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Q: Do you think that with Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin of Washington as teammates in the Olympics, there will be less hostility between the two when their teams play during the regular season?
Brian Gefsky, Los Angeles
MOLINARI: The overt hostility between those two, which has been most apparent on those occasions when Ovechkin would go head-hunting against Malkin, seems to have subsided, and Russian Olympic officials can only hope that nothing happens to make it flare before the Games in Vancouver this winter because those will be the cornerstones of their country's lineup. (And, quite possibly, two-thirds of the line Russians hope will make it possible for them to win a gold medal.)
Even if Malkin and Ovechkin continue to co-exist pretty peacefully, however, it's hard to imagine them actually being close on those occasions when they're not wearing the same sweater. Both are on the short list of the world's finest players, and athletes of that caliber almost invariably are driven by their egos to out-do all competitors.
Factor in the Penguins-Capitals rivalry, which already burns white-hot and doesn't figure to cool down any time in the foreseeable future, and the non-Olympic relationship between Malkin and Ovechkin figures to include a strong undercurrent of tension for years to come. Of course, if that in any way contributes to the rarefied level at which those two perform, hockey fans should hope they don't become pals anytime soon.
Q: Why does it seem that most of the time when players dump the puck in, they don't quite reach the red line, but it seems to never be called icing. Am I the only one that notices this?
John Eberlein, Pittsburgh
MOLINARI: The guess here is that the linesmen charged with calling that violation treat it much the way umpires do with a phantom tag at second base, where a force out often will be called if the shortstop or second baseman gets the ball before the runner arrives, even if the fielder doesn't actually make contact with the base.
If the puck-carrier isn't being harassed by an opponent as he moves through center ice, the linesmen generally will not call an icing, even if the guy with the puck shoots it into the other end before he actually gets to the red line.
You're not the only one who's noticed that and it clearly is a violation of the letter of the law, but the flow of the game is a lot better when the linesmen don't stop play in such situations. Then again, if the linesmen would enforce the rule exactly as it's written, players would adjust to the strict interpretation quickly and easily enough.