Shelly Anderson's Penguins chat transcript: 12.16.13

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Shelly Anderson: Lots to talk about today -- wins, injuries, wins, suspensions, wins... We go live at 2:30 p.m. Please join us then. You can also post your questions beforehand.

Ross: Is it a hockey thing where a suspended player can still practice and travel with the team? It seems with NFL and MLB the player is at home until they serve their time.

Shelly Anderson: I can't speak for the way other leagues handle suspended players, but in the NHL, yes, players who are suspended are allowed to, essentially, do everything but play. They can practice and travel with the team. Penguins winger James Neal and defenseman Deryk Engelland are under that stipulation now and are skating with the team. For obvious reasons, they usually aren't part of their regular line combination or defensive pairing at practice.<br/>

Marcus: With the fantastic play we are seeing from the Pens young D-men, is there any chance they move some of the older veterans (i.e. Orpik, Martin, Engo) to make room for Despres/Bortuzzo/Dumoulin once everyone starts to get healthy? It would also be a shame to lose Nisky's versatility at the end of the season...any word on an extension for him now that the Pens know what the cap will be in 2014-2015?

Shelly Anderson: Considering they are now, what?, 11 defensemen deep on the organizational depth chart and still only have six defensemen available for tonight's game, I don't see any rush to trade off any of the veterans. As for Matt Niskanen, my how things have chance from the summer when so many people were calling for or thought it was a given that he would be traded away. As of the moment, he is their most experienced defenseman in the lineup. I would think the Penguins might be looking into an extension for him before the end of the season.

The Chief: Shelly , when the dust settles, and assuming that there are no more injuries who from the Baby Penguins remains on the NHL roster?

Shelly Anderson: That's a lot of dust. We found out today that Tanner Glass might be back in less than a week and that Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang could be back shortly after Christmas, but the way things are going, who knows when decisions about some of the call-ups might have to be made. Those guys are vulnerable to being sent back down when, or if, the roster gets back to being intact because they, in general, don't have to clear waivers, In terms of play, certainly Jayson Megna and Simon Despres have looked as if they belong in the NHL.

The Chief: Shelly any scenario where #68 puts on a Penguins sweater again for the Cup run and silences all the boo birds?

Shelly Anderson: I can't see that happening. Jaromir Jagr probably burned a bridge here when he didn't respond to a Penguins offer a couple of summers ago. He would be a rental player, due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he's making $2 million. That doesn't diminish all that he has accomplished in an outstanding, Hall of Fame career. And for the record, booing him when he touches the puck when he plays in Pittsburgh is ridiculous.

Galdona127: Sadly, I missed the game while in the snow and ice of the mountains of North Carolina. With so many injuries, which reserves have stepped up and made a good account of themselves for our future?

Shelly Anderson: As mentioned before, Despres and Megna have stood out, but none have been detriments, as evidenced by the Penguins' record.

SDWC: Hi Shelly, how long can the Pens hold up with this defense as it's currently constructed? Saturday night was an awesome effort but the schedule is heavy until the Holiday break and I doubt anybody will be back before then.

Shelly Anderson: No, it doesn't look as if any injured/suspended defensemen will be back until after Christmas. But the Penguins' insistence on the NHL team and the AHL team, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, use the same systems and styles certainly has been beneficial. I'm not going to predict wins and losses, but it seems as if they can hold on a for four or five more games.<br/>

Pensfan: In your opinion, do you think Despres deserves a spot on the roster?

Shelly Anderson: Despres has improved in several ways -- in his confidence, his poise, his decision-making and his defensive play. He's ready to be in the NHL. When/if all the defensemen are healthy, it could be a matter of competition -- plus the waivers thing -- that determines whether he stays.

SDWC: Interesting that the Pens & Bruins are done for the year unless they meet in the playoffs. That may be a good thing to slow down some of this bad blood that appears to be escalating.

Shelly Anderson: If it means resorting to suspension-worthy incidents, then it's fine that they don't meet again. But two teams that get pumped up to meet each other often makes for good hockey.<br/>

Pensfan: Do you think Thornton's suspension length was a good decision?

Shelly Anderson: I do. My initial reaction was that Shawn Thornton should have gotten more than 15 games, but that would be out of whack with other suspensions. Given the supplemental discipline that has been handed out in recent years, 15 games is a lot. The biggest concern is whether it is enough to really get all players' attention and serve as a deterrent.

Elisa: Hey Shelly! Last week I asked you about Letang and Niskanen having to step up. Now it's pretty much Niskanen and the farm team. Do you see leadership qualities in Niskanen that will help the younger guys coming up?

