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Empty Netter Assists - 01-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Sidney Crosby was named Team Canada's captain. Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews and Predators defenseman Shea Weber will serve as alternate captains.

-“He’s very mature. He was probably ready when he was 16. He was probably ready in 2010, and the thinking was he’s going to have enough pressure on him just from who he is and things like that that he doesn’t need one more thing to worry about, give it to some old guy that’s just trying to figure things out out there. I’m sure he would do very well.” - Former Devils/Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer on Crosby (above). Niedermayer served as Canada's captain during the 2010 Olympics.

-Crosby will be the sixth one-time Penguins player to serve as a captain for an Olympic team since the NHL began participating in 1998.

-Welcome back Chuck Kobasew, Paul Martin, Jayson Megna and James Neal ... tonight ... maybe?

-Crosby speaks:

-Martin speaks:

-Simon Despres, captain Tom Kostopoulos and Zack Torquato each had a goal and an assist for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 5-1 win against the Providence Bruins. Dominik Uher recorded two assists for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while teammate Eric Hartzell made 33 saves.

-In his past 10 AHL games, Despres has six goals and three assists.

-Happy 35th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Josef Melichar (right). A third-round pick in 1997, Melichar spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2000-01, he appeared in 18 games and recorded two assists. He followed that up in 2001-02 by seeing action in 60 games and recording three assists. Injuries limited him to eight games and no points in 2002-03. He rebounded in 2003-04 by playing in all 82 games and scoring eight points. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Melichar played in 72 games during 2005-06 and set a career-high with 15 points. In 2006-07, he saw action in 70 games and scored 12 points. He appeared in all five of the Penguins' postseason games that spring and failed to record a point. During the 2007 offseason, he joined the Lightning as a free agent. Melichar appeared in 310 regular season games for the Penguins, 49th-most in franchise history, and scored 40 points.

-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins defenseman the great Dick Tarnstrom. A free agent signing in the 2002 offseason, Tarnstrom spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. In 2002-03, he appeared in 61 games and scored 41 points. He made some history during 2003-04 by becoming the only defenseman in franchise history to lead the club in season-season scoring after he scored 52 points in 80 games. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Tarnstrom appeared in 33 games and scored 10 points for the Penguins in 2005-06 before being traded to the Oilers in exchange for Corey Cross and Jani Rita. In 174 games with the Penguins, Tarnstrom scored 103 points, 83rd-most in franchise history and the most among any Swedish-born player in Penguins history.

-After the Jump: Vancouver coach John Tortorella faces discipline.

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Crosby to captain Canada in Olympics - 01-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

As was announced today, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will have the same role with Canada in next month's Olympic games in Sochi.

Crosby will become the third Penguins player to captain Team Canada in an Olympic game. He will join Mario Lemieux (2002) and Dave Tippett (1984). Crosby will also become the sixth one-time Penguins player to captain an Olympic squad since the NHL began allowing its players to participate in 1998.

Here is a brief history of the five players who preceded him.


Player: Jaromir Jagr
Country: Czech Republic
Year: 2002
Country's Finish: 7th place
Player's Stats: 4 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points
Notes: At this time, Jagr was in his first season with the Capitals after being traded from the Penguins the previous offseason. In a rematch of the 1998 gold medal game, Russia ended the Czech Republic's 2002 tournament with a 1-0 win in the quarterfinals.


Player: Mario Lemieux
Country: Canada
Year: 2002
Country's Finish: Gold
Player's Stats: 5 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
Notes: In his second season after coming out of retirement, Lemieux was hampered by a hip injury which limited him to 24 games. Despite that ailment, Lemieux helped Canada claim its first gold medal since 1952. Lemieux's  most famous play in this tournament was a "non-assist" in which he allowed a pass by defenseman Chris Pronger to go though his legs and find left winger Paul Kariya who buried a shot behind United States goaltender Mike Richter and scored Canada's first goal in the gold medal game, a 5-2 victory.


Player: Alexei Kovalev
Country: Russia
Year: 2006
Country's Finish: Fourth
Player's Stats: 8 games, 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points
Notes: A member of the Montreal Canadiens by this time in his career, Kovalev participated in his third and final Olympic games in Turin. Russia was shut out by Finland (4-0) in the quarterfinal round and the Czech Republic (3-0) in the bronze medal game.


Player: Robert Lang
Country: Czech Republic
Year: 2006
Country's Finish: Bronze
Player's Stats: 8 games, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points
Notes: Kovalev's former linemate with the Penguins, Lang was a member of the Red Wings at the time of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Lang participated in his third and final Olympics and helped the Czech Republic earn its second medal since separating from Slovakia in 1993.


Player: Aleksey Morozov
Country: Russia
Year: 2010
Country's Finish: Sixth
Player's Stats: 4 games, 2 goals, 0 assists, 2 points
Notes: Having left the NHL during the 2004-05 lockout, Morozov played on a North American ice rink for the first time since he was a member of the 2003-04 Penguins. Captain of Russia's national team since from 2007 to 2011, Morozov and his fellow countrymen offered a lackluster showing at the 2010 Olympics. Canada eliminated Russia with a 7-3 rout in the quarterfinal round.

