Twas the night before Christmas and all through the NHL, Not a team was playing, as they enjoyed a joyous Noel. Pittsburgh Pirates Store . Some deserved days off and a much needed rest, Cause once they get going, it’s the home stretch of the test. After scoring six in the desert to start the year with a win, The Jets defence was sold, but the offence at times - thin. A two-and-five start gave reason for worry, But it was on the road where the wins came in a hurry. Back-to-back shutouts, first the Rangers then in Chicago, Pavelec and Hutchinson, both putting on a show. Stay positive, be vocal, keep the defensive game strong, Do that, said the coach, and practices won’t be as long. The goaltending was solid and the youngsters played well, No sophomore jinx for Trouba as the youngsters answered the bell. One early December eve the crowd at MTS Centre did roar, A hat-trick for Little, the Boulton curse from Atlanta was no more. The building was electric when the third one went in, Everyone went home happy, Little scores three, the Jets score six in a win. Ladd, Little and Wheeler reunited to lead the way, Did their share of scoring but also kept opponents at bay. Injuries hit hard and the blue line was thin, “Coach! I’ll play D, said Byfuglien with a grin. New comer Perreault on a line with Scheifele and Frolik, Had a great month of December with a lengthy point streak. Around the NHL players were taking their lumps, No not coal – what’s up with the mumps? And let’s not forget the juniors, all the games on TSN, Can home soil be golden? Many think it can. For players, coaches, training staff and all broadcasters you love so dear, Enjoy family and friends, along with good food and good cheer. The games have been entertaining, the Jets are playing with bite, Enjoy the days off! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and to all a good night. Keone Kela Jersey .C. United on Wednesday night. Forward Bright Dike scored the games only goal in the 85th minute on a foggy night in Bradenton, Fla. Dale Berra Jersey . The Leafs were back on the ice Wednesday following an 10-day break. It apparently wasnt long enough, as Team Canadas 2-1 win over Latvia didnt conclude before the Leafs began practice. "I was thinking we might get a little delay, but it was nice to get out there," said Tyler Bozak of watching Wednesdays game.The Pittsburgh Penguins have made the playoffs for eight years running, but losing in Game Seven of the second round this year caused them to clean house, firing GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma. Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Penguins team that has a new general manager, Jim Rutherford, and is still looking for a coach, but will surely expect to ice Cup contender next season. Its a little difficult to forecast what next years Penguins club will look like, not knowing yet who will be coaching, but its safe to expect some significant turnover on the roster. Pittsburghs third and fourth lines were obliterated for much of last season and many of those players are unrestricted free agents, so thats a starting point for change. Then, pending free agent D Matt Niskanen is coming off a career year that should price him out of the Penguins cap, as will Brooks Orpik, so there will be openings on the blueline for young defencemen to step in and play. In goal, maybe the new regime sticks with Marc-Andre Fleury for the final year of his contract, or maybe they will be more aggressive and go for sweeping changes. If the Penguins are inclined to move Fleury or James Neal or Kris Letang, that would be a big-splash move. Given their lack of depth on defence, moving Letang would be risky, but if Rutherford is inclined to shake things up, maybe the Penguins will look different than they did in 2013-2014, and maybe thats not an altogether bad idea. The TSN.ca Rating is an efficiency rating based on per-game statistics including goals and assists -- weighted for strength (ie. power play, even, shorthanded) -- Corsi, adjusted for zone starts, quality of competition and quality of teammates, hits, blocked shots, penalty differential and faceoffs. Generally, a replacement-level player is around a 60, a top six forward and top four defenceman will be around 70, stars will be over 80 and MVP candidates could go over 90. Sidney Crosby finished at the top of the 2013-2014 regular season ratings at 87.12. Salary cap information all comes from the indispensable www.capgeek.com. CF% = Corsi