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Empty Netter Assists - 04-06-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. "There is a challenge for us to find motivation to play well right now." - Matt Niskanen.

-The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's recap. “Regardless whether they had something to play for or not, we did. We did our job.” - Wild forward Zach Parise.

-The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. "With every game, it's more closer to the playoff hockey and everybody has to be sharp. Everyone understands, just work hard and we believed each other and helped each other. That's I think the formula to success."  - Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

-The Associated Press' recap. "It's just a matter of making sure we find that urgency here for the last couple." - Sidney Crosby (above).

-Highlights (so to speak):

-Paul Martin and former teammate Matt Cooke battled for this puck:

-Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu and Brian Gibbons raced for this puck:

-A good look at the lid of Bryzgalov:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Crosby speaks:

-Niskanen speaks:

-Olli Maatta missed the game due to an "upper-body" injury.

-Jussi Jokinen ("upper-body" injury) missed his first game of the season.

-How would the Penguins match up against the Red Wings or the Blue Jackets in a playoff series?

-An overtime goal by Nick Drazenovic gave the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 1-0 win against the Albany Devils. Peter Mannino made 25 saves in the shutout win.

-Highlights:

-The win moved the Penguins into first place in the East Division.

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin doesn't make many trips to the penalty box.

-Kieran Millan made 22 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 3-1 loss to the Orlando Solar Bears.

-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Hal Gill. Acquired at the 2008 trade deadeline in exchange for drafts picks. Gill spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins, both of which, ended in the Stanley Cup Final. He finished 2007-08 by appearing in 18 games for the Penguins and scoring four points. In the 2009 postseason, Gill saw action in 20 games and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 2008-09 by playing in 62 games and scoring 10 points. He appeared in all 24 postseason games that spring, recorded two points and helped the franchise claim its third Stanley Cup championship. During the 2009 offseason, he joined the Canadiens as a free agent. In 80 regular season games with the Penguins, Gill scored 14 points. In 44 posteason games, he recorded three assists. He is currently a member of the Flyers.

-Happy 37th birthday to former Penguins forward Ville Nieminen. Acquired along with Rick Berry at the 2002 trade deadeline in a deal which sent Darius Kasparaitis to Colorado,  Nieminen spent parts of two season with the Penguins. He finished 2001-02 by playing in 13 games for the Penguins and scoring three points. In 2002-03, Nieminem saw action in 75 games and scored 21 points. During the 2003 offseason, he joined the Blackhawks as a free agent. In 88 games with the Penguins, he scored 24 points. He is currently a the captain of Tappara of Finland's Liiga.

-Happy 41st birthday to former Penguins forward Tyler Wright. Acquired in the 1996 offseason in a a deal which sent a draft pick to the Oilers, Wright spent four seasons with the Penguins. In 1996-97, he saw action in 45 games and scored four points. During 1997-98, Wright played in all 82 games and scored seven points. He would play in six postseason games that spring and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 1998-99 by seeing action in 61 games and somehow failed to record a point. He continued that scoring pace in that seasons' playoffs by playing in in 13 games and failed to record a single point. In 1999-2000, played in 50 games and netted 22 points. He played in 11 postseason games that spring and contributed four points. During the 2000 offseason, he was claimed by Blue Jackets in the expansion draft. In 238 regular season games with the Penguins, he scored 33 points. In 30 postseason games, he scored five points. He currently is the director of amateur scouting of the Red Wings.

-After the Jump: The Devils get back into the playoff race while the Bruins clinch first place in the Eastern Conference.

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Penguins at Wild - 04-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

-With the Bruins beating the Flyers today, the first two seeds in the Eastern Conference are officially set. The Bruins are the No. 1 seed while the Penguins are the second seed. What is also almost set is the Bruins' and Penguins' opponents.

-With nearly two weeks remaining in the season, it looks all but certain the Penguins will face the Red Wings in the first round. The Bruins appear set to face the Blue Jackets in the first round. The Canadiens and Lightning as well as Flyers and Rangers are virtual locks to face each other in the first round also.

