Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) celebrates with Stefan Noesen (14) after shutting out the St. Louis Blues 3-0 in an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
St. Louis Blues' Jaden Schwartz (17) can't get a shot past Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Jared McCann (19) can't redirect a shot past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Teddy Blueger (53) celebrates his goal with Marcus Pettersson (28) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Stefan Noesen called his first NHL goal in nearly nine months luck.
The veteran forward spent an uncertain offseason following an uneven tenure in New Jersey looking for a job before signing a minor-league contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yet rather than sulk about being forced to play in the American Hockey League after five seasons in the big time, Noesen went to work. He had 14 goals in 22 games, earning a call-up on Monday to help the injury ravaged Penguins.
The boost arrived late in the second period against St. Louis on Wednesday, when Noesen camped in front of Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington and slammed home a rebound off Jared McCann's shot to help propel Pittsburgh to a 3-0 victory.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan called it a “Patric Hornqvist-type" goal, a nod to the injured forward who's carved out a career by being a nuisance in front of the opposing net. It's a compliment Noesen will greedily accept if it keeps him in Pittsburgh for an extended period.
“Here it seems like you have a little bit longer of a leash in a sense.," Noesen said. “Whenever you're able to do that and make plays, you don't have to hold your stick as tight. I get to be me.”
Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots to post his third career shutout as the Penguins drew a measure of revenge after getting blown out by the defending Stanley Cup champions last weekend by snapping the Blues' 10-game road point streak.
“He was terrific," Sullivan said of Jarry, who has won four of his last five starts. “He made some big saves for us throughout the course of the game. He was good on our penalty kill ... I think he was playing with a lot of confidence.”
Teddy Blueger scored 39 seconds into the game to give the Penguins the early lead and Alex Galchenyuk's second of the season early in the third period gave Jarry all the cushion he would need.
Jordan Binnington finished with 30 saves for St. Louis, but the Blues couldn't quite match the franchise record 11-game road point streak set during the 1999-2000 season.
“We gave up too many chances," St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “We had chances, but their goalie was good. In the end we didn't deserve to win the game. We didn't come out with enough urgency in the game and they made us pay for it. That's basically what it boils down to.”
The Penguins are playing with a patchwork lineup missing a handful - actually more than a handful - of key contributors. Forwards Sidney Crosby, Nick Bjugstad, Bryan Rust and Hornqvist and defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz all out of the lineup due to injuries and defenseman Jack Johnson was a late scratch after falling ill before the opening faceoff.
Pittsburgh, however, survived thanks in large part to Jarry, who withstood a major second-period push from the Blues to hand St. Louis its first regulation road loss since Oct. 26. Some responsible play in front of him helped as Pittsburgh's defense rarely let the Blues get opportunities from in close.
“I think everyone is buying in to the team concept," Sullivan said. "When we do that, we can win on any given night regardless of who is in the lineup.”
Blueger gave the Penguins the early lead when he deflected Marcus Pettersson's point shot over Binnington's left shoulder for his third of the season and first since Oct. 22. Pittsburgh peppered Binnington relentlessly but Binnington hung in there and St. Louis responded with sustained pressure in the second against a group of Penguins defensemen that included Chad Ruhwedel, Juuso Riikola and Zach Trotman - who had played 25 games combined coming in.
Jarry put together a series of sharp saves to preserve the lead and Noesen's late tally with just 39 seconds left in the second provided a jolt from which the Blues couldn't recover.
“It changes the game, kind of,"Binnington said. “I have to do a better job of sealing the net there and not letting any in.”
Galchenyuk, who had scored just once in his first 18 games with Pittsburgh after being acquired from Arizona in a blockbuster offseason trade in exchange for popular forward Phil Kessel, broke in alone on Binnington and stuffed the puck over Binnington's blocker 4:59 into the third.
NOTES: St. Louis scratched D Robert Bortuzzo and F Austin Poganski. ... Rust skated on Wednesday morning and could be nearing a return after getting hurt during practice on Friday. ... St. Louis went 0 for 4 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 5 with the man advantage.
Blues: Hosts Toronto on Saturday. St. Louis won its first meeting with the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Oct. 7.
