henderson: 1 rec, 23 yds

Defensive
Jay Stocker: 2 INT
Dane Jackson: 1 INT
Allen Edwards: 1 TFL, 1 FR
Dewayne Hendrix: 1 TFL
Anthony McKee: 1 FR

Here's a drive-by-drive breakdown, with some video thrown in..

- The first series opened up with an Edwards TFL on James that went for -4 yards. DiNucci's first pass attempt on second down was incomplete, but his second found Ivery for 21 yards (video below). Hendrix had a TFL for a four-yard loss on Hall on the ensuing first down, though. James rushed for four yards on second, but DiNucci's pass to Henderson went incomplete on 3rd-and-10 to end the series.

 

 

- DiNucci threw two incompletions to open the second series — the first swatted down by Connor Dintino, the second incomplete to Ivery — and threw his first INT of the day to Stocker on third down (video below).

 

 

- James opened the third series with a one-yard run up the middle, and Hall went for seven yards on second down. The series ended on a fumbled third-down snap, which Edwards recovered.

- James went 11 yards to the left to start the fourth series, but another fumbled snap — this one recovered by McKee — ended the drive prematurely.

- Bertke opened the next series with a bubble screen to Henderson on the right, and Henderson looked shot out of a cannon when he caught the ball and turned up-field. He made some guys miss, and carried some guys along with him for a 23-yard gain. Bertke's next pass, though, was deep for Ivery, but picked off by Jackson on a jump ball.

- Bertke started off the next series with a deep incompletion (video below), and James went three yards on second down. DiNucci came in for third down, and his slant attempt was tipped and picked off by Stocker.

 

 

- The final series of the day started with a substitution penalty on the defense, and ended on second down when DiNucci's pass was broken up by linebacker Brian Popp (video below).

 

 OBSERVATIONS:

- As you can tell, the defense ruled the day. They forced five turnovers in just 21 plays, and generally didn't let the offenses do a whole lot. Specifically, Edwards and Hendrix both looked a step above everyone else on the field. Pat Narduzzi has been pretty high on both those guys, and they didn't disappoint, providing a tantalizing look at what Pitt's pass rush could look like next season.

- Stocker's two picks were both heads up plays, good instances of being in the right place at the right time. Jackson made a nice play on the jump ball to come down with the INT against a bigger receiver.

- Both McKee and Brightwell had their moments, and you'd have to imagine at least one of those guys will have a role next year, especially with Jamal Davis' decision to transfer.

- It was a rough day for the offense, even with two regulars (James and Hall) at running back. The quarterbacks looked like they still have some work to do before they're game ready (though Bertke probably looked a bit closer in an admittedly smaller sample size). The good news for Pitt is that none of the offensive guys playing today (outside of the RBs) will likely need to be counted on next year. They've got some time to develop before they'll need to actually step on the field.

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