Shelly Anderson: Welcome to the Veterans Day/Remembrance Day version of the weekly Penguins chat. Throw me some questions and we'll discuss the team.
Ed: Thoughts on Despres ever getting a call up? HCDB spoke so highly of Simon in the off season, it's a shame that he hasn't had a chance to prove his worth outside of WBS.
Shelly Anderson: Interesting case, isn't it? There are two things at work -- Simon Despres got beaten out by Olli Maatta for an NHL job this season, and Despres does not require waivers to move between the NHL and AHL. Haven't gotten detailed reports, but Despres seems to be doing what the Penguins want in the AHL -- eight points and plus-9 in 12 games. Believe he's been paired defensively a lot with Philip Samuelsson.
Ed: Any time table on Scuderi's return?
Shelly Anderson: Nothing from the Penguins on that, but recovery time from surgery on a broken ankle is usually measured in multiple weeks if not months. We're looking at something beyond the end of the calendar year anyway for a Rob Scuderi return.
Spanky: How close are we to James Neal being back?
Shelly Anderson: Not sure if this is a serious question. The Penguins defly kept it quiet that Neal was getting close to playing last week, and he played in Saturday's 5-1 loss to St. Louis. Played pretty well, too, with a couple of good chances.
The Chief: Shelly, what can you tell us about Pierre-Luc-Letourneau-Leblond.
Shelly Anderson: Rugged guy who plays with an edge and can pile up some penalty minutes. He had been on an AHL contract and last week signed a two-way contract. He cleared waivers, which was required for him to remain with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Dan: Why on our power plays do we always pass around looking for the perfect shot? Why not just fire away ala Caps & Alex?
Shelly Anderson: That's not a new frustration, and it isn't exclusive to the Penguins. Some movement is good, of course, because those on the power play are trying to draw the penalty killers into leaving a shooting lane open. Perhaps one reason for sometimes hanging onto the puck too long between shots is that the Penguins have not been great at getting to rebounds, so many times a shot, if it doesn't result in a goal, leads to the puck being cleared.
Clint: How much scoring do the Pens expect from the 3rd and 4th line guys now that all the forwards have come back? Seems more should be expected from Sutter's offensive game
Shelly Anderson: First of all, they aren't all back. Chuck Kobasew remains out because of an injury, and Tanner Glass missed practice today with a "maintenance day." As to Brandon Sutter, it's reasonable to think he should be producing a little more, but in his defense he has had revolving doors on both wings because of injuries and lineup changes. Might make it difficult to get comfortable and develop some chemistry with anyone.
Lee: Shelly, is it sometimes difficult to get good answers to interview questions after a bad Penguin loss?
Shelly Anderson: Not really. There's not always an abundance of players available to do interviews -- although that's sometimes the case after wins, too -- but the players, while upset with losing, are pretty honest about things.
John: I am wondering why the coaching staff is reluctant to criticize Evgeni Malkin's play this season. His lack of production seems to be accepted because of Neal's injury-however when you are an elite player I would think that you would produce with other wingers. Also his plus/minus is minus 4 and he is prone to the turnovers this season like all the past years-this never seems to change.
Shelly Anderson: Evgeni Malkin has had a spark here and there and is getting points -- but you're right that more is expected of him in terms of scoring. You're also right that he has turned the puck over. You might notice that the Penguins coaches aren't quick to dish out criticism of any players. They might feel that teaching and encouragement is a better route. Also, we don't know what is said behind closed doors.
The Chief: About 20% of the way through the season, any surprises/disappointments?
Shelly Anderson: You would have to say that it's somewhat surprising how well the team has done in stretches when injuries were piling up. Outside of the Penguins, the Metropolitan Division has been surprisingly lackluster. Olli Maatta certain qualifies as a pleasant surprise for the Penguins. The aforementioned offensive struggles of Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter are noticeable.
The Chief: When all are healthy, who do you see as the top six D and how will they be paired?
Shelly Anderson: It will be a while, but for now it seems the plan still is to have Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang on a top pairing and Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin as a shutdown pairing. You would think Matt Niskanen and Olli Maatta are the next two, but Robert Bortuzzo has earned some playing time. Deryk Engelland would seem to be No. 8 in an al-healthy situation, although he has played some at right wing. But at this rate, who knows whether all of the defensemen will be healthy.
Dan: All of a sudden teams like Wash & NYR are only a few points behind us. Can they maintain that closeness and who do you view as our legitimate long-term contenders in the Metro division?
Shelly Anderson: Some of that has to do with the Penguins losing a couple of games a row and having a light schedule. Starting Wednesday, when Philadelphia visits Consol Energy Center, the Penguins play 11 games over the final 18 days of the month, so a good run could help them pile up the points. The Rangers seems to be benefiting from finally getting some home games. Washington can always be considered a contender if it can get steady goaltending.
The Chief: In last Wednesday's game with the Rangers, the Penguins had the upper hand for the first 12 minutes of the game. What changed to give the Ranger's the edge or can it be simply summarized by "The King"?
Shelly Anderson: Henrik Lundqvist certainly is a goaltender who can win a game for his team, and that was part of it. The Penguins, though, had one of those games where mistakes mounted and it deteriorated into an ugly showing. Not much of an explanation for why that happens at times. Although they lost to the Blues in their next game, they played a much better game.
Dan: Who has the first fight Wednesday?
Shelly Anderson: Not sure, but it won't be Marc-Andre Fleury and Ray Emery. ... OK, thanks for the questions. Please join us again next week and every Monday.