Q: Maybe I am missing something, but three No. 1 draft picks and a great shootout player for Marian Hossa? This guy has looked no better than a second-line winger, at best. What is the deal; is he hurt? That may explain some, but not all of this. I have not seen this player take over a shift, let alone a game, and that is not indicative of a player worth three No. 1 picks.
Chris Costa, Warwick, N.Y.
MOLINARI: There is no evidence that Hossa is hurt, or that he is feeling the effects of the knee injury that caused him to miss six games after the Penguins sent Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and their No. 1 draft choice in 2008 to Atlanta for him minutes before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
Going into Game 3 of their opening-round playoff series against Ottawa last night, Hossa had given the Penguins the solid, responsible two-way play they expected, but he clearly had not been the game-breaking goal-scorer the Penguins were seeking to play alongside Sidney Crosby.
The encouraging thing for Hossa (and his bosses) going into last night's game was that he has been getting plenty of quality scoring chances. Senators goalie Martin Gerber made a couple of sensational stops on him from close range in Game 1, and managed to tie up Hossa so that he couldn't knock in a shot from inside the crease during the third period of the second game.
Coming close to scoring isn't much of a consolation prize, of course -- the puck either makes it into the net, or it doesn't -- but it does give all concerned reason to believe Hossa might be able to start capitalizing on some of the opportunities he's been getting and, in the process, shed his reputation for failing to produce to his potential during the playoffs.
Hossa has pointed out, quite correctly, that many of the teams for which he played didn't last long in the playoffs, which limited the chances he had to score goals and put up point. The flip side of that, of course, is that if Hossa had scored the way he is expected to, perhaps his clubs' playoff runs would not have ended so quickly.
In any case, Hossa's failure to generate as many goals as anticipated certainly has nothing to do with a ahortage of motivation. Not only does he have the incentive of trying to help the Penguins challenge for the Stanley Cup, but he is scheduled to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent July 1, and a strong showing in the games that really count could only raise his value to prospective employers.
Q: I heard that fights occurring with under five minutes remaining in the game were penalized by the NHL with fines and possibly suspensions. Can you verify this?
Jeff Snyder, Pittsburgh
MOLINARI: The rules to which you refer actually pertain to players who are deemed to be the instigators of a fight during the final five minutes of regulation, or at any point in overtime.
Per Rule 47.12, a player judged to be guilty of that is to be assessed an instigating minor, a fighting major and a game misconduct, but the potential punishments don't stop there. Rule 47.22 mandates that the player in question receive an automatic one-game suspension, but requires of review of the incident by the league's director of hockey operations, who is empowered to overturn it. Also, when the one-game suspension is imposed, the player's coach is fined $10,000, with the amount being doubled for any subsequent violation