Shelly Anderson: I talked to Matt Niskanen about that last week. He is ready and willing to assume more of a leadership role -- as well as more ice time and perhaps more responsibility. He's a thoughtful guy who will take that to heart.

The Chief: With the trickle down effect, where do the Nailers end up getting their players from all the call ups?

Shelly Anderson: The discount bin at K-Mart? Honestly, there are players out there who are more than willing to get a chance to play in the ECHL.

Pensfan: Which players should be healthy by mid-January?

Shelly Anderson: We don't know about Brooks Orpik (concussion), Paul Martin (broken leg) might be close by then, and not sure how the 8-10 week projection on Beau Bennett will play out. It could be that everyone else is back before or by then. And Tomas Vokoun might get some news soon about whether he can go off of blood-thinners.

Pensfan: Any updates on vokoun? Also, when he comes back, do you think JZ will be sent back down? If so, for how long?

Shelly Anderson: As mentioned, Vokoun should be meeting with his doctors before long. He had the procedure to dissolve a blood clot in late September, and doctors told him they would revisit his need to remain on blood-thinners after three months. That time is almost here. Doctors could advise him that he can discontinue the medication and rejoin the team, or he might be told to remain on them for another three months. Vokoun said recently that if he gets an extra three months, it's going to be difficult for him to come back this season. As for Jeff Zatkoff, he has played well, but the team likely will only carry two goalies. I don't think a decision about which one would handle the backup goaltending duty has been made.

Lee: Do you think that fighting will be eliminated from NHL hockey in our lifetime?

Shelly Anderson: There is more and more talk about the elimination of fighting, but within the NHL there are supporters at various levels -- owners, general managers players -- so while fighting seems to be down, I'm not sure we'll see it legislated out of the game anytime soon.

Chris: I've watched the Engelland hit over and over and don't see how it deserves an in person hearing. Do you think the NHL is getting a little out of hand with all of these suspensions? And I agree with you, 68 should not be booed when he touches the puck, he deserves cheers, he earned them!

Shelly Anderson: I don't think, in general, the NHL is overreacting. They are facing at least one lawsuit over concussions. As far as Engelland's hit on Detroit's Justin Abdelkader, there was contact to the head -- which the league is trying to eliminate -- and it looked bad because Engelland raised his elbow, although that was after the contact. Engelland and coach Dan Bylsma today said they were surprised it warranted an in-person hearing (which will happen Wednesday), which means the suspension can top five games.

The Chief: Shelly, how do the young Penguin D-men rank vs Joe Morrow when he was with the Baby Pens?

Shelly Anderson: I didn't see Joe Morrow play with Wilkes-Barre, so I can't offer an opinion there. But the Penguins are doing OK with Despres and Olli Maatta as the cornerstone young defensemen in their organization.

SDWC: Any concerns that Pascal Dupuis only has 5 goals in 34 games?

Shelly Anderson: Yes. He has set a standard in recent seasons with the Penguins, and he plays on the top line with Sidney Crosby. He adds a lot of other value -- penalty-killing, defensive play and simply having chemistry with Crosby -- but the goal number is a disappointment.

dave: Don't they have to make a decision on Matta after 40 games? Do the injuries ensure that he'll stay with the team?

Shelly Anderson: The big decision with Maatta was keeping him past nine games, when his entry-level contract kicked in. If he's here past the 40-game mark, it means he can reach free agency one year sooner. At this point, it seems out of the question that the Penguins would send him back to his junior club for that reason.

dave: Will the organization have a talk with James Neal about changing the way he plays similar to the talk they had with Matt Cooke?

Shelly Anderson: Dan Bylsma was asked about that. While the management certainly spoke with Neal after he was suspended for kneeing Boston's Brad Marchand, he doesn't fall into the same category as Matt Cooke, who set about making wholesale changes in his game with the assistance of Bylsma and others.

Pensfan: Say Voky doesn't get cleared to play for another 3 months. Do pens play JZ in playoffs? If Vokoun gets cleared to play in In spring, should pens play him for playoffs?

Shelly Anderson: That's a long way off. At this point, if Vokoun can't come back to the team and even practice until after the Olympic break, it will be difficult for him to be ready to play in the playoffs.<br/>The real answer to your question, though, is that the Penguins are going to put their faith fully into Marc-Andre Fleury as their playoff goaltender.

Shelly Anderson: OK, everyone. Thanks a lot for the questions. Chat with you again next week.

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