Dave Molinari on the Penguins: Former prospect Daniel Carcillo / An edge that isn't straight

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Playing in the middle of the desert isn't usually the fast track to fame in hockey, so Daniel Carcillo's name-recognition among many NHL fans might not be all that high.

Not yet, anyway.

Most guys who have had to play against him this season probably know who he is, even though they likely wish they didnot.

Carcillo not only has been a pretty solid performer for Phoenix, but has gone a long way toward establishing himself as one of the NHL's premier agitators.

It's neither a coincidence nor a quirk that he entered the Coyotes' game in Detroit last night as the most-penalized player in the league, having been assessed 130 minutes in 23 games. Over an 82-game season, that projects to 463 minutes, which would leave him one major and a couple of minors shy of matching the league record of 472 put up by Flyers winger Dave Schultz in 1974-75.

(The second-highest, 409, was set by Penguins defenseman Paul Baxter in 1981-82.)

And while the guys who played with Carcillo before the Penguins sent him (and a third-round draft choice) to the Coyotes for Georges Laraque Feb. 27 did not necessarily envision him keeping company with the likes of Schultz and Baxter in the record book -- not this quickly, anyway -- they do not seem surprised that he has spent a lot of quality time in the penalty box.

Or that he's been fairly productive when he isnot serving hard time.

Erik Christensen describes Carcillo as "one of the most underrated players I knew" when they were teammates with the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre.

"Dan is the kind of guy who does everything well," he said. "He can play the power play, he can kill penalties, he's physical, he's gritty. I don't know if he's a guy who has a weakness, other than his temper. He really did it all when I was in Wilkes-Barre.

"Dan was a really good prospect in this organization, and it was unfortunate for him, probably, that there were so many. It probably just wasn't the right fit for him in the end."

Carcillo might not quite be one of a kind, but they are not mass-producing guys like him, either. During his time in Wilkes-Barre, he earned a reputation as a guy who could be counted on to go all-out, all the time. On and off the ice.

Carcillo entered the game last night tied for fifth on the team in scoring with four goals and seven assists in 23 games. He also had 90 more penalty minutes than defenseman Nick Boynton, who ranked second on the team.

Carcillo is 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, but he plays with an edge and occasionally steps over it. The Coyotes obviously can live with that, though, because of the positive impact he can have.

"His temper can get the best of him but, in Phoenix, he's been given a chance to thrive," Christensen said. "And they've really appreciated what he does best."

Whether Carcillo carries a grudge over being traded is not known, but it should not be tough to figure out when the Coyotes visit Mellon Arena tomorrow at 7:38 p.m. The unpredictable streak that does so much to define him figures to last for a long, long time.

"He's definitely a different guy," Christensen said. "He doesn't really care what other people think. He's extremely confident, knows what he's capable of, knows he's a physical and tough guy. At the drop of a dime, he can turn that switch on and become that wild guy."

The man with his hand on the switch

Mike Yeo, the assistant coach who oversees the Penguins' power play, said a few days ago that "we have two units that would be the first unit on any team, I believe" because "both units can go out there and contribute and be a scary force."

OK, so that is not an entirely objective assessment but Yeo's underlying point about the talent the Penguins can send out when they have the extra man is valid.

Dispatching a group featuring Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney and Petr Sykora to replace one headlined by Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar is a pretty nice luxury.

While the Penguins' power-play conversion rate has not always been commensurate with their skill level -- it entered the weekend scoring on 20.9 percent of its chances -- Yeo believes that the recent switch to a shot-driven attack should help. So might a little one-upmanship between members of the two power-play groups.

"What we wanted to have right now is a little competition," he said. "There have been so many one-goal games this season, so every power play could be the difference."


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