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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: James Neal, meet Adam LaRoche

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Brief and to the Point …

>> Great day for hockey in Pittsburgh, really was. The Mario Lemieux statue’s unveiling comes on a 66-degree day before the Penguins’ 66th game of the season, and the team comes through with a three-goal rally to beat Toronto, 3-2.

It was lots of fun, as columnist Joe Starkey writes this morning.

(Warning: Wet blanket time.)

James Neal now has gone eight games without a goal, meaning all the games since signing his big extension, and has just three goals in his past 16 games. That’s a concern, no matter his visibility or effectiveness. And it’s doubly a concern when he isn’t visible or effective, as was mostly the case last night.

I’ll repeat the numbers from the column the other day: He has 84 career goals before the All-Star break, just 19 after. That’s the reverse Adam LaRoche, if you will.

Neal has broken through a lot of barriers this year. And, we should remember, he has elected to play through that broken foot. But he’s going to have to break this one, too.

>> All in one day, Pitt, West Virginia and Robert Morris get bounced from their conference tournaments. Duquesne, naturally, beat them all to the exit.

If I wanted to sell some extra papers or generate extra web hits Friday, I’d write about the Dukes, wouldn’t I?

>> After Peyton Manning emotionally bade farewell to the team that paid him $26.4 million to do nothing last season, it wasn’t exactly hard to switch gears to his next employer. To me, that’s got to be Houston. Indoor stadium, familiar division, away from Eli, terrific line, Super Bowl contender that could really use a Super Bowl quarterback, the Texans have never had a face-of-the-franchise type … it all makes sense.

>> Jeff Karstens pitched three scoreless innings yesterday. I have nothing to add to that. Yet.

>> Our weekly chat is today at noon.

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