-What's to blame for this relative lack of intrigue in the final stages of the regular season? Realignment. With the Red Wings and Blue Jackets each moving to the Eastern Conference and the change in the postseason structure, the day-to-day races which gave the relatively boring regular season some mystery down the stretch have disappeared. In the old format, a 1-through-8 seeing structure, the potential first-round matchups changed on a daily basis. Last season, the Penguins didn't know they would face the Islanders in the first round until the final days of the season.

-The 1-through-8 format was not perfect. More often than not, the No. 3 seed was awarded to the worst of the three division winners in each conference, got a high seed and that was rarely fare to the No. 4 or 5 seeds who had to slug it out in the first round. The Southeast Division winner was usually the biggest perpetrator of this crime. That said, the 1-through-8 format was much better and much more interesting than this mess we currently have.

-Jussi Jokinen will not play tonight. He took a big hit from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien Thursday. This is a smart move. The Penguins have nothing to gain the rest of this regular season as far as the standings are concerned. It's time to rest some bumps and bruises.

-The great Joe Vitale has returned to Pittsburgh from the road trip to have his "upper-body" injury examined.

-Long-time Penguins killer Dany Heatley appears to be a healthy scratch tonight. How the might have fallen. This was at one time, one of the premier goal scoring wingers in the NHL. With Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, he formed the "Pizza Line" in Ottawa which was so dangerous in 2005-06, the NHL's first season with newer rules which promoted offense following the 2004-05 lockout. Tonight, he's watching the game in while the likes of Justin Fontaine will play.

-Some bad news for the Penguins:

-According to the team's Web site, the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings in warmups were:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Beau Bennett
Brian Gibbons - Brandon Sutter - James Neal
Jayson Megna - Andrew Ebbett - Lee Stempniak
Taylor Pyatt - Craig Adams - Tanner Glass

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Simon Despres
Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo

-We look at those lines and see second or third chances for Sutter and Despres. These are opportunities for them to show they deserve elevated roles with this team.

-The Penguins' starters are Brian Gibbons, James Neal, Brandon Sutter, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen and Jeff Zatkoff.

-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Marcel Goc, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Maatta, Evgeni Malkin and the great Joe Vitale.

-The Wild's starters are Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Ilya Bryzgalov.

-Their scratches are Niklas Backstrom, Keith Ballard, Jake Dowell, Christian Folin, Mikael Grandlund, Dany Heatley, Darcy Kuemper, Mike Rupp and Clayton Stoner.

FIRST PERIOD

19:30: Neal corrals a puck at the right point and deals it to Sutter to the left of the cage. Sutter rips a wrister from in tight. Bryzgalov fights it off.

19:18: Niskanen chucks a wrister on net from the right point. Bryzgalov eats it up.

18:58: Crosby races up the right wing and flings a backhander over the cage.

18:50: Off a feed by Crosby, Niskanen chucks another wrister on net from the right point. Bryzgalov snags it.

18:38: Erik Haula takes a drop pass on the right half wall and cranks it on net. Zatkoff eats it up.

18:18: The Wild strikes first. At the Penguins' blue line, former Penguins prospect Matt Moulson chips a puck up the slot. Haula sneaks behind Bortuzzo to the puck and backhand swipes the bouncer by Zatkoff's blocker. What a crafty play by Moulson. Bortuzzo was toasted on that play. Moulson gets the only assist. Fire Ray Shero. Wild 1-0.

16:58: The Wild nearly doubles its lead. Off a feed by Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise has a chance in tight but can't jam it behind Zatkoff.

14:31: The Wild will get the first power play. Jonathan Blum flings a cross-ice pass to Jason Pomivinlle to the right of the net. Stempniak is on the backcheck and hooks up Pominville preventing from getting the puck. That's two minutes. Glass, Sutter, Martin and Orpik take the ice.

13:37: Koivu pumps a one-timer from the right half wall. Zatkoff kicks it out. Sutter clears the rebound down ice.

12:48: Nino Niederreiter has a slapper from the right circle blocked by Bortuzzo.

12:28: As Stempniak returns to play Marco Scandella has a slapper from the right half wall stopped by Zatkoff.

