Friday, September 24, 2010

NHL in a Nutshell- It's a Hard Knock Life

"Have some Free Candy!"

Sorry this post is late. In the future I'll have these up in the afternoon but this week has been a homework week from hell and this is the first chance I've had today to sit down and write. As a result, my brain is as soft as Chris Osgood's stomach.

The Penguins won their first game in Consol Energy Center! Woohoo! So what if it doesn't count for anything besides giving Red Wings fans an excuse to whine about Brooks Orpik? It's better than the alternative. The other NHL news this week features a few contract extensions and two very exciting pieces of off-ice news:

On-Ice:

-I haven't/won't be able to attend any Pens training camps or preseason games, but from what I've been hearing from my fellow Pens Nation writers and other Pens sources, it sounds like Brett Sterling has been having a unexpectedly impressive camp/preseason and may have a legitimate shot at making the Pens final roster. It's always nice to see a guy earn a roster slot with hard work and dedication so I've been rooting for him for that, and because he and I are the same height (5'7"). I still can't get over that. I probably should have by now.

Mark Letestu has also been having a noteworthy camp/preseason, and of course we can't count out Big Dog Eric Tangradi. I can't wait to see who makes the final cut. In my opinion, roster battles are the best and most exciting part about preseason, especially when you have the depth the Penguins have. It's another example of how well Shero has done with free agent acquisitions and draft picks.

-For those of you stressing over Crosby leaving the game early on Wednesday because of his hip flexor, take a chill pill. He practiced yesterday and is fine. He's not playing against Columbus right now, but few starters are, so relax. There's nothing wrong with Sid.

-Chris Drury, on the other hand (pun NOT intended, I swear!), was not so lucky. The Rangers captain broke his left index finger Monday during a training-camp scrimmage and will miss all of preseason and the first four regular season games. I don't know which is more painful (sorry)- missing time because I've such a small injury or the fact that in happened in a training camp scrimmage.

-It was a good week for goalies. The Capitals signed goalie Michal Neuvirth signed an extension that will go into effect in 2011-12 and pay his $1.15. million annually. Neuvirth is supposedly giving Varlamov a run for his money (I don't know what is up with me and all these unintentional bad puns today!) for the starting job. Also, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave goalie Chris Mason a two-year contract extension, worth $2.6 million in 2011-12 and $3.2 million in 2012-13. I'm not NHL GM material, but wouldn't it make more sense to make the goalie prove he can bounce back from his sophomore slump and earn the Jackets a playoff spot, then extend his contract?

-An even bigger huh? signing took place in Washington. Caps GM George McPhee signed on Tom Poti for another two years and $5.75 million ($3.5 million this year, $3 million next year, a cap hit of $2.87 million). I have a friend here at school who is a diehard, non-bandwagon Caps fan and whenever we watch Pens-Caps games together, it seems like every other swear word out of her mouth is directed at Poti. Her initial take on the extension: "I have to put up with him turning the puck over for two more freaking years? Really?"

-The Wild's sellout streak came to an end on Wednesday night. Before that preseason game against the Blues, the Wild had had a 409 game home sellout streak. There were still more more people at the preseason game than at the average Thrashers regular season game (16,219), so the Wild still have something to be grateful for, in the same way all of you should be grateful that I resisted posting a terrible Wild pun in this paragraph.

Off-Ice:

-Very exciting news came from the Blues today. Mandi Schwartz, the sister of St. Louis's 2010 draft pick Jarden Schwartz, has received the stem cell transplant she needed. Since December 2008, Mandi Schwartz has been battling acute myeloid leukemia (cancer located in her bone marrow that affects her ability to produce healthy blood cells). The hope is that the transplant will establish a new immune system within a month. We at Pens Nation all wish Mandi Schwartz a speedy and full recovery, and I'll continue to have updates on her condition when I hear them. Everybody keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

-The other very exciting, if much more shallow, news is this week's title story; HBO is finally doing a hockey version of "Hard Knocks", featuring the Penguins and Capitals! HBO is will be filming four episodes of a mini-series called "24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC" starting December 22, leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic, giving us an uncensored look at the two teams on and off the ice. Ovechkin has hinted that there will be Russian profanity so I'm hoping he and Geno start cussing each other out in Russian, and more than one Bruce Boudreau/Rex Ryan comparison has been made. Guys like Max Talbot, Matt Cooke and Arron Asham will be highly entertaining to listen to uncensored. All the players, on both sides, are pumped from what I've heard. I can't wait to watch this show. Not to mention, the exposure is good for the NHL and given the possibility of upcoming NFL and/or NBA lockouts, the timing could be perfect too.

Official "24/7" logo

-Last but certainly not least, Stars forward Brad Richards visited the pediatric unit in Queen Elizabeth's Hospital on Prince Edward Island, and donated $500,000 to the unit. Richards made the donation in honor of his best friend and cousin Jamie Reynolds, who died of a brain tumor in 1989 at age seven (Richards was nine). Not only did Richards spend time with the kids and give them photo/autograph opportunities, but he also bought Dallas Stars intrasquad game tickets for the kids and their families so they could attend the game. Kudos to Brad Richards for this wonderful act of charity. The more examples we see of professional athletes giving back to the community, the better.

Only 13 more days until games start to count! Hockey season is almost here! (Even if it was 90+ degrees F outside today... *gag*). Let's Go Pens!

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