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.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Graham has back-to-back 49-year receiving performances, but those games came against teams that struggle to defend the tight end position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. They allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season and were the league's stingiest pass defense. Maybe Graham makes a play in the red zone. Still, he's a cheaper DFS play but by no means a comfortable one.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (illness) is trending in the right direction to play in the NFC Championship game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if available, Allison isn't an option in any fantasy format. The 25-year-old hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. It sure doesn't seem like he'll eclipse that mark against the league's best defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) is currently questionable for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's certainly a risk for injury, considering he re-aggravated the ankle in last week's playoff game. Still, it's hard to ignore the two-game stretch Lazard had to end the season, where he saw 17 targets. That alone makes him worth a gamble, particularly in a must-win game for a Packers team in desperate need of another threat at receiver. Just beware, the matchup isn't ideal. The 49ers allowed only 172 passing yards to the Vikings last week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Adams produced only 43 receiving yards and a score against San Francisco in the regular season but still had 12 targets. The star receiver has seen double-digit targets in nine of 13 games played this year. There's not many receivers that you can virtually pencil in for double-digit targets- but Adams is one of them. If fellow receivers Geronimo Allison (illness) and Allen Lazard (ankle) suit up, they may be limited. Adams could be looking at more work than usual, even in a matchup this difficult.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense enter Championship weekend as the highest-priced fantasy defense. The Niners face the Green Bay Packers, who they demolished 37-8 in Week 12. In that previous contest, the Niners relentlessly harassed future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropping him five times and forcing a fumble. The Packers were a meager one for 15 on third down conversions. The 49ers will need to follow that blueprint again in the critical NFC Championship to emerge victorious. With a higher-intensity contest expected, it could be difficult to splurge on a defense in fantasy compared to other addressable positions.
San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders both offer solid fantasy value in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Both players were limited to under 45 yards apiece in last weekends Divisional Round blowout but were featured early on when the game was still in question. The rookie Samuel has emerged as a consistent dual threat in the latter half of 2019 and is likelier the safer floor. Sanders, the savvy vet has proven himself as a reliable chain-mover with big-play potential. Against the Packers 10th-best pass defense by DVOA, either option seem primed to pop in Sundays winner-take-all battle.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams will face off with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Williams has been playing second fiddle to Aaron Jones quite a lot recently, as he hasn't seen double-digit carries since Week 13 against the Giants. It's worth noting that Williams played a large role in the regular-season game against the 49ers, which saw him rack up 18 touches. Green Bay very well could utilize Williams in spurts to keep San Francisco guessing, though his recent downtrend in usage makes him hard to trust.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a reasonable DFS bet for Sundays NFC Championship matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Priced as the third-best quarterback, Jimmy G squares off against a strong Packers defensive line that ranked 12th-best in adjusted sack rate during the regular season. Garoppolo was not pressed into service in the Divisional Round blowout win, but will likely be tasked with a tougher test on Sunday. While the Niners have mostly ridden its dominant running game throughout the year, Garoppolo has answered the bell in multiple occasions with three four-touchdown games. With dangerous weapons surrounding him, Garoppolo shouldnt be ruled out in the biggest game of his career to-date.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. The 49ers Defense held Jones to just 38 rushing yards in their regular-season meeting. However, the star back has been playing some seriously good football in his last five games, with 501 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He's also had 20-plus carries in three straight contests. Expect Green Bay to utilize Jones early and often in screens and runs to combat the 49ers mighty pass rush. Even if Jones doesn't pile up over 100 yards, his propensity to find the end zone and role in the passing game make him a safer play this weekend.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers Defense held Rodgers to just 104 passing yards and one touchdown in their regular-season meeting. However, there are a couple things that are different ahead of this matchup. First, tackle Bryan Bulaga will play in this game after being injured in the first quarter against the 49ers previously. Rodgers should have better protection than he had when these teams met. Secondly, Rodgers himself is playing better football than he was during the regular season before this matchup. He has 566 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. There is also the added motivation of denying a Super Bowl berth to the team that could have drafted him. Play Rodgers on Sunday, despite the tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is worth a gamble for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Bourne scored the only receiving touchdown for the Niners in the Divisional Round, adding to his 2019 resume as a legitimate red-zone threat. The third-year pro has just 33 catches this year, including the playoffs, but collected six scores. Despite his risks as a zero-floor fantasy option, Bourne has emerged as a trustworthy target in clutch situations.
San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are both bankable DFS options in Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. The two backs combined for 163 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, with Coleman riding a hot hand to two touchdowns. Considered a backup for the latter half of the regular season, Coleman played 46 percent of snaps last Sunday compared to Mosterts 34 percent. While the touch forecast for either back is cloudy, the Niners draw one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA during the regular season with the second-worst defensive line in the league, yielding 4.96 adjusted yards per carry. With a likely floor of 10 touches for each Coleman and Mostert, both runners have great opportunities to make a splash.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in Thursdays practice and should be fine for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Kittle scared Niner Nation with soreness on the left ankle he chipped earlier this year, but confirms he feels fabulous. Kittle factored more as a blocker in last Sundays Divisional Round blowout but the Niners passed just 19 times. The All-Pro is an integral piece in all facets of the offense so is worth his premium TE1 price in DFS on Sunday.
Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he's a 'prime candidate' to be re-signed, in the opinion of The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett.
Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.
Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.
Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.
Tennessee Titans LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), LB Rashaan Evans (foot), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree' Jackson (foot), WR Cody Hollister (ankle) and OT Jack Conklin (shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. CB Logan Ryan (illness) and LB David Long Jr. (knee) participated in full.