percentage (ie. percentage of 5-on-5 shot attempts), via www.extraskater.com. GM/COACHJim Rutherford/Vacant Returning Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Cap Hit Sidney Crosby 85.72 80 36 68 104 53.0% $8.7M Evgeni Malkin 81.83 60 23 49 72 53.0% $9.5M James Neal 80.16 59 27 34 61 55.4% $5.0M Chris Kunitz 77.05 78 35 33 68 52.2% $3.85M Pascal Dupuis 69.79 39 7 13 20 53.6% $3.75M Beau Bennett 62.54 21 3 4 7 57.8% $900K Craig Adams 57.78 82 5 6 11 40.8% $700K Free Agent Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Jussi Jokinen 72.52 81 21 36 57 54.8% UFA $3.0M Brandon Sutter 66.02 81 13 13 26 42.9% RFA $2.067M Lee Stempniak 65.58 73 12 22 34 47.5% UFA $2.5M Marcel Goc 64.31 74 11 14 25 50.8% UFA $1.7M Brian Gibbons 64.22 41 5 12 17 51.0% UFA $550K Joe Vitale 59.42 55 1 13 14 44.3% UFA $550K Tanner Glass 58.72 67 4 9 13 39.3% UFA $1.1M Taylor Pyatt 55.91 56 4 1 5 42.4% UFA $1.55M Healthy for the first time in four seasons, Sidney Crosby won his second scoring title and hes the runaway leader among active players in points per game (1.40). Sounds great, right? Well, it was up until the playoffs, when Crosby had a positively mortal showing, with one goal and nine points in 13 games. His possession numbers in the playoffs were still outstanding, but when the Penguins leave the playoffs earlier than expected, no one wants possession stats, they want goals. So, Crosbys rep takes a hit for that playoff slump, but hes still the best in the game so long as he stays healthy. Injuries have started to pose a problem for Evgeni Malkin over the past couple seasons, as hes missed 39 games in two years since he led the league in scoring 2011-2012. While Crosby has been the leagues top even-strength point producer over the past couple seasons, Malkin ranks 19th, which is good, but not befitting his skill level, which is right at the top of the league. Over the same time frame, hes more effective with the man advantage, ranking fifth in points/60 during 5-on-4 play. So long as the Penguins have those two, they have a chance to contend for the Cup but, as weve seen over the past five seasons, it cant be just those two. The supporting cast matters. Since the start of the 2011-2012 season, James Neal ranks fifth in goals (88) and tied for 17th in points (178) with strong possession stats, yet hes another player coming off a disappointing playoff performance (2 G, 2 A in 13 GP) and has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate if the Penguins are looking for a major shake-up. Neal is on a very reasonable contract, for the next four seasons, but maybe thats what makes him even more appealing and could yield the highest rate of return. Dealing a 26-year-old scoring power forward isnt an easy decision, but is an option available to new GM Rutherford. A 34-year-old coming off a career-best season, Chris Kunitz set career-best marks in goals (35), points (68) and played a career-high 19:09 per game. However, he faded down the stretch, with 13 points in 24 games from the start of February through the end of the regular season and he consistently gets leveled with criticism that his production is tied to his place on Crosbys wing. No matter with whom Kunitz has played, his possession numbers have always been excellent, so he warrants a top-six role, but as he hits his mid-thirties, its also reasonable to expect decline. Pascal Dupuis missed more than half of the 2013-2014 season after tearing his ACL, and while hes been a solid player alongside Crosby, theres a feeling that the Penguins could do better with a more skilled player in that spot. If Dupuis is back up to speed next season, he should have an opportunity to reclaim his old gig, but it wouldnt come as a shock if the 35-year-old, with one season of more than 50 points on his resumé, was placed into more of a checking/two-way role. A couple injuries, most notably wrist surgery, limited Beau Bennett to just 21 games in his second pro season and while his point production hasnt yet broken through, he had impressive possession numbers and saw regular time in a top-six role once he returned to the lineup. Going into next season, Bennett may have first crack at a spot on one of the Penguins scoring lines. Craig Adams has missed two games in the past five seasons and the durable checker doensnt cheat on the effort he gives night-in and night-out. He also scores remarkably little for as much as he plays -- the 12:28 per game he logged last