11:13: The Wild does double up as Parise scores this time. On a two-on-two play, Parise pushes the puck up the right wing wall against Martin. As Koivu drives to the net with Stempniak, Parise cuts to the high slot and flings a wrister though traffic and behind Zatkoff. The puck apparently glanced off Koivu as he is credited with the goal. Parise and Coyle get assists. It's Parise's 500th career point. Wild 2-0.

9:10: Bennett pulls up on the left wing and whips a wrister on net. Byzgalov eats it up.

8:47: Bortuzzo chases after a puck behind his net and trips up. He crashes into the end boards awkwardly but appears fine. Afterwards, he gets some repairs from equipment manager Dana Heinze:

8:08: Glass smacks Spurgeon with a wolid hit behind the Wild net.

5:47: Pyatt lifts a wrister from teh slot. Bryzgalov fights it off.

5:04: This is getting ugly. Orpik trie to play a dump-in from his own left wing corner. Martin tries to play the puck but McCormick steals the puck and whacks it to the slot. Stephane Veilleux knocks the puck dead and whips a spinning wrister. Orpik is there and gets a piece of it with his stick. The puck flutters off the glove of Zatkoff and deflects into the cage. Oof. Martin can't turn that puck over. And even if Orpik deflected the puck, that should have been an easy save for Zatkoff. McCormick gets the only assists. Wild 3-0.

4:28: The Penguins get a chance to get back into this game as Kyle Bodziak is nabbed for hooking Crosby near the Wild slot. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Martin and Niskanen take the ice.

4:06: Niskanen chops a slap/pass from the left circle to the crease. Kunitz re-directs it wide.

3:18: Off a feed by Kunitz, Neal whips a rising wrister on net. Bryzgalov fights it off.

3:01: Off a furious rush, Bennett whips a big wrister from the right circle wide on the near side.

2:41: Despres chucks a wrister from the center point. It rattles around a bit. Sutter and Bennett each have a chance at the rebound but can't get a clean stick on it.

2:28: As the Brodziak minor expires,  Stempniak jabs a sharp wrister from in tight on the left wing. Bryzgalov fights it off.

0:43: Nate Prosser chases down a puck on the on the right wing and slaps it at the cage. Orpik blocks it.

0:34: Koivu chops a shot from the left circle. Zatkoff smothers it.

0:00: End of period. Suter and Despres exchange a few shoves. Neal exchanges a few words with former teammate Matt Cooke. Wild 3, Penguins 0.

FIRST INTERMISSION

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-That was ugly. Each team has some holes in their lineup but the Penguins were the only team with spotty focus.

-For the Penguins, this game has only a marginal amount of greater importance than a preseason game. That's pretty much how they played that period.

-Zatkoff needed to be better. Some of the plays the Wild scored on were off some lucky hops but Zatkoff needed to prevent one or two of those goals.

-Paul Martin was lauded in this space Thursday for what he offered the Penguins in terms of puck possession but his turnover which led to Minnesota's third goal was poor.

-Oddly, the Penguins' JV power play united looked sharper than the varsity unit.

-The Penguins have an 8-6 lead in shots on net.

-The Penguins have a 20-11 lead in attempted shots.

-Koivu leads the game with three shots.

-Niskanen, Kunitz and Neal each lead the Penguins with two shots.

-Jonas Brodin leads the game with 10:59 of ice time.

-Martin leads the Penguins with 7:41.

-The Wild has a 13-8 lead in faceoffs (62 percent).

-Koivu is 5 for 7 (71 percent).

-Ebbett is 3 for 5 (60 percent).

-Koivu and Cooke each lead the game with two blocked shots.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-A reader spotted a Ryan Vandenbussche jersey at the game:

SECOND PERIOD

18:52: A wrister by Crosby from the left circle deflects wide to the far side.

18:21: After Despres chucks a bad pass into the skate of Bennett on the Penguins' left wing wall, Pominville steals the puck and deals it to Moulson into the left circle. Moulson swipes a heavy one-timer which Zatkoff kicks out.

17:45: Sutter settles a puck in the right circle and sneaks a pass to Neal on the backdoor. From the left of the blue paint, Neal stops the puck with his skates and taps a backhanded shot on net while falling. Bryzgalov is able to reach back and fight it off with his stick. Wow.

