Times and dates have now been announced for four of the five preseason games for the Steelers.

Sunday, August 9th, 8:00pm versus Minnesota Vikings (NBC-TV)
Friday, August 14th, 7:30pm at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, August 23rd, 8pm, Green Bay Packers
TBA, at Buffalo Bills
Thursday, September 3rd, 7:30 p.m versus Carolina Panthers

In last year’s playoff series, the Rangers too some liberties with Sidney Crosby, but Sid’s new teammate, Daniel Winnick, says that won’t happen again if he has anything to say about it, “Yeah for sure, anyone that was on a line with anyone…doesn’t matter if it is Sid, Beau Bennett or Max LaPierre, some one is gonna step in and stand up for your teammates. I think that’s what every teammate needs to do.”

Before the Penguins headed to New York City, they held a one-hour practice at the Consol Energy Center. After that workout, I talked with captain Sidney Crosby and asked him if it’s possible that being the underdog and playing the first two games away from home can be turned into an advantage, “you’ve gotta win on the road if you want to be successful. It’s a good challenge for us right off the start…like I’ve said a lot, the last week-and-a-half or so has prepared us for this. I think we’ve been playing playoff hockey for a little bit now, so that’s something that we can use to our advantage.”

The Penguins are already without defensemen Kris Letang and Olli Maatta as they head into their first-round playoff series with the New York Rangers. We now know that they won’t have defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Derek Pouliot either. Ehrhoff and Pouliot both practiced on Wednesday, but head coach Mike Johnston says Pouliot is still a couple practices away from being ready for game action. Ehrhoff says he won’t play in Game 1. He’s “officially” listed as “day-to-day” with an upper body injury, and he’s not saying a lot more, “it’s playoff time so we’re not going to get into details and it’s day-to-day. Upper body injury so that’s all we’re gonna say.”

Today marks the annual celebration of the remarkable legacy of Dodgers Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. To honor Robinson, every player on every team will wear #42. Clint Hurdle talked about Robinson’s incredible and lasting impact on the game of baseball, and on society. “On the field, thing was legendary. Historic. It changed the complexion of the game. Also changed the complexion of society. Human mankind, the wake of what Jackie left was so powerful and so positive in so many different ways and one of the best things that Bud Selig did was to make this a day.”

Veteran cornerback Ike Taylor has decided to call it quits. Taylor played 12 seasons–all with the Steelers, which is a rare feat in these days of free agency.  Taylor was a part of three Super Bowl teams, and two Super Bowl champions. Ike says he waited to see what Troy Polamalu was going to do before deciding to retire, and although he was born in Louisiana, Ike says he’s a Pittsburgher now, “Born in New Orleans, but heck, just about half my life…I was raised in Pittsburgh. 12 years, so I’ve spent most of my life in Pittsburgh, so Pittsburgh is home for me, regardless of where I’m at.” Ike tweeted that he’s a “yinzer,” a “two-time Super Bowl champ,” and a “Steeler for life.”

The Penguins have two games remaining in the regular season (home with the Islanders on Friday night and on the road with the Sabres on Saturday night). They need to finish strong to earn a spot in postseason! Here are some thoughts from the players who will be trying to make it happen:

Sidney Crosby: A lot of good hockey teams that have had good years are in the exact same position as us. It’s gonna be about who handles it the best. Who plays the best at the right time…I think we all understand the situation. We’ve talked at different parts in the year. We understand what our game looks like, and the way we need to play, for 60 minutes.  We’ve done a lot of good things the last four games…still haven’t played 60 minutes together.

Paul Martin: “I think down the stretch, it’s up to us. We have control over it, so it’s something that we’d rather be in control than not. It’s up to us to get the job done.”

Brandon Sutter: “You always wish it was easier but that’s not the way this league is any more. There’s a lot of teams, like I said, that wish they were in the position we’re in. We got two games to play our best hockey, and if we do, we’ll be fine.”

Chris Kunitz: “We’ve got another chance to go out there and do it…great chance to go out and prove your worth…make sure you go out and do what you can do to help your team win, and I think we all gotta put that on our shoulders…go out and be better than we were for one period last game.” 

Josh Harrison has signed a four-year contract extension that will guarantee him over $27 million over the next four years, and if the Pirates exercise club options for 2019 and 2020, Harrison could earn as much as $50 million. Harrison signed the deal with his family on hand in his hometown of Cincinnati. “It’s definitely special for me to sign this extension, in my home town with it being opening week, and I’m excited to be a Pirate for, you know, many more years, and I appreciate everything that Neal (Huntington) and the front office has done. I’m just blessed to play this game and I’m excited to be inked to a deal where I’m playing in Pittsburgh, and I’m ready to bring a championship to Pittsburgh.”

You couldn’t blame the Penguins for thinking the unthinkable. Tonight’s overtime loss at Ottawa was a nightmare. The Pens earned a point, but blew a 3-0 lead, and missed out on a chance to clinch a playoff spot. The Pens remain in the 7th position in the Eastern Conference, but they lead the Bruins and Senators by only one point. The Penguins still control their own destiny, but they’ll head into the final two regular-season games with their playoff status up in the air. After the game, Pens captain Sidney Crosby said they’re looking ahead, and not back. “We gotta wipe this one away. We know we have two games left here to earn the right to play in the playoffs. We know it’s up to us now. We know we gotta figure it out pretty quick.”

Tonight the Pirates will play at 7:05 against the Orioles in Sarasota. Tomorrow they’ll play another night game against the Yankees in Tampa. Then the Bucs will head for two games against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (Friday and Saturday). Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Josh Harrison-3B
Gregory Polanco-RF
Andrew McCutchen-CF
Neil Walker-2B
Starling Marte-LF
Pedro Alvarez-1B
Jung-ho Kang-SS
Tony Sanchez-C
Francisco Liriano-LHP

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