Q: Are there any physical problems with Sidney Crosby? I was at the Flyers game (Tuesday) and he looked like he wasn't into the game at all. He didn't look like he has going the usual super-fast speed. Any known issues?
Paul, North Hills
MOLINARI: If there were, you'd be reading about them in a story across the top of the first sports page in the Post-Gazette, not only in the Q&A.
There's no question that Crosby hasn't been anywhere near the top of his game during most of the first four games of the season -- how much money do you think someone could have made by placing a wager that Brooks Orpik would be tied with him in the scoring race nearly two weeks into the season? -- and it's possible that he is nursing some physical problem, since he's never been one to shy away from high-traffic areas and isn't reluctant to absorb, or throw, a hit.
Still, it's inconceivable that if he had a significant injury, the Penguins would risk playing him in mid-October. That would be too short-sighted for words, and this coaching staff and management team never has been given to losing sight of the big picture.
Crosby undoubtedly is frustrated by how the first four games have gone for him -- although his wide smile after the Penguins' 3-2 overtime victory against Philadelphia made it clear he was far more happy with the final score than he was concerned about his failure to record a point against an opponent he has routinely torched during the past three seasons -- and also is trying to get comfortable with his linemates.
All of that said, if finding a way to get Crosby's game in sync and his point production back to its customary levels was the Penguins' most pressing concern, they would be in awfully good shape.
Q: His level of consistency remains to be established, but, with faceoff success at such a premium in the league, why was Mike Zigomanis available for next-to-nothing?
Sid Stark, Laurel, Md.
MOLINARI: Zigomanis is, was and probably always will be a bubble player in the NHL -- he has appeared in 169 games at this level, 320 in the American Hockey League -- and, from all indications, next-to-nothing is almost literally what the Penguins gave Phoenix for him in the form of "considerations" last Thursday. It's telling that 29 teams, the Penguins being one of them, declined to claim him for a $20,000 waiver fee earlier this month.
Zigomanis fills a fairly narrow role, a fourth-line center who kills penalties, but his ability to win faceoffs makes him more valuable to the Penguins than he would be to almost any other club, given the problems they've had on draws in recent years. The fact that he is right-handed only enhances his value.
So far, Zigomanis has exceeded all reasonable expectations on draws, and it's not realistic to count on him to keep up the pace he has established (14-5, a success rate of 73.7 percent) over the course of an entire season. Still, he has been effective in the niche he is assigned, and if he can contribute a few more goals like the one he scored during the Penguins' 3-2 overtime victory against Philadelphia Tuesday, he might have an opportunity to stick with the Penguins for a while. And if his play slips, the Penguins will have lost nothing except an extremely low-risk gamble.