16:06: Cooke runs over Despres in the Penguins' left wing corner.

14:47: Off a give and go with Ebbett, Gibbons chops a one-timer from the right circle which hits of the end boards. It deflects to the left of the cage. Stempniak chases it down and tries to jab it into the cage but can't get a clean handle on it.

13:36: The rout is on. Coyle taps a pass from the right half wall to Parise in the right wing corner. Parise has an acre of ice to work with. He moves towards the cage and feeds the puck to McCormick in the slot. Crosby sort of has McCormick covered but he's not in good position. McCormick chops the puck behind Zatkoff. Oof. The Penguins' defensive zone structure, if you could call it that, was all over the place there. Parise and Coyle get assists. Wild, 4-0.

11:59: Suter chucks a wrister from the left half wall on net. Zatkoff eats it up.

11:15: Off a feed by Martin, Kunitz snaps off a wrister from the right half wall. Bryzgalov boots it out.

10:43: Parise races up the right wing, gets a step or two on Martin and rips a wrister. Zatkoff eats it up.

9:58: Spurgeon booms a slapper from the right point. it hits a stick or two before Zatkoff fights it off. The Wild keeps pressing.

9:07: Neal rips a wrister from the right wing which hits Sutter.

6:53: Bennett feeds a pass from the slot to Bortuzzo on the right point. Bourozz umps  slapper which Parise blocks.

6:33: Spurgeon booms a one-timer from the right point. Zatkoff eats it up.

5:33: Glass smacks Prosser to the ice  on the left wing wall of the Wild's wall.

3:50: Sutter rips a wrister from the right circle over the cage.

3:38: Off a little Murphy dump pass by Martin, Neal swipes a one-time from a bad angle on the right wing. Bryzgalov kicks it out. Kunitz has the rebound on the left of the cage but fires it wide.

0:40: After a few stagnant minutes, Parise chops a backhander from the right circle. Zatkoff fights it off.

0:18: The Wild will get a late power play. Bortuzzo hooks up Parise above the left circle of the Penguins' zone. That's an easy two minutes. Adams, Sutter, Orpik and Martin take the ice.

0:00: End of period. Wild 4, Penguins 0.

SECOND INTERMISSION

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-That was more of the same. The Penguins looked really disorganized that period. To make matters worse, they were outworked most of the period.

-This feels like we're second guessing coaching decisions in a preseason game, but at this point, we would slides Brandon Sutter back to the third line and get him more acclimated with Lee Stempniak or Brian Gibbons or whoever they want the third line wingers to be. There's nothing to gain by having Sutter play on the second line.

-We would keep Zatkoff in net as well. He's playing to get Marc-Andre Fleury some rest.

-Bryzgalov has been pretty sharp. The rebound he has been kicking out have not been ideal for second-chance scoring opportunities.

-The Wild have a 16-13 lead in shots on net.

-The Penguins have a 34-26 lead in attempted shots.

-Neal leads the game with four shots.

-Koivu and Parise each lead the Wild with three shots.

-Suter leads the Wild with 19:35 of ice time.

-Martin leads the Penguins with 15:23.

-The Wild has a 23-14 lead in faceoffs (62 percent).

-Koivu is 10 for 13 (77 percent).

-Sutter is 6 for 13 (46 percent).

-Despres, Scandella, Koivu, Suter, Cooke and Prosser each lead the game with two blocked shots.

-Fire Ray Shero.

THIRD PERIOD

20:00: The Wild will start the period with 1:43 of power-play time on fresh ice. Martin, Orpik, Gibbons and Crosby take the ice.

19:33: Off a drop pass by Crosby, Martin swipes a shot-handed wrister from the right circle. Bryzgalov kicks it out.

19:17: Off a turnover by Gibbons, Pominville fires a wrister from the right circle which Zatkoff fights off.

19:07: Suter pounds a slapper from the right point. Martin blocks it.

18:17: Bortuzzo's minor is killed. The Wild had a few solid chances with that power play.

17:34: Megna tries to sweep in a forehand wraparound attempt from behind the net, Bryzgalov holds it out and smothers the rebound.

