Column: Playing short-handed … why exactly?

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The Flyers’ Chris VandeVelde checks Patric Hornqvist closely at Steve Mason’s crease Wednesday. — GETTY

BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

No doubt, there was a whole lot to hate about the Penguins’ flat-lined 4-1 loss to the are-they-really-rivals-if-they-always-win Flyers last night at Consol Energy Center. The forwards were soft and lazy. The defensemen were soft and loose. Marc-Andre Fleury gave up a soft rebound and lost his focus against this particular opponent for seemingly the umpteenth time.

And did I mention they were bad?

That’s OK. The captain, on the occasion of his 300th NHL goal, took care of that through an expression that was anything but celebratory.

“We were bad,” Sidney Crosby was saying at his stall. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance, to be honest with you. I don’t think they did anything different than what we expected. We were bad from start to finish.”

Wonderful. So let us all, in the spirit of Philadelphia, hold all those truths to be self-evident.

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Covering: Penguins 4, Flyers 1

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BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

Getting ready for faceoff …

Game: Penguins (42-23-11) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (30-29-17), 8:08 p.m., Consol Energy Center

Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (33-17-8, 2.26) vs. Steve Mason (15-17-11, 2.24)

TV, radio: NBC Sports (national), 105.9 the X

Online: GameCenter / Multimedia / Official game notes

UPDATE 7:40 p.m.: Evgeni Malkin will not play tonight. The Penguins have given no reason. He did not practice yesterday, but the team described it as a routine maintenance day. Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff will be the other scratches.

7:55 p.m.: The team announces Malkin is out with ‘an undisclosed injury.’ So there’s that.

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Podcast: Pucks, Bucs on 105.9 the X w/ Madden

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BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

Here’s the podcast of my weekly appearance on 105.9 the X with Mark Madden, this one from the upstairs lounge at Blue Line Grille. We shouted over people’s meals about the Penguins and Pirates.

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Pirates 3, Orioles 3, 10 innings

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BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

Getting ready for first pitch …

Game: Pirates vs. Baltimore Orioles, exhibition, 7:05 p.m., Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Fla.

Pitchers: LHP Francisco Liriano vs. RHP Chris Tillman

TV, radio: MLB Network (national), 93.7 The Fan

Online: Gameday / Multimedia / Official game notes

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Perrotto on the scene: Cervelli building bridges

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In addition to a .344 spring average, Francisco Cervelli has four home runs and seven walks. — GETTY

BY JOHN PERROTTO

BRADENTON, Fla. — Sights, sounds and the scene at McKechnie Field …

Russell Martin is gone but he won’t soon be forgotten by the Pirates.

“Russell is the best catcher in the big leagues,” said backup catcher Tony Sanchez.

While that might be debatable, Martin did receive National League Most Valuable Player votes in each of his two seasons with the Pirates. Not coincidentally, the franchise reached the postseason each year following 20 consecutive losing records.

A few days before Martin signed a five-year, $82-million contract with the Blue Jays in November — the Pirates had offered four years and $56 million — acquired veteran backup Francisco Cervelli from the Yankees for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson.

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Special: Letter from an Iraq war veteran

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Capt. Joe Marshall, U.S. Army, works with Iraqi schoolchildren while serving his tour. — MICHAEL MOLINARO

BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

We’ve been beyond blessed, my wife and I, to hear from so many men and women either currently serving our country or having already served, as related to our program for military subscriptions. Every last one has moved us, and we thank you not only for your interest in the site, not only for your service, but also for thinking enough to share your stories.

The one below came from Capt. Joe Marshall, U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq war and currently stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo. It needs no further preface …

____________________

DK,

Just wanted to drop you a note to thank you for your generous donation of memberships to all active-duty soldiers and your robust efforts to give as many vets as possible that same privilege.

I can’t tell you how important sports and anything that reminds us of home are when serving so far away. When I was in Iraq, I used to look forward to coming off patrol and checking out what happened to our teams that day. Reading your articles — in the Trib then — really made it seem like for just a moment I was back at home and a part of the usual discussions on Pittsburgh sports going on that day. Sports really are an incredible connector, and the pride of one’s city and each victory seems a little greater when grouped together with people from such varying backgrounds.

