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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Operation Shutdown

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Friday column is about Jamie Dixon and the cross-purposes of being a college coach.

>> This will be the last full Wakeup Call until Jan. 30. I’m taking all of next week off, my first real break since coming over to the Trib, and I’m under orders to take it seriously. So, no columns, no chat, no blog, no Twitter, no radio or TV … I’m told I’m not even allowed to glance in the general direction of the BlackBerry. We’ll see how that goes.

At any rate, I’m still going to see Penguins-Canadiens tonight and Pitt-Louisville tomorrow and probably will tweet stuff from both of those. I’ll also be on KDKA-TV’s Showdown on Sunday night.

Here on the blog, I will put up vacation posts — not much on them at all — just so you have a fresh space daily to discuss stuff and so that Joe has a place for his excellent links package. You’ll also see all the usual game threads.

When I return, it will be off to Indianapolis to cover Super Bowl Harbaugh all week long.

>> On that note, yes, I’m picking 49ers and Ravens. I cringe at an Alex Smith-Joe Flacco championship  matchup as much as the next guy, but that’s what will be left.

>> All kinds of theories are emerging as to why the Penguins are playing so well during this four-game winning streak that began last Friday in Florida and continued most impressively last night in New York.

Here’s mine: Because the forwards have resumed being more physical, the defensemen have resumed being more aggressive than maybe any in the NHL. Dan Bylsma’s system is predicated on puck pressure. It’s supposed to happen at all corners of the ice. When it does, the defensemen skate with a little extra hop. That leads to big hits, like you’ve been seeing from Brooks Orpik, and even to big plays like Deryk Engelland setting up the winner last night. On a three-on-one rush. In a tied game. In the third period.

I’m a big believer in Bylsma’s system. Seeing it in full bloom like this is a ton of fun.

>> Derrek Lee is considering retirement if he doesn’t get an offer he likes, according to two GMs interviewed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. If that sounds to you like the Pirates simply need to up the ante, don’t be so sure. Remember, they offered Lee salary arbitration, so at least $7.25 million was on the table right there. It’s wholly possible Lee simply has a place or two where he’d want to play, and this isn’t it.

>> This is the transcript of yesterday’s chat. Be good.

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