16:46: Despres swipes a one-time from above the right circle. Bryzgalov smothers it.

15:07: Prosser chucks a wrister from the right point. It deflects wide.

13:39: Blum chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a stick or skate and deflects out of play.

11:41: Botuzzo chucks a wrister from the right point. It hits a body and bounces away.

10:38: Orpik pounds a slapper from the right point. Bryzglov fights it off.

10:35: Veilleux slams glass to the ice away from the puck. That's an easy interference minor. Martin, Niskanen, Cosby, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.

9:48: From the right half wall, Crosby feeds a pass to Neal in the slot. Neal whacks a big one-timer which Bryzgalov kicks out.

9:27: Bennett taps a little feed from below the goal line to Niskanen in the slot. Niskanen chops a shot on net which Bryzgalov kicks out.

8:37: From the left circle, Ebbett fires a wrister which is blocked side.

8:31: As Veilleux's minor expires, Stempniak chucks a wrister from the high slot which is blocked.

4:46: After a few stangnant minutes, Bennett turns the puck over from his left wing boards. Cooke steals it and chucks it on net from the right circle. Zatkoff eats it up.

3:43: Pyatt fires a spinning wrister from the right circle wide on the near side.

2:09: Bennett chucks a shot/pass from the left wing to the net. It fails to connect with a teammate's stick.

0:00: End of game. Wild 4, Penguins 0.

POSTGAME

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-First things first, an update on Olli Maatta:

-If that game meant nothing to Penguins, it was certainly evident with how they played. That was a disjointed, unfocused and incomplete of an effort as they have offered all season. In many ways, it resembled a preseason game for the Penguins.

-We're willing to forgive the lack of structure and the lack of cohesion from a structure standpoint. That's understandable given the circumstances. The lack of an honest effort was disappointing. Many members of the Penguins looked like they were going through the motions.

-We're not expecting the Penguins to go full-bore to block shots and smash defensemen on the forecheck. There's something to be said for self preservation at this stage of the season. But whatever the Penguins offered tonight clearly wasn't enough.

-This game certainly meant something to the Wild. Minnesota dominated this contest. It got an early lead, kept the puck away from the Penguins and came away with a clean two points. They were hungry and they played like it.

-As we said before, trying to dissect this game is like trying to dissect a preseason game. We're just curious as to what was to gain from using Brandon Sutter as a second-line center instead of a third-line center. It would seem like using him on the third line tonight would allow him to get acclimated with Lee Stempniak or Brian Gibbons or whoever they want to use on the third line moving forward.

-Beyond that, there's not much else to evaluate from a team perspective. We'll focus on individuals.

-Paul Martin took a slight step back after Thursday's game. He was a tad sloppy with the puck and didn't seem nearly as sharp.

-Simon Despres didn't have a perfect game, but he was one of the few Penguins who gave an honest effort. He wasn't afraid to mix it up physically.

-Ditto Tanner Glass.

-Andew Ebbett looked competent on the NHL rink in his first game with the NHL Penguins since injuring his ankle. He had 13:22 of ice time on 17 shifts and one shot.

-Beau Bennett was one of the few Penguins who seemed to generate some consistent scoring chances. He was strong with the puck.

-Zatkoff didn't have a fair chance to win this game given the lackluster effort of his teammates in front of him but he needed to be better.

-Sidney Crosby went shotless for the 23rd time in his career. The Penguins needed more from him.

-Unlike the Penguins' stars, the Wild's stars carried their team. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville had their fingerprints all over this game. In addition to that, the Wild go contributions from a depth player like Cody McCormick.

-We're going to assume Ilya Bryzgalov has had more difficult shutouts in his life. He stole a few goals but the Penguins posed little danger to him.

-Shots on net were even, 20-20.

-The Penguins had a 45-35 lead in attempted shots.

-James Neal led the game with five shots.

-Koivu and Parise each led the Wild with three shots.

-Suter led the game with 27:43 of ice time.

-Martin led the Penguins with 23:09.

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

-Koivu was 13 for 18 (68 percent).

-Sutter is 9 for 17 (53 percent).

