Q: Do you know if there is any timetable on a return by Sergei Gonchar or Ryan Whitney? It is obviously going to be difficult to choose who to bench (when they return) and with the emerging play of Alex Goligoski, I don't see how management could send him back to the Baby Pens. How are the Penguins going to handle the situation when the team's top two defensemen return?
Bradley Nosse, Butler
MOLINARI: Whitney, who is recovering from foot surgery, began skating last week and said he expects to resume playing in late December or early January, although he did not rule out the possibility of coming back a little ahead of schedule. The original prognosis for Gonchar, who had surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder, was that he would be out for four to six months, and there apparently has been no change in that.
If the Penguins ever get to the point where they have nine healthy defensemen -- that would entail having Gonchar and Whitney back, while not having anyone else get hurt -- they would have the depth to allow general manager Ray Shero to trade a guy (or maybe even two) at that position to bolster other areas of his depth chart. Certainly, they wouldn't carry nine defensemen on their 23-man roster.
Returning Goligoski, who doesn't not have to go through waivers, to Wilkes-Barre would allow the Penguins to pare some payroll and open a little salary-cap space, but he has played too well for too long -- and has too much potential to get even better -- for management to seriously consider demoting him unless his game regresses dramatically. His offensive talents might not be as important to the Penguins once Gonchar and Whitney are back, but there's very little Goligoski could accomplish by dominating in the American Hockey League. He earned his place here, and deserves to keep it.
Q: Has the league put any thought into, when a penalty shot is called and the player doesn't score on it, having the offending team serve a minor penalty? It would increase the potential for goals and excitement, along with making a player really think twice before trying to illegally deny a scoring chance.
Craig Campbell, Washington, D.C.
MOLINARI: There undoubtedly are many, many things that get discussed at the league level without receiving formal consideration from the decision-makers there. So while there's no indication that the league has given serious thought to such a plan, it's conceivable that it has turned up in conversations from time to time.
It's hard to disagree with your feeling that such an arrangement would inject additional excitement and goal-scoring possibilities into games, but the thinking here is that teams should be penalized just once for a particular infraction.
In a typical season, penalty shots seem to be converted at about twice the rate of power plays. If a player commits an offense so grievous that a penalty shot is awarded, that should be sufficient punishment. After all, why should his team be punished a second time simply because the guy who took the penalty shot was unable to convert it?
Q: Suppose Team A has pulled its goalie and there is a faceoff at center ice. Team A wins the faceoff cleanly and accidentally puts the puck into its own net. Who on Team B gets credit for the goal? Does the official scorer have to go back to before the faceoff to find the last player from Team B who touched the puck?
Mike DeSensi, West View
MOLINARI: Keith Schreiber, official scorer for Penguins games at Mellon Arena (and every one they've ever played in Stockholm), confirms that the goal would be credited to the Team B player who lost the faceoff that resulted in the own-goal scored by Team A, even though the "goal-scorer" never actually made contact with the puck.