Q: I know the Pens are off to their best start in years, but it doesn't seem like they're playing all that well for much of the game. Could (Tuesday) night's game in Detroit have the same effect that the Ottawa game did last year, and they could just explode from here on out because of it?
MOLINARI: The Penguins were 9-4-2 before facing Philadelphia at Mellon Arena last night; that's a 109-point pace, which is awfully good for any club, let alone one that's undergone major lineup changes and is plying without its top two defenseman.
Despite that, the Penguins have not been at their best, or often all that close to it, for most of this season. Their offense sputtered for much of the first six weeks and their problems protecting third-period leads have been discussed and dissected at length. The bottom line, of course, is a team's record and the points it earns -- ultimately, looking good or bad or whatever along the way really doesn't matter -- but it's safe to assume that the Penguins do have considerable room for improvement as the season moves along, which could be a daunting thought for their Eastern Conference rivals.
The first indication of whether there will be a carryover, positive or negative, from that stunning 7-6 overtime victory at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday should have come last night. Rallying to defeat the Red Wings the way the Penguins did had to cause a major spike in their confidence, but that isn't necessarily a plus if it leads to them taking success for granted. If, however, it reinforces the idea that they never truly are out of any game against any opponent, no matter how accomplished, that victory could have an impact that will be felt all the way through the playoffs.
In any case, it's an awful lot to expect that defeating Detroit will have the kind of season-altering repercussions that their come-from-behind, 6-5 shootout victory in Ottawa last Nov. 22 did. Among other things, they were in far better shape, record-wise, going into the Red Wings game. They were 8-11-2 before facing the Senators, and drifting away from the Eastern Conference playoff field. Beating the Senators was the start of a 7-1 run that put them on the path that eventually led to the Stanley Cup final.
Q: What is the rule regarding the trade of a recently re-signed restricted free agent? For example, say someone was to offer Jordan Staal a big contract that the Penguins could not afford, long-term. Rather than taking the draft picks as compensation, could the Penguins match the offer and then immediately attempt to trade him?
Jeremy Mohler, Squirrel Hill
MOLINARI: No, that wouldn't be an option.
Teams that have a restricted free agent sign an offer sheet with another club are given one week to decide whether to match the offer and keep the player or allow him to leave and accept compensatory draft choices, the quantity and quality of which are based on the size of the contract the player signed with his new team.
If the team opts to match the offer, it is prohibited from trading the player for at least one year.
Q: I know the rule is, if you pull your goalie during overtime, you forfeit the point you would have gained if the opposing team scores. My question is, if you pull your goalie during a delayed penalty and accidentally the puck goes into your own net, do you still forfeit the point?
Roy Bauerlein, White Plains, N.Y.
MOLINARI: No. That very scenario is covered by Rule 84.2, which stipulates that a team will not be stripped of the point awarded for reaching overtime if it scores an own-goal after replacing its goaltender with an extra attacker because the other team is about to penalized.