season representing his highest average time on ice since 2003-2004. Thats probably too much ice time for a 37-year-old who has been getting obliterated in possession terms for a while now, but Adams is an inexpensive depth forward with two Stanley Cups to his credit. Similarly durable, Brandon Sutter has missed one game in the past four seasons and while he gets fed defensive zone starts as the Penguins No. 3 center, Sutter has been getting thumped possession-wise with the Penguins. Maybe thats a function of subpar linemates, and that could be improved with offseason additions, but Sutter could use a better season in 2014-2015 to establish his credentials as a two-way checking centre. The priority for the Penguins this offseason should be to upgrade their third and fourth lines. While that might be considered tweaking, adding three or four legitimate forwards to the roster is more than cosmetic change. How the Penguins fill out their forward vacancies will be hugely important, but its not going to be easy. Even with young, inexpensive defencemen on the roster, the Penguins have marquee players like Crosby, Malkin and Neal that take up a good chunk of the cap room and when the Penguins need to add as many bodies as they do, it would really help to find a bargain or two. Some options that could be of interest include: Nikolai Kulemin, Blake Comeau, Brian Boyle, Steve Ott, Steve Downie, Derek MacKenzie, Manny Malhotra, Jay McClement and Peter Regin; the Pegnuins also may want to re-sign Brian Gibbons, who showed enough in half a season to warrant a full-time role. Returning Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Cap Hit Kris Letang 74.43 37 11 11 22 48.8% $7.25M Paul Martin 73.40 39 3 12 15 49.2% $5.0M Olli Maatta 66.91 78 9 20 29 50.5% $894K Robert Bortuzzo 61.14 54 0 10 10 45.4% $600K Rob Scuderi 555. Bob Johnson Jersey. 52 53 0 4 4 43.9% $3.375M Free Agent Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Matt Niskanen 74.53 81 10 36 46 53.4% UFA $2.3M Brooks Orpik 63.71 72 2 11 13 46.2% UFA $3.75M Deryk Engelland 62.01 56 6 6 12 43.8% UFA $567K There are some complicated situations on this Penguins roster and none may be more challenging than Kris Letang, an elite puck-moving defenceman who has played more than 24 minutes per game for four straight seasons and was third in Norris Trophy voting in 2012-2013. However, Letang had quite a 2013-2014 season, marked by suffering a stroke which, combined with other injuries, contributed to his missing 45 games. When he did play, Letang finished with a career-high 11 goals, yet his relative possession stats were the worst of his career and he also had the lowest on-ice shooting percentage of his career, which is most likely a run of bad luck. With all that in the file, along with Letangs pricey contract extension kicking in, its possible that hes part of a major shake-up, though the stroke might make it difficult for another team to pull the trigger, no matter how well Letang has played when healthy. A broken leg and broken hand cost Paul Martin more than half of last season, and while Martin has handled a heavy workload for the Penguins -- nearly 25 minutes per game over the past couple seasons -- hes also seen his puck possession numbers dip, which could be function of others in the Pittsburgh lineup, but it doesnt reflect well on Martin. Hes 33 and heading into the final year of his contract, so an extension is possible, or maybe the new regime will be fine to let Martin play it out. Olli Maatta had a wonderful rookie season, earning a bigger role with his steady play. The 19-year-old was poised and not afraid to join the play -- his 29 points ranking fifth among teen defencemen since 2000 -- so while he arrived without too much fanfare last season, expectations will justifiably be higher for Maatta next year. It wont be easy, however, since hes not likely to be ready for the start of the year as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery. A physical presence when hes in the lineup, Robert Bortuzzo saw action in a career-high 54 games last season and hes on the edge of a spot in the lineup. He doesnt move the puck well enough to climb the depth chart, but as a six or seven, hes probably a reasonable fit. Times get tough for defensive defencemen as they age, what with the wear and tear of constant battles and blocked shots, and so it goes with 35-year-old Rob Scuderi, a two-time Cup winner who was stuck in his own end a lot last season. The good news for the Penguins is that they have defence in the pipeline. Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot (when healthy) are all prospects that should be able to help, very soon. Returning Goaltenders Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Cap Hit Marc-Andre Fleury 68.29 64 39 18 5 2.37 .915 $5.0M Jeff Zatkoff 63.85 20 12 6 2 2.61 .912 $600K Free Agent Goaltender Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Tomas Vokoun UFA $2.0M Over the past four seasons, Marc-Andre Fleury has a .916 save percentage in the regular season, which puts him 14th among goaltenders with at least 150 games played, and thats entirely fine. He was even okay in this years playoffs, his .915 save percentage in the postseason was the second-best of his career. He has one year left on his current contract and its possible that the Penguins will let that play out, but maybe not. 27-year-old Jeff Zatkoff finally reached The Show, while Tomas Vokoun was out for the season, and Zatkoff was a serviceable backup for 20 games, earning a new contract that makes him a very inexpensive backup. Provided his play doesnt slip too far, Zatkoff could provide nice value. Top Prospects Player Pos. Team/League Stats Derrick Pouliot D Portland (WHL) 17-53-70, +40, 58 GP Simon Despres D Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 6-17-23, +19, 36 GP Brian Dumoulin D Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 5-16-21, +2, 53 GP Tristan Jarry G Edmonton (WHL) 2.24 GAA, .914 SV%, 63 GP Scott Harrington D Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 5-19-24, +9, 76 GP Matt Murray G Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 2.57 GAA, .921 SV%, 49 GP Jayson Megna RW Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 9-6-15, +13, 25 GP Josh Archibald LW Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC) 29-14-43, +2, 37 GP Oskar Sundqvist C Skelleftea (SHL) 6-10-16, +6, 51 GP Philip Samuelsson D Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 3-19-22, +17, 64 GP Jake Guentzel C Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC) 7-27-34, -2, 37 GP Anton Zlobin LW Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) 8-11-19, +15, 46 GP The eighth overall pick in 2012, Derrick Pouliot has a chance to a difference-maker on the blueline. An elite puck-moving defenceman who can run the power play and blast from the point, Pouliot had 102 points in 79 WHL (regular season plus playoff) games last season. His arrival in the NHL will be delayed as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but even if that means hes not an option for the first hallf of next season, theres a chance that Pouliot could contribute after that. A new regime may be just what the doctor ordered for Simon Despres, the 30th pick in the 2009 Draft, who has played well in his NHL opportunities, putting up 16 points in 85 career games, but also hasnt been able to lock up a regular spot. With free agents likely on the move and Pouliot recovering from surgery, Despres should have a very good chance to stick with Pittsburgh next season. Acquired from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade, Brian Dumoulin had a strong season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and got into six games with Pittsburgh. He has good size, which he could use more, but can move the puck and handle big minutes in the AHL. Could be time for a longer look at the next level. Drafted in the second round last summer, Tristan Jarry backstopped Edmonton to the Memorial Cup, handling a heavy workload (84 games between regular season and playoffs). Hes a 19-year-old goaltender, so its going to take some time before hes ready to challenge for a spot. Picked in the second round in 2011, Scott Harrington had a solid first pro campaign and projects to be a shutdown defender when he reaches Pittsburgh. That day may not be too far down the road. Taken in the third round in 2012, Matt Murray had an excellent season with Saulte Ste. Marie of the OHL, an indication that perhaps hes starting to reach his potential. The 6-foot-5 tender needs to fill out and will have time in the AHL to further develop his game. Of course, having Jarry in the organization too ought to ensure that Murray isnt complacent as he climbs the ladder. Signed as a free agent out of Nebraska-Omaha, Jayson Megna split last season between the AHL and NHL, putting up nine pints (5 G, 4 A) in 36 games with Pittsburgh. He could have a chance