Shero's moves have turned into power plays

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Marian Who?

Really, who needs Marian Hossa?

OK, that's ridiculous. I'll give you that. The Penguins would be an even better team with Hossa, who bailed on them after the run to the Stanley Cup final last season to sign a one-year deal for less money with the Detroit Red Wings. He has four goals in these playoffs, had 40 this season and clearly is one of the world's top players.

The point is Hossa's replacements aren't doing all that badly.

It just took awhile.

Like forever, actually.

Penguins general manager Ray Shero was widely barbecued for not having a Plan B last summer after Hossa turned down the Penguins' rich, multi-year offer. Signing free-agent forwards Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan to play with stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin seemed like dubious moves, especially during the season when Fedotenko made his biggest news in January when his right hand lost a fight with former Penguins winger Colby Armstrong's face and Satan made his in early March by being demoted to the minors.

Well, look at the guys who have played big parts for the Penguins in their playoff series against the Washington Capitals, raw hostilities that will end tonight at Mellon Arena if the Penguins can win Game 6 to move on to the Eastern Conference final.

Only one Pittsburgh player has a three-game, goal-scoring streak going and it is not Crosby or Malkin. It's Fedotenko. It's probably no coincidence the Penguins won all three games.

Satan, after resurrecting his career from the dead, also has made a sizable impact in the tense series. His assists on a Jordan Staal goal in Game 5 and a Crosby goal in Game 4 were as sweet as any in this postseason.

"I'm happy for those guys," Shero said Saturday night after the Penguins went to overtime to beat the Capitals, 4-3, in Game 5 to take a 3-2 edge in the series.

Shero must be feeling pretty happy for himself, too.

"They were just one-year deals," he said of the Fedotenko and Satan contracts. "Even if I had been dead wrong about those guys ... "

The $2.25 million that Shero gave Fedotenko seemed like money well spent Saturday night about the time Fedotenko took a drop pass from Malkin and banged a one-timer past goaltender Simeon Varlamov to pull the Penguins into a 2-2, third-period tie. Certainly, there was nothing cheap about that goal like Fedotenko's Game 4 goal when his harmless-looking wrist shot clanged off Varlamov's glove into the net. "He's such a big, strong guy with a great shot," Shero said. "With him, one shot and the puck can go in at any time."

Fedotenko, who missed 15 games with that broken hand, picked a nice spot in Game 3 to score, negating a 1-0, second-period Capitals' lead. His timing was even better in Game 6 of the Philadelphia series; just 29 seconds after the Flyers took a 3-0, second-period lead and 14 seconds after teammate Max Talbot was beaten silly in what the Penguins swear was a momentum-turning fight with heavyweight Daniel Carcillo. Fedotenko scored to start an amazing comeback in what became a series-clinching 5-3 win.

"The guy has a history of scoring big goals," Shero said.

Would you believe 12 in the 2004 playoffs when Fedotenko's Tampa Bay hockey club won the Cup? How about both in the 2-1 Game 7 win against Calgary in the final?

For sure, we should have seen this Fedotenko roll coming. He predicted as much. It was after the Game 2 loss to the Capitals, a hurtful defeat that put the Penguins into a deep, dark 0-2 hole. Malkin, who had gone five games without a goal, was getting ripped by the press.

"As one of his linemates, I feel like we have to do more to help him," Fedotenko said.

So he did.

Three wins later ...

Hey, don't overlook Satan's contributions.

There's no way we could have seen those coming. Satan -- signed to what seemed like an absurd $3.5 million contract -- was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to make salary-cap room after Shero traded for winger Bill Guerin. He was brought back for the playoffs as injury insurance or in the event forward Petr Sykora continued to struggle.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma went to Satan -- a 354-goal man in his career -- for Games 5 and 6 against Philadelphia after Sykora did nothing in the first four. After giving Sykora two more chances in the first two games against the Capitals, Bylsma again went to Satan.

Smart man, Bylsma.

Did you see Crosby point to Satan after converting his perfect pass on a two-on-one to give the Penguins a 4-2 lead in Game 4? "That was all you."

Staal had pretty much the same reaction after Satan set up him in the second period of Game 5 to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. It was Staal's first goal of the playoffs.

"I sat down with Miro for about 5 or 10 minutes on the plane on our way down here," Shero said. "I told him how proud I was of him. He deserves all the credit in the world. He had every reason to quit and go back home [to Slovakia] when we sent him down. But he kept playing, kept working. And the best thing is, if you ask our people down there, they'll tell you he was a great guy there."

It's nice to think Satan and Fedotenko will keep producing. Matt Cooke, a free-agent pickup in the offseason who got his first goal of the playoffs Saturday night. Guerin, who scored an important goal in Game 4 ...

Don't be too surprised if top-line winger Chris Kunitz gets his first goal of the postseason tonight.

Shero traded defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim to get Kunitz in February.

Shero is on that kind of a roll.

Ron Cook can be reached at .


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