I know there are countless soldiers logging into DK on Pittsburgh Sports right now getting that exact same feeling.

My Platoon was always humbled by the support of those taking time out of their busy days to mail us packages or other well wishes.  I wanted to send you the same thanks and to let you know how much of a difference it makes. Looking forward to the continued growth of the site. And if you’re ever out in Colorado, the Starbucks is on me!

Joe

____________________

Thank you, Joe, on more levels than I can conceive, including for your kind permission to publish this and humanize what, for far too many, is an abstract, faceless concept. I could not be more proud and humbled to have you — and others in your class — reading here.

Oh, and the coffee is so on me.

Perrotto on the scene: ‘This kid’s hungry’

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Josh Harrison has had a .302 spring with two home runs, a double and triple, mostly at leadoff. — GETTY

BY JOHN PERROTTO

BRADENTON, Fla. — Sights, sounds and the scene at McKechnie Field …

• Has Josh Harrison rested on his laurels this spring?

Clint Hurdle dismisses the question before it is completely out of the questioner’s mouth.

“Josh is disciplined and he’s committed,” Hurdle said. “So I don’t foresee any of those challenges, as far as him thinking he’s arrived and he’s made it. This kid’s hungry. He’s worked hard and he believes he’s only scratched the surface.”

Harrison was one of the most unexpected success stories in Major League Baseball last season.

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News/views: Kapanen on the way

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Kasperi Kapanen scored 11 goals in 41 games for KaiPa of the Finnish Elite League. — GETTY

BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

News: Kasperi Kapanen is on his way to North America and will join the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre by week’s end, according to quotes from Jim Rutherford reported by Jenn Menendez of the Post-Gazette. “That’s the first step,” Rutherford said.

Views: Made my stance on this clear just this morning.

Good for Rutherford and management. The time, indeed, is now.

In that spirit, then, what now?

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On the scene: Downie finds that fine line

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Sidney Crosby takes aim at Thomas Greiss on a two-on-one drill today at Consol. — DEJAN KOVACEVIC

BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

Sights, sounds and the scene at Consol Energy Center today …

• The Penguins practiced for an hour, with the only notable absences being Evgeni Malkin and Mike Johnston. The former took what assistant coach Gary Agnew called a ‘maintenance day,’ which was logical following back-to-back weekend games coming off an injury. And for what it’s worth, Malkin passed through the locker room in workout gear, which wouldn’t happen if anyone were hiding something. Johnston remains in Nova Scotia for his mother’s funeral. He’s expected back tomorrow in time for the home game with the Flyers.

• Agnew, asked about facing Philadelphia: “I think this time of year, it’s about us.”

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Tuesday 12 Qs: Letang, Holdzkom, Tomlin, MLS

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Kris Letang is out of the Penguins’ lineup indefinitely because of a concussion. — GETTY

BY DEJAN KOVACEVIC

Welcome to Tuesday 12 Qs, our chat that takes place each week at 9 a.m. and offers readers a chance to carry the conversation. The format is simple: Use the comments below to submit an entry.

Tuesday12Qs

UPDATE 9 a.m.: And away we go …

avocadotom: How long should the Pens keep Kris Letang out, given their history of letting players come back too soon? I’m thinking they should play it as conservatively as possible, even if that means waiting well into the first round of the playoffs.

DK: The Penguins’ doctors have made some awful medical decisions, in recent years and in this season alone. The mishandling of the mumps caught national attention, but it could be argued that the most egregious was allowing Olli Maatta to return from shoulder surgery two months before their own diagnosed timeline, then allowing him to return again, only to require a second surgery. That’s Hall of Fame-caliber butchery right there. And here’s guessing that if the same doctors hadn’t also wonderfully diagnosed Maatta’s cancer, that young man could hold quite the grudge. He lost a year of his career, in large part because they blew it.

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