-Rob Scuderi, Robert Bortuzzo, Despres, Marco Scandella, Koivu, Suter, Matt Cooke, Nate Prosser each lead the game with two blocked shots.

-This was Bryzgalov's second career shutout against the Penguins. As a member of the Coyotes, he made a 24 saves in a 3-0 win at the Mellon Arena, Feb. 7, 2009.

-The last time the Penguins were shut out in the state of Minnesota was a 2-0 shutout by Cesare Maniago and the North Stars, Feb. 20, 1972. He made 40 saves in the win at the Metropolitan Sports Center, AKA the Met Center.

-The last time the Penguins were shut out in Minnesota, Richard Nixon was visiting China.

-For whatever reason, the Penguins have a pretty rotten history against the Wild. All-time, they are 4-9-2 against the Wild with a point percentage of .333. That's the lowest point percentage against any opponent in franchise history.

-If there was a way to sum out this game:

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:

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About the Wild - 04-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Wild.

When and where: 8 p.m. EDT. Xcel Energy Center.

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports Northwest.

Record: 39-26-12, 90 points. The Wild is in fourth place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Jason Pominville, 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 road shootout loss to the Blackhawks, Thursday. Ilya Bryzgalov (right) made 24 save for the Wild.

Last Game against the Penguins: 5-2 road loss, Dec. 19, 2013. Niklas Backstrom made 31 saves for the Wild.

Wild Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Mikko Koivu (right). He had a six-game scoring streak snapped Thursday.

Ex-Penguins on the Wild: Matt Cooke, LW; John Curry, goaltender; Chuck Fletcher, assistant coach; Matt Moulson, LW (Moulson is a former Penguins draft pick but never played for the organization); Mike Rupp, LW; Darryl Sydor, assistant coach; Mike Yeo, head coach.

Ex-Wild on the Penguins: Pascal Dupuis, RW; Andrew Ebbett, C.

Useless Wild Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Rupp is one of two former Penguins players who have worn No. 27 for the Wild. The other is center Nathan Smith.

Best Wild Video We Could Find: Wild center Brian Rolston using a slap shot on a penalty shot against Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo in 2006-07:

Probable goaltenders: Jeff Zatkoff (12-5-1, 2.58 GAA, .915 SV%) for the Penguins. Ilya Brygzgalov (9-8-8, 2.76 GAA, .909 SV%) for the Wild.

Injuries: For the Penguins, centers Marcel Goc ("lower body"), Evgeni Malkin (foot), Joe Vitale ("upper body") and left winger Jussi Jokinen ("upper body") are out. Right wingers Chris Conner (foot), Pascal Dupuis (knee), defenseman Kris Letang (stroke) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Wild, goaltender Nicklas Backstrom (core), Darcy Kuemper ("upper body"), defensemen Keith Ballard ("lower body"), Clayton Stoner ("lower body") and center Mikael Grandlund ("upper body") are doubtful. Goaltender Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis) and left winger Jason Zucker (left quadriceps) are on injured reserve.

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

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
49 Brian Gibbons - 25 Andrew Ebbett - 18 James Neal
17 Taylor Pyatt - 16 Brandon Sutter - 22 Lee Stempniak
15 Tanner Glass - 27 Craig Adams - 59 Jayson Megna

3 Olli Maatta - 2 Matt Niskanen
44 Brook Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
41 Robert Bortuzzo - 4 Rob Scuderi

The Wild's lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

11 Zach Parise - 9 Mikko Koivu - 3 Charlie Coyle
26 Matt Moulson - 56 Erik Haula - 29 Jason Pominville
24 Matt Cooke - 21 Kyle Brodziak - 14 Justin Fontaine
19 Stephane Veilleux - 8 Cody McCormick - 22 Nino Niederreiter

 

20 Ryan Suter - 46 Jared Spurgeon
25 Jonas Brodin - 39 Nate Prosser
6 Marco Scandella - 7 Jonathan Blum

Notes:

-The last time the Penguins played the Wild, this happened:

-The Bruins clinched first place in the Eastern Conference this afternoon. The Penguins are locked into second place.

-Adams has 99 career assists.

-Parise has 499 career points.