Penguins: Faces Arizona on Friday night for the first time sending Kessel, who played a pivotal role in the Pittsburgh teams that won consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 107, to the Coyotes in June.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an incredible performance against the Tennessee Titans during their Week 10 matchup. He caught 11 of his 19 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tennessee. He'll get another chance to run over the same team in the AFC Championship matchup on Sunday. Hill hasn't been able to get over 100 yards receiving in a single game since that matchup. DFS players know that Hill has a chance to be a complete bust, but the fact he destroyed Tennessee the first time is hard to ignore. Hill has given DFS players a lot to think about before Sunday's kickoff.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He hauled in 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round victory. The Tennessee Titans main focus has to be slowing down Kelce. They allowed seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown to Kelce earlier in the season. Kelce isn't going to be cheap for DFS contests, but he's proven all season long that he's worth the risk.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been tough to watch all season long. He started off the year with a three touchdown performance, but it was downhill after that. Watkins was only targeted more than five times in a game once over the last five games. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have taken over the passing attack in Kansas City. Watkins was able to haul in five receptions for 39 yards during his regular season matchup against the Titans. DFS players shouldn't expect a better performance out of Watkins this time around.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to battle with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC Championship on Sunday. Mahomes is coming off a five touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He's already faced off against the Titans once this season and Mahomes didn't disappoint. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in that game. DFS players should be able to lean on Mahomes to at least be efficient on Sunday. He has a solid chance of being the best quarterback out of the bunch in the division title games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson have been absent from the backfield lately. The Chiefs have been leaning on Williams and it's been paying off. He's been able to find the end zone when he's called upon and piled up 109 yards against the Titans earlier in the season. Fantasy owners are aware that Williams has been up and down this season, but he's red-hot right now. He'll be used in both the rushing and passing attack, so DFS players should give Williams a long look for Sunday's slate.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has the confidence of former 49ers QB and Hall of Famer Steve Young. 'When they've asked him to raise up and go win it, he did it,' Young said. 'Those are hard things to do. That just doesn't happen. When you see it in the NFL and someone is able to do it, you go, once you've done it, you can do it again. You can keep doing it.'
Fantasy Spin: Jimmy G wasn't a fantasy factor with his 11-of-19, 131-yards, one-TD, one-interception game in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings, but that's largely due to the Niners' overwhelming success on the ground (47 rushes-186 yards). When Garoppolo has been forced to pass, he's delivered the majority of the time, and his fantasy numbers Sunday likely will depend on how much the opposing Packers are able to get done against the San Fran defense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is the only player since special-teams tackles were first tracked in 2001 to lead his team in rushing yards and special-teams tackles in the same season.
Fantasy Spin: While Mostert is a breakout talent who led the Niners in rushing in each of their last six regular-season games, keep in mind that it was Tevin Coleman who led the squad in rushing attempts (22), yards (105) and touchdown runs (2) in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings as Mostert (12-58-0) battled a calf cramp which he said was an after affect of an illness he dealt with the week leading up to the game. In the meantime, it's a plus matchup Sunday against a Packers defense which allowed the ninth-most rushing yards (120.1) per game during the regular season.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries in two wins this postseason, but Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark says he isn't intimidated heading into the AFC Championship matchup with the Titans on Sunday, Jan. 19. 'He's not hard to hit,' Clark was quoted as saying on NFL Network. 'He's just a big guy -- 240, 245, 250 (pounds). Honestly he should be running harder at his weight and size. I don't see no difficulty in tackling him. ... He's just easy to me up front because I don't look at any running back like they can't be tackled. He's not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me, honestly.'
Fantasy Spin: Henry is on a truly historic run -- with only Terrell Davis owning more 150-yard postseason games (four) than Henry's three -- and it will be challenge for Clark and the K.C. D, which ranked in the bottom fourth of the league in allowing 128.2 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, to slow down -- let alone shut down -- Henry and the run-first Titans.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. likely won't face simple-assault charges for slapping a security officer's buttocks Monday, Jan. 13, as the officer has declined to press charges, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: The Browns -- and OBJ's fantasy dynasty-league owners -- are hoping this the final negative offseason headline the wideout generates for a good while and he starts focusing his energies on improving on his disappointing debut season with Cleveland.
Confirming a previous report, the Dallas Cowboys have hired New Orleans Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan to be their new defensive coordinator. Head coach Mike McCarthy said he plans to run a defense with four down linemen.
New England Patriots CB Jason McCourty (groin) recently underwent surgery on the groin injury that hampered him throughout the 2019 season.
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has agreed to become the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, according to a source.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman is coming off one of his best games of the season last week and should continue to receive most of the carries in the running game. He should be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle is one of the top options in the passing game for the 49ers and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert will have a solid role in the running game against the Green Bay Packers and could see a few targets in the passing game. He has a chance to be a flex option in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game. DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) fully participated in practice and is not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers FB Danny Vitale (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Championship game. TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited during practice but are not on the injury report. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), DT Kenny Clark (back), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OT Billy Turner (ankle) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Allison has only been targeted 12 times over the last five games and was held to nine yards in his last game against the San Francisco 49ers. He can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Graham likely will see a handful of targets in the passing game against the San Francisco 49ers and could be a stating option in some fantasy leagues.
The Green Bay Packers Defense faces a tough task this weekend in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In their regular-season meeting, the Packers gave up 37 points and only dropped Jimmy Garoppolo only three times. They also failed to generate any turnovers. Green Bay's defense may need to lend their offense a helping hand by creating a turnover or two to swing the field position game. If Za-Darius and Preston Smith can ramp up the pressure, the Packers will have a good chance of generating a turnover or two and winning the game. It certainly won't be easy, considering how formidable the 49ers offense has been this season.