(Photos: Brian Bahr/Getty Images, Al Bello/Getty Images, Doug Pensinger/Getty Images, Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images and Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-19-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Welcome back Chuck Kobasew, Paul Martin, Jayson Megna and James Neal... to practice.

-"During the game, you're not thinking that they're your [NHL] teammates. You're just playing for your country." - Jussi Jokinen (right) on facing NHL teammates during the Olympics.

-“He played probably a stretch of his best hockey here defending, being consistent defending, and that’s where his game has to be. He has to continue to, as a pro, work at it and be better at it.” - Dan Bylsma on the recently demoted Simon Despres.

-“I snuck into the pre-game skate and got a stick from Mariusz Czerkawski, and I’ll never forget it.” - Tanner Glass on attending his first NHL game between the Jets and Bruins as a kid.

-Megna speaks:

-Kobasew speaks:

-Despres scored two goals for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 4-2 win against the Portland Pirates. Philip Samuelsson added a goal and three assists for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while teammate Eric Hartzell made 27 saves.

-Samuelsson has multiple points in three out of his past five games.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Scott Harrington is developing his offensive game.

-Moving to Canada from Russia at the age of 16 helped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Anton Zlobin take a big step in his career.

-Mike Condon made 38 saves for the Wheeling Nailers who were shut out by the Greenville Road Warriors, 3-0.

-Happy 33rd birthday to former Penguins defenseman Ross Lupaschuk (right). Acquired in the 2001 offseason along with Kris Beech and Michal Sivek in a deal which sent Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera, Lupaschuk's Penguins' career amounted to three games and no points in 2002-03. He was released in the 2005 offseason.

-After the Jump: The Flyers pay Steve Mason, a fluky goal burns the Kings, Martin St. Louis scores four goals and loses while the Flames and Canucks have a line brawl (and nearly a coach brawl).

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-18-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-"I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable with our system, what we're doing out there." - Taylor Pyatt.

-Brandon Sutter has had quite a few linemates this season.

-Via The Pensblog, the NHL has some pretty specific (and complicated) rules involving players such as Simon Despres (right) being assigned to the AHL near the Olympic break.

-Jeff-Drouin-Deslauriers made 22 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 5- loss to the Providence Bruins.

-Max MacKay scored two goals for the Wheeling Nailers in a 5-2 win against the Greenville Road Warriors. Chaz Johnson netted a goal and an assist for Wheeling while teammate Mike Condon made 37 saves.

-Happy 35th birthday to former Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko. A free agent signing in the 2008 offseason, Fedotenko spent two seasons with the Penguins. In his first season with the Penguins in 2008-09, Fedotenko appeared in 65 games and scored 39 points. During the postseason, he saw action in 24 games and scored 14 points, fourth-best on the team, while helping the franchise win its third Stanley Cup title. He followed that up in 2009-10 by playing in 80 games and scoring 30 points. He was limited to six games in the 2010 postseason and failed to record a point. During the 2010 postseason, he joined the Rangers as a free agent. In 145 regular season games with the Penguins, he scored 69 points. In 30 postseason games, he scored 14 points. He currently plays for Donbass Donetsk of Russia's KHL.

-Happy 57th birthday to former Penguins forward Jim Hamilton. A second-round pick in 1977, Hamilton spent his entire eight-year NHL career with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1977-78, he appeared in 25 games and scored six points. After being limited to two points and and no points in 1978-79, he played in five postseason games that spring and scored three goals. Hamilton played in 10 games in 1979-80 and scored two goals. During 1980-81, he appeared in 20 games and scored seven points. In one postseason game that season, he failed to record a point. The 1981-82 season saw Hamilton play in 11 games and score eight points. He followed that up in 1982-83 by playing in five games and recording two points. In 1983-84, he played in 11 games while netting four points. His final NHL season was 1984-85. After 11 games and three points, he was released midway through the season. In 95 regular season games, Hamilton scored 32 points. In six postseason games, he scored three goals.

-Happy 49th birthday to former Penguins forward Andrew McBain. Acqurired in the 1989 offseason along with Jim Kyte and Randy Gilhen in a deal which sent Randy Cunneyworth, Rick Tabaracci and Dave McLlwain to the Winnipeg Jets, McBain's Penguins career amounted to 41 games and 14 points in 1989-90. Midway through that season, he was traded to the Canucks along with Dave Capuano and Dan Quinn in exchange for Rod Buskas, Barry Pederson and Tony Tanti.

-Today would have been the 64th birthday of former Penguins forward Pete Laframboise (right). Acquired midway through 1974-75 in a deal which sent Ron Jones to the Capitals. His Penguins career amounted to 35 games and 18 games that season. During the 1975 postseason, he appeared in nine games and scored one goal. In the 1975 offseason, he joined the WHA's Edmonton Oilers as a free agent. Laframboise passed away March 19, 2011 at the age of 61.

