Shelly Anderson: We're just about ready to roll. Keep the questions coming.
mike: is bylsma stubborn or just doesn't give guys a fair shot.....here are the numbers so far, neal 4 goals, all with tangradi on the ice for the even strength scores....this line functioned well last year because they had a guy like kunitz willing to head the net (granted, he's more experienced, a better skater and talented than tango) kennedy just doesn't provide what this line needs, it also weakens the third line....so why not give tangradi more than 2 shifts a game to prove himself?
Shelly Anderson: I don't see it as either, Mike. There was not a regular training camp to hold auditions for the left winger spot on Evgeni Malkin's line, so that's what we're seeing early in the season. The Penguins still have hopes for Eric Tangradi -- and perhaps he will get another shot on that line -- but it's not as if there was the kind of instant chemistry that Malkin and James Neal had. If Dan Bylsma doesn't feel things working out with Tyler Kennedy in that spot, it seems that Tanner Glass might be next up. Or perhaps general manager Ray Shero will be able to swing a deal to bring in yet another possibility.
JamesinNYC: Wow great game last night.....usually I hate the shootout and think it takes something away from the outcome but last night was an exception. Felt right that one team won, and of course happy it was the Pens. What is your feeling on shootouts? Any feelings on personal moves on the way?
Shelly Anderson: The thing that's difficult to accept about the shootout is that now some games are worth three points while most are worth two. There's something out of whack about that. Other than that, it's something for the fans and not necessarily widely liked among in and around the game. There were references last night to the win over Ottawa being decided by a skills competition, for example.
mike: the power play looks really disjointed at moment, are they content to ride it out as long as they are winning? with it looking like it does now, it could doom them in the spring
Shelly Anderson: The Penguins were 0-for-5 on the power play against an Ottawa penalty kill that, I believe, ranks in the top five in the NHL. The Penguins had a hard time setting up before the puck was headed back toward the other end of the rink. As for change, I doubt there will be any panic moves anytime soon. That's based on the personnel. Most GMs would salivate at the thought of having Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang on their top unit.
tony: Do you feel like there's something intangible missing from this team? It seems like the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Shelly Anderson: Yes, I have sensed that, but for now I attribute it to the long lockout, the fact that players were scattered for so many months, a short training camp, rust, etc. They are above .500, though, so as long as things even out and settle down, they should get past this.
mike: what's the sense of beau bennett sitting in WBS? i would understand the waivers answer if bylsma was playing despres over a marginal talent like lovejoy.....why not play bennett and expose another guy (to waivers) who apparently doesn't cut it for bylsma?
Shelly Anderson: It's obvious the Penguins didn't think Beau Bennett was ready to take on a role such as playing left winger with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. He's a first-round draft pick with skill, but he's also a first-year pro who could otherwise be a junior in college. The Penguins want to see him dominate at the AHL level for now. One other thing -- Bennett told me that his surgically repaired wrist from last season has plateaued in its healing. He has range of motion, but he won't be able to strengthen it properly until the offseason.
tony: What does Despres need to do to get out of the doghouse?
Shelly Anderson: Not sure he's in the doghouse, per se. The Penguins have two other capable defensemen vying for playing time in Ben Lovejoy, who has experience, and Robert Bortuzzo. Simon Despres got a few games, wasn't spectacular, and so they turned to Lovejoy for now. That doesn't mean Despres is no longer in their plans.
dave: Why is Geno committing so many turnovers? Having played in the KHL during the lockout, it seems like he should be performing better.
Shelly Anderson: Interesting point, and something I wondered about as well with Evgeni Malkin, who spent the lockout playing -- and doing it very well -- for his hometown Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia. There just has to be a transition going from the KHL back to the NHL. Perhaps he has to re-learn just how talented top to bottom the NHL is. Or he's just had a few mental lapses and will snap back to form.
TommyP: Paul Martin'S improved play: an aberration or more to the new norm? If the latter is the case, to what/who can we thank for the turnaround?
Shelly Anderson: There's no reason Paul Martin's strong play won't continue. He was a proven player when the Penguins signed him. He had a bad season. He's a smart guy. He's capable of turning things around for the long term. Not sure he has credited anything or anyone, but the players talk and coach among themselves a lot, and assistant Todd Reirden works closely with the defensemen.
Geddy Lee: Do you know how the league keeps track of ice time for each player? It seems like a difficult stat to determine.
Shelly Anderson: At Consol Energy Center, we Post-Gazette writers sit in front of a row of off-ice officials who are diligent in tracking ice time and all sorts of stats. They confer and talk throughout the game. They mark the time when any player goes on or off the ice.
JamesinNYC: Maybe Malkin is used to more spacious international rinks?
Shelly Anderson: That's certainly possible. Or perhaps KHL players give him more leeway out of respect for his skill and not wanting to get caught with him taking off on a breakaway. I'm going to guess Malkin will get the turnovers out of his system, though.
TommyP: It seems that the boarding calls (among others) have fallen to great scrutiny lately. Safe to say the refs had a short training camp (and no pre-season) and expect these calls to grow some consistency?
Shelly Anderson: The Penguins have questioned the criteria for boarding calls this season. You're right -- there needs to be consistency. But if referees are going to pull back on their tolerance for that particular offense, it's up to players to abide by it.
mike: have you heard any of the despres trade rumblings?
Shelly Anderson: Nothing specific, although GM Ray Shero is well connected to his colleagues around the league and surely will listen to any reasonable offers, whether they include Simon Despres or others. I don't get the sense the Penguins are shopping him, though.
mike: no word on niskanen yet? with practice cancelled is there a morning skate tomorrow?
Shelly Anderson: No, the Penguins don't plan to announce anything on Matt Niskanen's injury until tomorrow. It's believed to be something such as an ankle or knee, of unknown severity. It's a big loss if he's out for an extended time.
dave: Why did they sign Mark Eaton to the baby penguins? Do they think he has a chance to play in the NHL this season?
Shelly Anderson: Primarily, they signed him -- and it's just a professional tryout agreement, not an NHL contract -- to help the AHL team and to give Eaton a chance to play and perhaps prove he can still make an NHL roster. It's doubtful it would be the Penguins' NHL roster, though. They are stacked at defense. The biggest question with Eaton is not his playing ability, though. It's his ability to stay healthy.
Jon: Do you sense there is any pressure on the team to make a serious run at the cup again? They are 3 season removed from winning it all and have done little in the playoffs since. Maybe they had success too early?
Shelly Anderson: Sure, there's all kinds of pressure from outside the club to win another title. Inside the club, it's more of a hunger. From the players, anyway. With any highly talented club, there is some pressure on the coaches and management to produce championships.
mike: on a team not scoring may goals, why is a skilled guy like jeffrey sitting, especially with tanner glass being asked to fill a role on 2 lines that you expect to provide some scoring (2nd and 3rd)?
Shelly Anderson: That's been a question dating to last season after Dustin Jeffrey came back from a knee injury. For now, it seems to be straight-up competition. He will have to beat out someone like Tanner Glass or Joe Vitale for a job. Jeffrey does have skill, but he doesn't have the toughness of Glass or Vitale.
Shelly Anderson: OK, that's a wrap. Thanks to all. Got to most of the questions. Please join us again next week.
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