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Photo by Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Pittsburgh’s James Neal reacts after being named a star of the game against the Calgary Flames at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3.

McGregor: 'Penguins: just keep winning'

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sports Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

On Saturday, my mom sent me a text message and she asked what I wanted for Christmas.

Better late than never, right?

That got me thinking, what do I actually want for Christmas?

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With spending most of my time watching and covering sports, I have a couple items on my Christmas list.

For professional sports, my biggest wish is for the Pittsburgh Penguins not to change a single thing. Pittsburgh is doing what every team wants to do — win.

The Penguins are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have the third best record in the NHL at 27-11-1 for 55 points. Pittsburgh trails Anaheim with 59 points and Chicago — the defending Stanley Cup champions — with 58.

Pittsburgh also has three of the top 10 points leaders. Sidney Crosby leads the entire NHL with 54 points — 20 goals and 34 assists — which is five points ahead of Chicago’s Patrick Kane. Evgeni Malkin is in tie for fourth with 41 points and Chris Kunitz has 39. Though Malkin has only scored nine goals, he has 32 assists, which is the second highest to his teammate Crosby. Kunitz has scored 20 points and nearly amassed last year’s goal total.

Not to mention Marc-Andre Fleury is finally playing like the Marc-Andre Fleury of the 2011-12 season. The 29-year-old goalie is 21-9-1 with a 2.04 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.

Sticking with the NHL, I’m wishing for a healthy recovery of Minnesota’s Josh Harding. The Wild goalie was put on injured reserved due to a new change in the treatment protocol for his multiple sclerosis.

Harding has an 18-5-3 with a 1.51 goals against average — the lowest in the NHL — and a .939 save percent. Though this season is his best of his career, he is one of my favorite players for continually playing professional hockey while battling MS — a disease which is very close to me.

Eleven years ago, my mother was diagnosed with MS and I’ve watched her fight this illness throughout high school, college and into my adult life. It’s tough not being able to help her get better, so it’s remarkable watching Harding battle on and off the ice.

My professional football hope isn’t only in the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but in many other NFL teams. The Steelers still have a chance of making the playoffs, but they are going to need a win against Cleveland on Sunday. Pittsburgh also needs Miami, Baltimore and San Diego to all lose.

The chances are slim, but there’s still a chance, which didn’t seem possible when the Steelers opened the season with a 0-4 — the worst start since 1968.

As for the Los Angeles Angels, keep staying away from the big contracts. Los Angeles hasn’t fared too well with big signings over the last two seasons.

The Angels paid Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols with a combined $33,400,000 million last season. Hamilton had a .250 average with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs, while Pujols finished the season on the disabled list with a .258 average, 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. Both performances are a far cry from their all-star caliber years.

I repeat: Los Angeles stay away from big contracts. The Angels are going to need the money to pay Mike Trout. The 22-year-old outfielder, which was the 2012 Rookie of the Year and two-time silver slugger winner, is going to garner a massive contract — possibly the biggest in MLB history.

On the front of local sports, all I want is a competitive Region 7 boys basketball tournament.

The Region 7 title for the boys is up for grabs.

Out of the 12 teams in Region 7, New England is only team without a loss. The Tigers are 5-0 after winning the Roughrider Tournament title over Dickinson Trinity. The championship win marked the first time since 1997 New England defeated Trinity in boys basketball.

The Region 7 girls basketball title is going to be a battle. There are three undefeated going into the holiday break.

Beach — the four-time defending Region 7 champions — is 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state. Bowman County — which is 3-0 — won the Roughrider Tournament championship over Watford City. Dickinson Trinity returned everyone to its team and is 2-0.

And of course, with me being a hockey guy, I’m always pulling for the boys and girls hockey teams.

Both teams have had the same problems this season. The solution — which is easier said than done — is they need to keep their foot on the pedal and never let up.

Dickinson boys first-year head coach Dallas Kuntz said it best, “We have to be sharks in the water.” No matter if the Midgets are winning or losing, the mindset has to be: keep the pedal down and don’t let the opponent have any breathing room.

For the Dickinson gymnastics team, my wish is to win another state title and for sophomore Acacia Fossum to become the only four-time all-around state champion in North Dakota history.

Since I’ve already lived up to last year’s deal of performing a cartwheel if they won a state championship, I imagine in the near future I’ll agree to another deal to sign over more embarrassment to the Dickinson gymnastic team.

Fossum is one of two gymnasts to ever win three state all-around titles in North Dakota. The other gymnast to win three state titles is former Dickinson standout Robin Huebner.

Needless to say, the Midgets have a chance of having another solid season.

Since I couldn’t include all that in a text message to my mom, I just asked for new shoes or a Keurig coffee brewer.

McGregor is sports editor of The Dickinson Press, which is owned by Forum News Service. Email him at rmcgregor@thedickinsonpress.com or tweet him @SirRoyal.

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