-Happy 53rd birthday to former Penguins forward Mike Blaisdell. Claimed off waivers prior to the 1985-86 season, Blaisdell spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. During 1985-86, he appeared in 66 games and scored 29 points. In 1986-87, he was limited to 10 games and scored two points. In the 1987 offseason, he joined the Maple Leafs as a free agent.

-After the Jump: Welcome back Alexander Steen from a concussion.

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Jim Ferry previews Duquesne's first trip to VCU's Siegel Center

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

Duquesne is on the road again to square off against VCU (13-4, 1-1 Atlantic 10) in Richmond, Va., tonight. The Dukes (8-7, 1-2) closed the gap after a 32-halftime deficit against Saint Joseph's Wednesday, finishing on a 30-2 run yet still losing by 9 points.

I caught up with Duquesne coach Jim Ferry Saturday to preview the VCU trip.

You've basically put together one good half and one completely forgettable half in each of the last two games. What's it going to take to get a 40-minute performance here in the Atlantic 10?

"It's about that word 'consistency.' We’re playing all these young guys, and that’s not an excuse anymore because guys have been playing, but what might have been good enough to win some games in the non-league schedule is not good enough in the Atlantic 10. The league is just good. 

"It’s one of the most non-forgiving leagues in the country. It’s about matchups, and it’s about limiting mistakes. You could have a stretch where you don’t play well for five minutes, and that could be the game; you could just get blown out."

I imagine you haven't seen to many halves like that first half against Saint Joseph's?

"I don't recall seeing a half like that many times in my career. [laughs] I think it just snowballed. We got stops on four of the first five possessions of the game, but we went like 0-10 to start the game. And then it snowballed because they got comfortable and made shot after shot after shot. It was amazing how well they shot, and we just couldn't get the ball in the basket. Didn't get to the foul line, and I thought that really hurt us. Then we got in catch-up mode and were really scrambling, and they kept making shots. Have to give them credit, too, because I thought they defended well and just made shots.

"In the second half, some people think we played great. I don't think we played great; we just didn't give up. We kept fighting, which was very important for our young team to do. We've just got to put two halves together both offensively and defensively."

VCU is 8-0 at home and sells out every home game. How do you prepare to go in there and try to upset the Rams?

"You've got to go in with confidence, and you've got to go in with aggressiveness, but you've got to go in with composure and poise. They don't let you settle in and get comfortable. They try to speed you up. One of the positives is we've got multiple ball-handlers on our team, and we can attack. We've got to play with that mindset to go out there and make plays. It's just hard simulating what they are in practice. We practiced today at our arena and had the music blaring at maximum sound today in our arena so our guys could get used to, hey, you're not going to be able to hear anything. You've got to do a great job of communicating with each other. It's going to be a crazy environment. We've got to go in there with great poise and great focus and play with great composure. And, listen, it's not going to be a perfect game. You can't play a perfect game. We're a pretty good team when we don't turn the ball over very often; we have to carry that over. We have to really take care of the basketball.

"VCU is one of the best programs in the country. We have to minimize our mistakes, but yet you still have to be aggressive and do the things you do. We've got to tighten things up, no question about it." 

A-10 opponents have been able to shoot the 3-pointer on you and make it with overwhelming consistency. At this point it is it a scheme issue or simply them making their shots (just about every single one)?

"We still have to stay true to not allowing people to get to the basket, so we've really got to over-help. We've just got to continue to close out harder and run these really good 3-point shooters off the line. We've got to do a better job of that and pressure the ball a little bit harder. With the size differential and length once you get to the A-10, guys are a little bit taller and can see the rim a little bit better. We've got to try to work to take that away."

Duquesne averaged 29.4 free-throw attempts per game in its first 13 games but only 27 in the last two games combined. Does that pretty much illustrate how critical it is for your teams to get to the foul line?

"Oh yeah. We've got to continue to play aggressively and get to the foul line. One thing I noticed is the calls that were being called earlier in the season, they seem to be backing off those now. I don't know if it's just me or if everybody's seeing it.

"We still have to stay aggressive and stay focused on playing the way we play. Hopefully we'll be the aggressor and get to the foul line a little bit more. We definitely have to do so. Teams are doing a good job on Ovie [Soko], but Ovie's got to continue to play his game and not settle for jump shots. I think we started to do that more against St. Joe's, settling for jump shots instead of continuing to play until the drive opens up."

VCU is led by Treveon Graham (15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) -- he dropped 20 on you last year.

"We've got to continue to stay in his face and not allow him to get anything easy. You've got to guard him with different people, too, and not let him get comfortable. With the tempo they play at, they don't play anybody more than 28 minutes per game. They play 10 to 12 guys like that. It's a breakneck pace, and they play very aggressively and very balanced. It's not just Treveon Graham. You've got to be really locked in and over-help to the lane, contest and compete on the glass."


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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