First Call: Where the Penguins sit after a busy night in the Metro; potentially rebooting the original Winter Classic

Friday’s “First Call” looks at where the Pittsburgh Penguins sit in the standings after a busy night in the Metropolitan Division.

Plus, we’re looking at the prospect of rebooting the original Winter Classic.

And we fill up the local college basketball dance card for Saturday.


Back where it all began

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in Buffalo on Thursday as the Sabers honored former goalie Ryan Miller by hoisting a banner with his name and number to the rafters of KeyBank Center.

While he was in town for the game against the New York Islanders, Bettman was asked if another Winter Classic would ever come to Buffalo. Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park hosted the first-ever outdoor NHL game when the Penguins beat the Sabers on New Year’s Day 2008.

Bettman said as soon as the NFL’s Buffalo Bills get a new stadium to host such an event, it’ll happen.

“This is a great sports town,” Bettman said via WIVB-TV. “It’s a great hockey market. Yes, when there’s a new stadium, we’ll be more than happy to bring back an outdoor game.”

In March, plans were announced to have a new stadium built in Orchard Park by 2026, adjacent to the current one. There was no promise that the Penguins would have to be the opponent again. But I’d bet that they would be.

“It was a perfect day, and it defined what has become an incredible event,” Bettman said. “I think we just did our 36th outdoor game, and they’ve all been incredible. This year’s at Fenway was great. … The appetite for these games, from our teams, our markets and our fans, continues unabated.”

Bettman threw in one caveat, though.

“You have to promise me another snow-globe day,” Bettman added.

It’ll be January in Buffalo, Gary. I’d say the odds are good.


More sports

Friday Football Footnotes: Kenny Pickett’s 2 big goals; more Brian Flores news; Steelers fans won’t like ESPN’s new 30 for 30
Tim Benz: I’m not a fan of Ivan Provorov’s Pride Night jersey boycott, but also dislike hypocritical media fallout
Ben Roethlisberger not surprised Steelers decided to stick with OC Matt Canada


While they were sleeping

The Penguins had Thursday to rest in between games against the Ottawa Senators. They lost the first of back-to-back games to the Senators 5-4 (OT) in Ottawa on Wednesday night. The return game will be in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena at 7 pm Friday.

Meanwhile, every team of consequence in the Metropolitan Division race played Thursday night while the pens were idle.

The Sabers outlasted the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime in that game in Buffalo we mentioned above. Dylan Cozens had the game winner just 12 seconds into OT.

Elsewhere, the Hurricanes beat up on Marc-Andre Fleury and the Minnesota Wild 5-2. The Boston Bruins topped the New York Rangers 3-1. The Washington Capitals shut out the Arizona Coyotes behind two goals from Dylan Strome. And the New Jersey Devils dropped an overtime affair in Seattle 4-3.

So that means the top of the Metro standing as of Friday morning look like this:

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 64 points

2. New Jersey Devils: 62 points

3. New York Rangers: 57 points

4. Washington Capitals: 56 points

5. Pittsburgh Penguins: 51 points (44 games)

6. New York Islanders: 51 points (47 games)

The top three teams in every NHL division automatically qualify for the playoffs. The remaining two wild-card slots in the East and West go to the teams with the next highest point totals in each conference. Right now, that’s the Capitals and the Pens in the East, followed by the Islanders and Florida Panthers (49 points).


Back on the bluff

After three straight road games, the Duquesne men’s basketball team is back on campus for a home game against Fordham at 2 pm Saturday.

The Rams come in at 14-4, 2-3 in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes are hosting their first contest since a Jan. 4 victory over VCU. Since then, they beat St Joseph’s on the road, but lost to Richmond and St Bonaventure. Keith Dambrot’s club is 13-6 with a 3-3 mark in A-10 play.

Fordham is led by first-year coach Keith Urgo. He has two former Pitt Panthers on his staff, Tray Woodall and Ronald Ramon.

Duquesne is 21-15 against the Rams in Atlantic 10 regular-season play.


Prowling Panthers

Meanwhile, the Pitt Panthers will tip-off at 3 pm Saturday at the Petersen Events Center in Oakland. Florida State is in town for an ACC battle.

After a Jan. 11 loss at Duke, Jeff Capel’s Panthers won back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Louisville. They are now 13-6 with a 6-2 mark in conference play.

Pitt won the only matchup between the teams last year, 56-51. Florida State comes in 6-13 with a 4-4 record in the ACC this season. Their most recent result was an 84-71 victory against Notre Dame.

As for Robert Morris, the Colonials are in Green Bay on Saturday night for a Horizon League game.

Tim Benz is a Tribune Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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