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.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will be a free agent in March, plans to return to the Saints if he comes back for a 20th season in the NFL. "I have never been in the situation where I was mulling over the thought of [returning]," Brees said. "To me, each one of these contracts, I don't know how many it's been with the Saints, I've played with them 14 years, it's not a matter of if it gets done, it's when. At this stage of my career, it's not a given that I'm coming back every year, but when that time comes, I'll always be a Saint." Despite diminished arm strength, Brees was one of the best quarterbacks when he returned from his thumb injury last season. He may no longer have sky-high QB1 upside for fantasy owners, but Brees will at least be a midrange QB1 target next season if he returns to New Orleans, which is what is expected.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was pulled over and cited during a traffic stop in Rocky River, Ohio on Tuesday. Police pulled Hunt over for going 77 MPH in a 60 MPH zone and found small amounts of marijuana in three different locations in the car. The car was registered in Hunt's mother's name and he told officers that the drugs belonged to his brother. While the running back did not receive a drug charge during the stop, he could still be subject to discipline from the NFL. Hunt is a restricted free agent this offseason and has a chance to land elsewhere as a team's starting running back. This incident is only likely to be an issue in fantasy if the NFL decides to get involved.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) was back at practice on Friday. The Chiefs played it safe with Kelce and gave him some rest on Thursday, but he should be ready to rock in the Super Bowl against the 49ers on Feb. 2. He had a quiet game in the AFC Championship against the Titans but exploded for three touchdowns in the Divisional Round. Kelce was the top fantasy tight end in 2019 and could put up big numbers in the passing game against San Francisco in the Super Bowl if this game turns into a shootout.
Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said it's his understanding that tight end Jimmy Graham wants to play in 2020. Graham is under contract for one more year for $8 million, which is the final year of his three-year contract. The 33-year-old has clearly lost a step at this point in his career, catching just 38 passes (60 targets) for 447 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 with the Packers. He's no longer the focal point in the passing game, and he's more of a low-end, touchdown-dependent TE2 in fantasy circles.
Free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown was granted bail by a Broward County judge on Friday morning at $110,000 for a felony burglary with battery charge. Brown will be monitored by GPS and be required to release his passport and guns, go through drug and alcohol testing and get a mental-health evaluation. He's facing charges of felony burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief stemming from an alleged assault of a moving-truck driver earlier this week. This isn't Brown's first run-in with the law, and all of his off-field issues virtually assure that no NFL team will take a chance on him moving forward.
Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (wrist) had surgery to fix torn ligaments in his wrist. Hughes revealed the injury after the playoff loss to the Texans in the wild-card round, and the league launched an investigation as to whether the Bills had violated the injury reporting policy since Hughes never appeared on the team's injury report with a wrist injury. Despite his wrist injury, Hughes didn't miss a game in 2019 and hasn't missed a single game since 2012. He recorded 23 total tackles (14 solo), 4.5 sacks and one fumble recovery for Buffalo's stout defense last season. Hughes should be recovered in time for training camp this summer.
Buffalo Bills DE Jerry Hughes (wrist) had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his wrist this week.
Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen hasn't been written off, according to general manager Chris Grier, and Grier said he saw improvement in Rosen during practice throughout the year.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Mid-week downgrades aren't good, but we still have another full week before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, so Kelce should be just fine to play in the big game against the 49ers. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (illness) returned to a full practice after sitting out on Wednesday. Although Kelce had just three catches for 30 yards in the AFC Championship against Tennessee, he busted out for 10 grabs, 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round against Houston. Kelce was the top-scoring fantasy tight end in 2019 and could easily have a big game in the Super Bowl against San Francisco.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) is expected to turn himself in to police but hadn't done so as of the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 23, according to a public information officer for the Hollywood Police Department in Florida. 'I believe they've given him ample opportunity to turn himself in,'' Christian Lata told USA TODAY Sports. An arrest warrant was issued against Brown following an incident with a moving truck driver Tuesday, Jan. 21. 'I'm sure it's going to be within today or tomorrow, but I'm not sure exactly when,'' Lata said late Thursday afternoon. 'I would assume it would be sooner than later.''
Fantasy Spin: There's less and less reason to hold out hope of Brown finding his way onto an NFL roster and becoming fantasy relevant in 2020. Dynasty owners should be looking to move on.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman did some solo work as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder. Expect him to play in Super Bowl LIV Sunday, Feb. 2.
Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones (calf) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 23. CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and C Austin Reiter (wrist) practiced in full. DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (hand) was removed from the injury report. S Jordan Lucas (illness) didn't practice.
San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis (illness) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23. LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral), DL Dee Ford (quad, hamstring) and S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) were limited. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce and the Chiefs have a long way to go until Super Bowl LIV Sunday, Feb. 2. He should be fully expected to be on the field.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson (illness) returned to a full practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Robinson has scored just one touchdown since Week 3, and he hasn't recorded 100 or more receiving yards since Week 2. He's a risky flier without a guaranteed role in the offense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) was seen running on a side field ahead of the team's practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: It appears Coleman will be able to suit up for Super Bowl LIV after dislocating his shoulder in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. He'll continue splitting work with Raheem Mostert and, to a lesser degree, Matt Breida. Any or all of the three could have a big game, but it's Mostert with the hot hand following the NFC Championship.
Houston Texans CB Gareon Conley (ankle) recently underwent a procedure to have a screw removed from his right ankle but is expected to be recovered in full for the beginning of the team's offseason workout program, according to a league source Thursday, Jan. 23.
Oakland Raiders CB Nevin Lawson signed a one-year contract extension Thursday, Jan. 23. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) is doing some running on a side field at the team's practice on Thursday. Despite sitting out of practice, Coleman appears very much in play to suit up for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2. He suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers, but Coleman has an extra week to heal up and should be good to go for the big game. He will continue to serve as a change-of-pace back for Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers.
The Atlanta Falcons plan to tender a contract to impending exclusive-rights free-agent kicker Younghoe Koo. The 25-year-old place kicker solidified the team's kicking position in the final eight games of the season, making 23 of his 26 field-goal tries and 15 of his 16 extra points. Koo went 7-for-9 on kicks from 40-49 yards and hit his only attempt of 50-plus yards. While he should enter the 2020 season as the favorite to kick for Atlanta, the Falcons will also bring in some competition to push him. With an offense that can be explosive and put up points, Koo will have some fantasy appeal if he sticks around.