Chris Kunitz scores on Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin in the first period at Consol Energy Center on Nov. 22.
Shelly Anderson - Hello, everyone. We’ll go live at p.m., but you can submit questions beforehand, too.
The Chief: Shelly, how doe you see our four lines shaping up for tonight? Will be see #5 back as a wing on the fourth line?
Shelly Anderson - I’m not in Boston for this one, but it looks as if the Penguins will go with their “old” lines, the ones they used after Beau Bennett got hurt, with Zach Sill filling in for injured fourth-liner Tanner Glass. That would be Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis, Jussi Jokinen-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal, Matt D’Agostini-Brandon Sutter-Brian Gibbons and Sill-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams. Not sure if Deryk Engelland or Robert Bortuzzo will be on the third defensive pairing with Matt Niskanen, but because the Penguins recalled Sill and Andrew Ebbett, it doesn’t look as if they’re going back to the Engelland-on-the-wing look.
King: Are the penguins on the Blackhawks level?
Shelly Anderson - I think so, yes. It’s tough to do a position-by-position breakdown of any two clubs, but the Penguins certainly are on an elite level, as are the Blackhawks. Chicago has that extra Stanley Cup now to hold over the Penguins’ heads, but on terms of being on the same level, I believe so.
JamesinNYC: Any clue how long Bennet will be out?
Shelly Anderson - The team has not given a definitive answer, nor details on his injury, but coach Dan Bylsma said this morning that Beau Bennett and Tanner Glass are something longer than day-to-day status. Bennett is on IR, although that only means he has to miss another couple of games before he could be activated. The vibe seems to be that it will be longer than that.
Chief Powhatan: Have the Penguins dithed the powder blue “third jersey” for good?
Shelly Anderson - Assume you mean “ditched.” Those have been mothballed. Never say never, but they already have used a different third jersey, the darker blue one, since then, so I don’t think there’s a push to bring them back.
dave: What do you think of Plekanec’s comments about getting Crosby off his game? I think he’s right. The Penguins are way too thin-skinned.
Shelly Anderson - Don’t think I saw those specific comments, although he wouldn’t be the first to say that about Sidney Crosby. I think he’s done a pretty good job of keeping his cool. Sometimes (think, in Philadelphia) attempts to goad Crosby into to getting off of his game have the opposite effect.
Chief Powhatan: Do you think the NHL will ever adapt the NFL’s policy of disclosing ‘exactly’ what the injury is so fans aren’t subjected to upper/lower body prognosis?
Shelly Anderson - You might notice that the Post-Gazette rarely uses the contrived “upper-body” and “lower-body” references, because we don’t believe those have much meaning. If we aren’t able to report what the injury is, we say that it is undisclosed (although we do try to find out and report it). As of now, it’s not likely that the NHL will start requiring accurate injury updates. The NFL does that because transparency helps control information related to gambling.
The Chief: Neal’s pass to Geno to get the monkey off his back was truly a team first thing, why did Coach Blysma seem to get so upset over that move?
Shelly Anderson - Dan Bylsma certainly was glad to see Evgeni Malkin score and end his 15-game goal drought, but he always wants the players to go with the higher-percentage play. James Neal is a scorer, and it’s true he was passing up a good chance to get the puck to Malkin, who scored despite not being ready because he thought Neal would shoot it in that situation. It ended up working out for the Penguins; Bylsma just wanted to send a reminder that he needs them to use every possible edge in trying to win, and that they shouldn’t stray from what they are coached to do.
Lee: Shelly, Some players are said to be injury-prone and have a history of injuries. Do you think this is sometimes due to poor conditioning on the player’s or team’s part?
Shelly Anderson - I haven’t seen evidence of that. Many of the Penguins’ injuries are the result of hits by opposing players or blocking shots. Sidney Crosby is as strong and well-conditioned as anyone, and that is unrelated to his concussion and his broken jaw.
dave: Before last season, they were concerned about how many regular season games Fleury was playing. Aren’t they concerned about that now? Why don’t they either give Zatkoff some more starts or trade for a more dependable backup?
Shelly Anderson - I would have to think they are still concerned about managing Marc-Andre Fleury’s workload during the regular season. However, they were not counting on Tomas Vokoun’s long-term absence because of blood clot/blood-thinner issues. I don’t think they view rookie Jeff Zatkoff as undependable; he’s just unproven. For a while, the team’s schedule was relatively light. Now that it has picked up, I would expect Zatkoff to get a few more games. Plus, unless Fleury plays his way onto the Canadian Olympic team -- and then plays a fair amount -- he will get a long rest in February.
The Chief: Jeff Zatkoff, seems to be gaining confidence. Is he a keeper and could Vokum be a trade candidate if/when he returns?
Shelly Anderson - I don’t see Vokoun as a trade candidate. We don’t know for sure when doctors are going to clear him to stop taking blood-thinners. And there isn’t that much of a market for rental players who are backup goaltenders pushing 40. I agree, that Zatkoff is settling in.
Chief Powhatan: The Pens currently rank 2nd in PK (87%) and 6th (22.4%)in PP. Wouldn’t you think our 5-on-5 needs to improve?
Shelly Anderson - Yes, it could. There have been a lot of games over the past few weeks when production and puck management have been lacking five-on-five. That’s in large part what led to the shakeup of the line combinations. It doesn’t seem to be an issue so much with personnel -- beyond the impact of injuries, anyway -- so it is correctable.
Chief Powhatan: Shelly, sorry I misspelled ditched.
Shelly Anderson - It’s OK. I make typos, too.
Shelly Anderson - Any last question or two?
Chief Powhatan: Kohl’s or JCP?
Shelly Anderson - Ikea.
dave: Why does Malkin play the point on the PP?
Shelly Anderson - He sort of does and sort of doesn’t. The Penguins have a lot of times this season used just one defenseman on the power play, Kris Letang or, a lot lately, Paul Martin. Malkin will then rotate back to the point, but sometimes the unit takes on an umbrella look with the defenseman at the center point. The problem with having Malkin or any forward at the point is keeping the puck in. But it hasn’t been a huge issue. The Penguins have gotten some good, crisp movement -- and a couple of really nice goals -- lately once they get set up.
SDWC: Do you think Washington will push the Pens for the division lead?
Shelly Anderson - If Alex Ovechkin keeps scoring at this pace and Holtby finally gives them a stable goalie, the Capitals could indeed.
Shelly Anderson - Thanks, everyone. Have a good Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again next Monday.
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