Penguins set for good start

Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari

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Question: With a few acquisitions, how do you think the team will do in the early part of this new season?

Rick McGonigal, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

MOLINARI: Predictions are always risky, but it's become clear that post-dictions tend to be a lot more accurate. Ergo, the thinking here is that the Penguins are a pretty good bet to start the season 2-0, with a couple of narrow victories over the New York Rangers and New York Islanders.

Beyond that, there's no good reason the Penguins should fail to get a fairly strong start. They are relatively healthy, with Max Talbot the only regular who is missing for an extended period (at least for the moment), and there are few indications players are complacent in the wake of winning the Stanley Cup.

Of course, no one can realistically expect them to approach games in October with the same passion they showed in April through June. The games now count, obviously, but Game No. 3 of the regular season against Phoenix simply is not as important as, say, Game No. 3 of the second-round series against Washington was.

One thing that doesn't particularly work in the Penguins' favor is their schedule. They have four sets of games on consecutive days during October, and two four-game road trips during the first five-plus weeks. None of that should be enough to sabotage their chances for a productive first quarter, however.

Question: Is a team permitted to have three players wear the alternate captain's "A", in addition to one wearing the "C?" Bill Guerin seems a logical choice to be one of the alternates, but if you can only have two, it'd be pretty hard to take the "A" from Sergei Gonchar or Evgeni Malkin.

Mike, Pittsburgh

MOLINARI: Teams must choose between having one captain and two alternates or just three alternates.

Happily for the Penguins, players don't have to have a letter stitched to their sweater in order to act as leaders, so guys like Guerin, Brooks Orpik and Talbot, among others, can continue to go about the business of being a positive force for their teammates, on and off the ice.

Question: I was at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens' home opener and was reminded that Dustin Jeffrey wears No. 21. I know Michel Bri??re's No. 21 hangs in Mellon Arena. Is there any special reason Jeffrey is permitted to wear his number, even at the minor-league level?

Todd Yatchyshyn, Wind Gap, Pa.

MOLINARI: Briere never played in Wilkes-Barre, and it's unlikely that the vast majority of fans in Northeastern Pennsylvania ever saw him play -- heck, there are a couple generations of fans here who know of Briere only via black-and-white news footage -- so there's no real reason to put his number off-limits to players there. When Jeffrey returns to the NHL, however, you can reasonably assume that he won't have No. 21.


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