-Our live blog, direct from our couch, begins at approximately 7:45 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Paul Battaglia/Associated Press)

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Empty Netter Assists - 04-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Penguins' penalty kill hasn't been all that sharp as of late.

-The Penguins recalled forward Andrew Ebbett (above) from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In seven NHL games this season, he has one assist.

-With some downtime yesterday, Sidney Crosby took up some lacrosse:

-Peter Mannino made 17 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 3-0 shutout of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Brenden Mikkelson recorded two assists for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Highlights:

-Christaan Minella had a goal and an assist for the Wheeling Nailers in a 4-1 win against the Evansville IceMen. Mike Condon made 24 saves for Wheeling.

-After the Jump: Former Penguins prospect Kenny Agostino gets his first NHL goal.

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Conner, Bennett out for the rest of spring

Written by Sam Werner on .

UPDATE: Well just a few minutes after I finished typing this up, Pitt's Twitter account came out with the news that James Conner (left knee sprain) and Isaac Bennett (left shoulder sprain) will both miss the rest of spring practice. It's not great that those guys will miss the final five practices, but "sprain" is better than "torn" or "ruptured," and both are expected to return for summer conditioning beginning in May.

That leaves Rachid Ibrahim as the only healthy running back for the rest of spring, but I expect we'll see some other creative options back there, too.

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No use wasting time, let's just jump right into today's practice notes...

- The biggest news of Friday's practice came when running back James Conner had to leave the field with a left knee injury. Conner was ridden out of bounds in a full-contact team drill by Titus Howard and went down on the track surrounding the field in Pitt's indoor facility. He stayed down for a while before walking over to the trainer's table to get iced up. A few minutes later, he was leaving on a golf cart with an ice pack on his left knee.
Fortunately, I passed Conner as I was leaving the football facility tonight and he said "everything's good." He looked to be walking fine (if with a slight limp). I wouldn't be surprised if Conner is held out or at least limited for a few days, but it appears that the worst-case scenario of a serious leg injury was avoided here.

- Just a few plays after Conner got hurt, Isaac Bennett also went down with a left shoulder injury. It didn't appear to be serious, and Bennett didn't have to leave practice. He did sit out the rest of the session, though, which left Rachid Ibrahim as the only running back. To give him a break, Ronald Jones also saw some time in the backfield. Barring calamitous injuries this season (especially with freshmen coming in) it's unlikely we'll ever see Jones there in a game, but now we know what the emergency running back plan is.

- Linebacker Reggie Green sat out today's practice with an injury, leaving Pitt pretty depleted at the Sam linebacker position. Anthony Gonzalez stayed with the first team, obviously, but walk-on Nico Elms saw most of the second-team reps today with Bam Bradley also still out.

Tyrique Jarrett saw quite a few first-team reps today, and definitely looked like he belonged in that group.
"I think he came into spring practice with a great attitude," Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. "He's been working hard and working on his body. I think that's important. He went through spring drills last year, so he knew what to expect. He's gotten more reps than he did last year, and I think he's taking advantage of that opportunity. I like the way Tyrique is working hard."
Defensive line is a position where it's important not to really look at first team or second team, but rather just how many guys Pitt has that will be able to contribute this year. Darryl Render and KK Mosley-Smith are in that group, and if Jarrett works his way in there too, then that's a good thing for Pitt. The Panthers aren't going to replace Aaron Donald with one guy, and the more guys they have that can rotate in and stay fresh, the better.

- Pitt scrimmaged for most of practice today with officials present. It was some situational work and some general scrimmaging.
First, they did goal-line drills from the 3-yard line. Of the five series they ran in this situation, only one took more than one play to get a touchdown. Bennett scored twice, Conner scored twice (this was before both got hurt), and Pitt converted once on a pass from Chad Voytik to JP Holtz and Voytik was falling back.

- In red zone drills, the Panthers capped off their first drive by converting 3rd-and-14 from the 24-yard line on a screen pass from Voytik to Bennett for a touchdown. Conner banged home the second drive with a one-yard touchdown run.

- Wide receiver Manasseh Garner was back in practice Friday after missing Thursday with an "excused absence."

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