to compete for a depth role next season. A sixth-round pick in 2011, Josh Archibald had 79 points in 76 games over his last two collegiate seasons and joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at seasons end. Hes small, but will get the chance to show that he can use his speed to create scoring opportunities as a pro. Two-way centre Oskar Sundqvist was a third-round pick in 2012 and played in the Swedish Hockey League for league champs Skelleftea last season. See how he adjusts to North America and go from there. There are a few blueliners ahead of Philip Samuelsson on the Penguins organizational depth chart, but the 2009 second-rounder has made steady progress, getting into five games with Pittsburgh last season. A smallish playmaker, Jake Guentzel was a third-round pick last summer and then had a strong freshman season at Nebraska-Omaha (same school as Megna and Archibald). With a few years to fill out and get stronger, hell have a chance to be a solid pro. It wasnt the easiest first pro season for Anton Zlobin, a sixth-round pick in 2012, who spent some time in the ECHL (scoring 11 points in 10 games), but he had 10 points in his last 17 regular season games, then 10 points in 15 playoff games. If he continues on that path next season, his production will get him noticed. Penguins advanced stats and player usage chart from Extra Skater DRAFT22nd - Josh HoSang, Ivan Barbashev, Jakub Vrana FREE AGENCYAccording to www.capgeek.com, the Penguins have approximately $55.1M committed to the 2014-2015 salary cap for 14 players. Check out my possible Penguins lineup for next season on Cap Geek here. Needs: An overhaul of their bottom six forwards, one top four defenceman, two more defencemen.What I said the Penguins needed last year: (apparently skipped this part for Penguins last year)They added: Olli Maatta, Robert Bortuzzo. TRADE MARKETJames Neal, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Marc-Andre Fleury. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. ' ' '
SUNDERLAND, England - Chelsea failed to score for the first time this season although the Premier League leaders remained unbeaten after a 0-0 draw with Sunderland on Saturday. Matisse Thybulle Jersey .Having previously been held by Manchester rivals United and City, this was just the third time this season Chelsea had dropped points.Both teams did hit the woodwork in the first half, with Sunderland defender Santiago Vergini denied by the crossbar and Chelsea midfielder Willian hitting the foot of the post.Sunderland manager Gus Poyet praised his players for defending for their lives, and Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho had no complaints about the tactics employed by the hosts.The other team wanted to stop us winning, Mourinho said. To defend well and a lot isnt a crime. Its part of the game. Its strategy. My players tried everything. They took risks.On a frustrating day for Chelsea, which had scored five in the Champions League at Schalke on Wednesday, Diego Costa nearly allowed it to get the better of him. The visiting striker appeared to kick out at defender John OShea and then caught Wes Brown with his arm in an aerial challenge, an offence which earned him a fifth booking of the campaign.Chelsea is seven points ahead of Southampton, which hosts third-place Manchester City on Sunday.I have nothing negative to say about my people, Mourinho said. Well done, one difficult match.The draw was particularly pleasing for Poyet after seeing his side concede eight times at Southampton last month.We stopped Chelsea from scoring for the first time this season, we knew how difficult it was, Poyet said. I saw the Champions League game (against Schalke). We needed to be good in terms of defence.Im very pleased with the performance. The quantity of work in the defensive area that we did in the last four, five weeks after the Southampton game, its showing. Jonah Bolden Jersey . - All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked spry enough in pregame warmups Sunday for Green Bays divisional playoff game against Dallas. Aaron McKie Jersey . A fully booked flight forced me to leave two hours later. After a nice meal in which I studied the stats of the Argo win, I prepared to leave the restaurant. As I was gathering my things to leave many large individuals began to walk up and wait for tables.MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Clemsons players lobbed oranges at their delirious fans, while