dhbalt: Hi, curious as to why the Pens haven't tried to play Staal and Crosby together on a line more? Chemistry sometimes takes more than a few attempts and Staal has the large frame that could work well in front of the goalie plus the skill to put the puck in the net.
Shelly Anderson: Well, the Penguins have tried just about every other combination that is mathmatically possible, eh? I see your point, but it seems the Penguins have for now decided to try to keep Jordan Staal at center. He is the third-line center when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are centering the top two lines, and the second-line center when coach Michel Therrien puts Malkin on Crosby's wing. Staal has had decent chemistry playing on Malkin's left wing at times, but they have not really explored Staal and Crosby together.
robsdaddy: Do you think M. Therrien had too much say in a couple of personnel moves that backfired on Ray Shero? Specifically keeping Dany Sabourin over Ty Conklin and forcing Shero to trade Darryl Sydor for Phillipe Boucher?
Shelly Anderson: Ray Shero is not a cowboy general manager. That is, he is willing to give others in management and even players a say in things when he can. While I'm sure coach Michel Therrien offers his opinions and they are well received by Shero, the GM is a strong enough person that I'm sure he making the final decisions. Therrien seemed to be a fan of Michel Ouellet's, yet Shero deemed the winger expendible. Therrien also liked Dany Sabourin, but it became obvious the team needed an upgrade in its backup goaltending, and Sabourin was traded. Ty Conklin's decision to sign with Detroit was rooted deeply in contract terms. Shero was not going to demand that Therrien play Darryl Sydor more and accommodated the veteran defenseman with a trade to Dallas for Philippe Boucher -- who also is not playing a great deal.
beerman0303: Do you think Sid and Geno should be on the same line? It seemed to me that Babcock put Zetterberg and Datsyuk out against Sid and Geno when they played together and totally neutralized them. That leaves the other lines to carry the scoring load, and that isn't likely to happen, is it?
Shelly Anderson: Playing Evgeni Malkin on Sidney Crosby's left wing is always a temporary solution when the team needs an offensive boost. The two play well together -- sometimes for games at a time and sometimes just for parts of one game -- but Malkin best serves the team as a center and, as you point out, that clusters an awful lot of skill on one line.
Bones: If the Pens end up sellers at the deadline, who do you think is most likely to be moved?
Shelly Anderson: Even if the Penguins seem doomed not to make the playoffs as the March 4 trade deadline approaches, it seems unlikely they will move completely into the seller's category -- unless a big deal too good to pass surfaces that will offer long-term improvement. The Penguins have a surplus of defensemen and could use an influx of draft picks. Look for those elements to be addressed.
beerman0303: Fedetenko has been out since Jan 6th, any update on when he will be ready to rejoin the Pens? How close is Gonchar to returning?
Shelly Anderson: Winger Ruslan Fedotenko is close and is practicing with the team, although he is wearing a red, no-contact jersey. He is just waiting for his broken hand to get a little stronger because he still feels like a liability in terms of stick-handling. It could be a race between him and defenseman Sergei Gonchar to see who plays first. Gonchar, who has not played this season after shoulder surgery, is practicing with full contact. The amount of pain he has is troubling him some, but he sees the doctor Wednesday. He doesn't expect to play against San Jose that night but could be back anytime after that if things go well with the doctor visit.
beerman0303: Will there be a significant financial impact on the franchise if the Pens miss out on the playoffs this year, even if it would only be for one series?
Shelly Anderson: There's no question the club has put a premium on at least making the playoffs, which would ensure two home games. Not only would that help financially, but it also would be good for team morale, for attracting potential free-agent talent, for season ticket interest, etc. With a new arena set to open for the 2010-11 season and lots of upside with the young talent on the team, missing the playoffs would be a setback but not something they couldn't overcome.
beerman0303: Obviously, Satan is in the coach's doghouse. Has Satan just lost interest or does not no longer have the skill to be a top six forward on a winning team?
Shelly Anderson: Miroslav Satan was signed over the summer to help replace talent lost at the wing spots. He has 14 goals but his scoring has tailed off significantly -- two goals in 24 games. His ice time got reduced to under 10 minutes Sunday against Detroit. It's looking like he just isn't the right fit here. He has skill but always been streaky or inconsistent, whichever term you prefer, and he lacks the grit and tenacious backchecking the Penguins need from their wingers.
beerman0303: If the Pens do indeed miss the playoffs, is there anything positive they will be able to take from the season or will it have to be declared a total loss?
Shelly Anderson: Well, a higher draft pick comes to mind. There's also the lessons learned from missing the playoffs a season after making it to the Stanley Cup final. And, judging from the character this team seems to have, missing the playoffs could prompt a strong fresh start for next season.
pens22: Why do you think Michel Therrien is playing Ryan Whitney so much lately? He's been at least -9 over the last few games. Last year, Whitney was in his dog house and even played forward for a few games...now he comes back from an injury and it seems like he gets to play all the time. Do you think he will see significantly less playing time when Gonchar comes back and/or be used in a trade?
Shelly Anderson: It will be interesting on many fronts to see how things change when top defenseman Sergei Gonchar returns from shoulder surgery. As for Ryan Whitney, this is not like last season, when it turns out he was very limited by a congenital foot problem that required surgery. The Penguins need Whitney, and they need him to play to his abundant potential. Perhaps for now they are willing to see if a lot of playing time is what he needs. He's not likely to get better being benched or getting the 'winger punishment.'
Shelly Anderson: Thanks, folks. Have a good week.