Usually, the curiosity is predictable for Tim Wallace when people hear he is from Alaska.
"I have quite a bit of questions, like, 'Do you live in an igloo?' " the winger said after the Penguins' morning skate yesterday as he got ready to play against the New York Islanders in his second NHL game since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The past few months, though, there has been a new wrinkle. Everyone wants to know about Alaska governor, recent Republican vice presidential candidate and "hockey mom" Sarah Palin.
"I don't really know her. She's about 45 minutes away from my hometown," said Wallace, who is from Anchorage.
"I think she did a good job in representing Alaska well."
Wallace is part of a recent pipeline of NHL players from the 49th state.
Among others are former Penguins goaltender Ty Conklin, now with Detroit; Philadelphia defenseman Matt Carle; and New York Rangers forwards Scott Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky.
"Alaska's a pretty good state," Wallace said.
"Scott Gomez has kind of paved the way for Alaska hockey. We have a pretty good pool of players up there."
The Penguins claimed Wallace, 26 and a former Notre Dame player, off waivers in January.
Whitney shopping for skates
Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney, who hopes to play in his first game of the season in the next week or two, is trying different skates to see what is most comfortable for his surgically corrected left foot.
One custom-made pair arrived this week.
"I'll probably be trying them out in the next week or so," Whitney said. "The ones I have are still good. It's just about trying things out, seeing what's best. They said to try a bunch of skates, see what feels the best."
Wallace is the 37th former Wheeling Nailers player to appear in the NHL, an East Coast Hockey League record. Wallace played there last season after joining the Penguins' organization.
He is the fourth former Nailer to reach the NHL this season and third with the Penguins, along with goaltender John Curry, who started last night, and winger Paul Bissonnette, who opened the season with the Penguins and is currently in Wilkes-Barre.
With defenseman Philippe Boucher returning to the lineup after missing six games because of what were believed to be concussion-like problems, the Penguins returned rookie Ben Lovejoy to Wilkes-Barre. ... If winger Janne Pesonen was down about being returned Tuesday to Wilkes-Barre after playing sparingly during his second call-up by the Penguins, it didn't show. He had three first-period assists Wednesday in the Baby Penguins' 7-3 win against Norfolk. ... The Penguins scratched rugged winger Eric Godard for the second game in a row. They had no other healthy scratches. ... Islanders winger Jon Sim, a former Penguin, was a healthy scratch after clearing waivers at midday. He was New York's only scratch. ... Ten players participated in the Penguins' optional morning skate the day after a 4-1 loss at New Jersey. They were defensemen Boucher, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang, forwards Wallace, Godard, Jeff Taffe, Matt Cooke and Chris Minard, and goaltenders Curry and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.