coach Dabo Swinney lobbed a not-so-subtle jab at the Tigers in-state rival. And in the middle of the celebration, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins beamed after giving the Tigers a night to savour -- one 32 years in the making. Boyd threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns, Watkins had a record-setting night with 16 catches for 227 yards on what likely was his collegiate finale and No. 12 Clemson rallied to beat No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 on Friday in the Orange Bowl, a game the Tigers lost by 37 points just two years ago. "We are Orange Bowl champs again," Swinney said. "Hey, listen: Two years ago we got our butts kicked on this field. And it has been a journey to get back. Were 22-4 since that night. And we are the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game." Nope, beating the Buckeyes wasnt enough. Clemson had to make sure the rival Gamecocks took notice as well. "That was a lot of fun, man," Swinney said. "That was a lot of fun." It surely didnt feel that fun after Boyd was intercepted with 1:27 left near midfield, with Ohio State needing a touchdown to take the lead. But Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller -- who was shaken up in the fourth quarter, saying afterward he had a cracked rib and a shoulder issue -- was picked off two plays later, and the Tigers ran out the clock. Boyds 5-yard pass to Stanton Seckinger with 6:16 remaining put the Tigers (11-2) ahead to stay, despite allowing 20 unanswered points in wasting an early 11-point lead. Watkins caught two scoring passes, plus became Clemsons career receptions leader and set an Orange Bowl record for yardage. Martavis Bryant caught two more TD passes for the Tigers, who posted consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. "Its a very special night," Boyd said. "Just the significance of this game, not for me particularly, not for this team particularly, but for this university ... I couldnt pick a better way to go out as a senior." Miller threw for 234 yards and Carlos Hyde ran for 113 more for Ohio State (12-2), which led 29-20 in the second half but wound up losing its second straight game -- after having won each of its previous 24 underr coach Urban Meyer, whose record in Bowl Championship Series games fell to 4-1. Marial Shayok Jersey . Corey Brown had 116 yards receiving for the Buckeyes. "Its going to sting for a while, probably a long while because we didnt finish," Meyer said. "It was right there." Ohio State wound up allowing 115 points in the seasons final three games. The Buckeyes gave up exactly that many in the seasons first six games. "Were not a championship-calibredefence right now," Meyer said. The Buckeyes had a 29-20 lead in the third after Hyde picked up 31 yards on 4th-and-inches, then went airborne to break the plane of the goal line on the next play. "I felt like the offence was starting to get clicking at that point," Hyde said. "I thought we could make it happen." Then the mistakes started coming in bunches for Ohio State. A fumbled punt return and an interception led to touchdown grabs by Watkins and Bryant, putting the Tigers up entering the fourth. Hyde caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Miller with 11:35 left, giving the Buckeyes a one-point lead, but Clemson and Boyd went on one last scoring march to give the Tigers the BCS win theyve been seeking for years. Boyd finished with 505 all-purpose yards, outgaining Ohio State by 78 yards himself. "What a legacy," Swinney said. "He put an exclamation point on it tonight." When Clemson played in the Orange Bowl two years ago, the Tigers gave up 21 points in the final 2:29 of the first half, letting a close game get blown wide open on the way to a 70-33 loss to West Virginia. This time, the game didnt get away. Boyds 3-yard touchdown pass to Bryant had Ohio State facing a 20-9 deficit, but two scores in a 3 1/2-minute span gave the Buckeyes a 22-20 halftime lead. Clemson left Jeff Heuerman wide open down the middle for a 57-yard touchdown pass from Miller, making it a one-score game. And on a drive aided by a 15-yard penalty against Clemsons Darius Robinson, Miller ran in from 3 yards with 12 seconds left to give the Buckeyes their first lead. But the game changed again, and in the end, Boyd and the Tigers were standing tall. "It just means were one step closer to our ultimate goal," Swinney said, "and thats to be the best in the country." ' ' '