Inside Pittsburgh Sports


1. The Penguins (24-17-7, 55pts) on a three game winning streak are back in action tonight at home against the Ottawa Senators (23-21-6, 52pts).

The teams are separated by just three points with Pittsburgh trending up and Ottawa trending down of late. Pittsburgh has two games in hand on Ottawa and this is a game the Senators have to have.

The Penguins and Senators have met one time this year, a Pittsburgh 2-0 shutout win in the fourth game of the season. Pittsburgh outshot Ottawa 36-22 and played a stifling game defensively.

Tonight’s game projects to be a lot more run-and-gun from both sides. I think we’ll see one that resembles the matchup late last season than the earlier meeting when the Penguins were playing a lot of low event hockey.

Ottawa is a team that takes a lot of chances offensively but give up a lot of shots and scoring chances against. Ottawa is 29th in the NHL in giving up 3.02 goals per game and allow the most shots in the league at 33.1.

In 20 games under Mike Sullivan the Penguins are averaging 34.7 shots per game. They averaged 30.6 under Mike Johnston in 28 games.

2. Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson enters tonight’s game fourth in the NHL with 52 points and has seven points in his last six games. In the Senators 23 wins, Karlsson has 34 points and a +24 rating. In the Senators 21 regulation losses, Karlsson has 14 points and a -22 rating. It’s a pretty simple formula to beating the Senators. Slow down Karlsson just like the Penguins did in their earlier meeting. He was pointless and a minus-2.

3. Winger Chris Kunitz is expected to return to the lineup tonight vs the Ottawa Senators, barring no setbacks. Kunitz is back in his usual spot with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist this morning. Derrick Pouliot will also stay in the lineup over Ian Cole tonight.

Kunitz takes a lot of heat with his diminishing play and two years left on his contract, but internally the Penguins organization feels he still has value to the club and as one source said, “we need him.” Some point to the Penguins left wing problem. Others like to point to Sidney Crosby’s possession numbers with and without Kunitz as to why Kunitz still has value as a top-6 player. 56 CF% 5 v 5 with Kunitz, 47% without him.

4. Commissioner Gary Bettman had some things to say about the Penguins sale over the weekend at the All-Star festivities. “For a variety of reasons, some of them which may be personal, they’re exploring their options, but their support of the franchise has never wavered, and they’ve been great owners,” Bettman said of owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. “If they choose to make some adjustments, I’m sure they’ll do only what’s in the best interest long term of the franchise.”

The Penguins overvaluing the franchise by close to $300 million according to some financial insiders has led to complications from the start, it’s a diminishing product and with debt in some areas that haven’t been talked about much as noted by Forbes Mike Ozanian in an article about the Penguins TV deal.

[There is something very important for any prospective buyer that the commissioner did not mention: the revenue from the team’s local television deal with Root Sports that runs from the 2011-12 season through the 2028-29 season is front-loaded. Typically, the money a team receives annually for its cable rights increases over the duration of the deal. But, according to multiple sources, in the case of the Penguins, the team has received a significant amount of cash not yet earned. That is, there is a tax liability in future years for money the team’s current owners, Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux, have already received.

Such a liability would result in a lower sale price, all else being equal. One possible out for a buyer of the Penguins would be if there is a “reset” clause in the deal with Root Sports, like the one the Brooklyn Nets had with the YES Network. — Forbes]

5. Pat Narduzzi and the Pitt football program had a big day on Monday getting a commitment from 4-star recruit Damar Hamlin who announced his decision on KDKA TV and Clairton’s Aaron Mathews flipped his commitment from Penn State to Pitt.