Guest: What if any moves do you see the Pens making before the deadline?
Shelly Anderson: Good question. The trade deadline this lockout-altered season is April 3. One big question will be the health status of center Evgeni Malkin between now and then. If his concussion appears to be a longer-term thing by then, a rent-a-scorer whose contract is up after this season might make more sense. With the signing of Mark Eaton today, the team still has some trade bait among defensemen. The problem is, they might not want to part with their top three or four defensemen, and might not get much return on the others.
Pablo: Shelly, what do you make of the reports that Malkin had severe headaches and some disorientation? And then Bylsma's denial of those symptoms. Were the reports just wrong or is Bylsma not being entirely forthcoming?
Shelly Anderson: Our reporting did not turn up evidence that Evgeni Malkin had those symptoms, plain and simply. That's all there is to is from the Post-Gazette's standpoint. I will say that if Malkin had short-term memory loss as early as Friday after he slammed into the boards, the Penguins did sit on that news for 48 hours.
Brandon: What defensemen, if the above happened do you see the Pens more likely to parts ways with for the rent-a-scorer?
Shelly Anderson: That's nearly impossible to say because it's all moving parts. We don't know who will be available for what price, or how other teams value or evaluate the Penguins players. That said, it's hard to see the Penguins shipping Kris Letang or Simon Despres off.
Wild Bill: Hello, Shelly, one of my favorite players is Fleury, but I think that he still has progress to make in the area of rebound control - only thing that keeps him from being the best. Do you agree, or see something that I'm not seeing?
Shelly Anderson: I would tend to disagree. The area he has most trouble with is stickhandling, although that seems a bit better this season. And he's winning like crazy lately. In fact, he's the subject of my story for the Tuesday Post-Gazette. I haven't noticed rebound control being a glaring problem for him this season.
Brandon: Has Bylsma addressed of why they keep letting teams back in when the Pens go up by 2 or 3 goals? It is getting very annoying that it repeatedly happens against the Flyers.
Shelly Anderson: I'm sure behind closed doors that is a topic that Dan Bylsma has addressed. The Penguins have scored first, and sometimes a couple of times, in most of their games. They have let a lot of those teams back in the game. I have noticed that sometimes the trailing opponents have really stepped things up in the second and/or third period, but the Penguins have a little work to do in terms of not taking the foot off of the gas pedal.
Wild Bill: Your thoughts on the draft realignment with 4 conferences?
Shelly Anderson: Nothing official yet. No problem at all with going to four conferences. The Penguins, it seems, will keep their Atlantic Division rivals and pick up Washington, Columbus and maybe Carolina. Seems like a good way to expand rivalries. Also no problem with Columbus and Detroit moving to the East, if that's what happens. Having an unbalanced number of teams in each conference between the East and West could be problematic in terms of the playoffs.
Wild Bill: Do you think that players around the league agree with the Senators' hissy fit over Cooke, or do they think that the owner, in particular, went over the top with his comments?
Shelly Anderson: I haven't asked any "neutral" people from teams other than the Penguins and Senators. However, there hasn't been an uproar, there was no penalty on the play and the NHL did not see any reason for supplemental discipline. It's understandable that Ottawa folks are upset over star defenseman Erik Karlsson getting his Achilles' tendon sliced most of the way, but there is really no doubt that it was an accident, as Matt Cooke has said repeatedly. It would be very difficult for a player to do that intentionally as the pace of the game.
Brandon: Assuming Malkin is done for the season, what would you put the Pens odds at winning the Cup without him?
Shelly Anderson: I'm not anywhere close to making that assumption. Concussions are fickle, though. He could be back next week or next season. If the Penguins can settle their lines -- they looked pretty good Sunday night -- and perhaps get a rent-a-scorer if it becomes clear Malkin will be out long-term, the Penguins could still be considered a contender barring other injuries. Why not? They still have Sidney Crosby and a lot of other talent.
Pablo: Any word on tomorrow's starter? Vokoun against his former team? I know Bylsma said he'd like to get him into a game soon after that poor performance against the Flyers (where he probably should have been pulled after the 4th goal).
Shelly Anderson: I haven't heard. Tough to guess because I thought last week that Tomas Vokoun would start against his old club, Florida.
Wild Bill: Are some of the gaudy win totals coming out of the West (Chicago) assisted greatly because they don't have to play the East? Is the East more balanced?
Shelly Anderson: Chicago is doing an incredible job -- no regulation losses. I'm not sure of the reason. Some think it's the better travel schedule. There are a couple of struggling teams in the East, too. Without seeing any interconference play until the Stanley Cup final, your guess is as good as mine.
dave: Why do you think they signed Eaton? Does he give them something they don't already have?
Shelly Anderson: He's a reliable defensive defenseman if he stays healthy. He brings a lot of experience. They have watched him at Wilkes-Barre and at practice with the Penguins and must feel he still can play. The money ($750,000) is low-risk in terms of the salary cap. The biggest question is in numbers. When Malkin comes back, the Penguins will have to go with eight defensemen and lose a forward or trim a defenseman.
Pablo: Pretty clear the team has lost faith in Boychuk (understandably so). Who would be the next forward to come from WBS if he is released?
Shelly Anderson: With Mark Eaton now signed, maybe no one. The team could choose to carry eight defensemen if it moves Boychuk. A couple of forwards are playing well in the AHL, but they don't seem ready for the NHL. Beau Bennett was the one to really watch, and he's up here now.
mario: Malkin wasn't playing as well as usual before the concussion. Could there be something bothering him that we don't know about? It doesn't seem like he's been doing as many interviews this season either.
Shelly Anderson: Malkin decidedly was not speaking with reporters much this season, but I have no indication that it's because he is hiding some sort of injury or problem. He's just not very comfortable speaking publicly, which is too bad because he's good a great personality.
Pablo: If anything, I'd say the East has more weak teams: Florida, Winnipeg, Washington, Buffalo. Only Columbus in the West would be worse than those four.
Shelly Anderson: True. But the teams at the top in the East might be more balanced, especially compared with Chicago.
Wild Bill: I thought it was really classy the way the Pens treated the military vets over the weekend. Somebody in PR for the Pens is doing their job really well.
Shelly Anderson: Always nice to see our military veterans rewarded for what they have done for us. They were thrilled to meet players and be in the locker room Sunday after the morning skate.
Shelly Anderson: This is a first in a long time -- ran out of questions early, but only by 90 seconds. Have a great week. We'll chat again next Monday.
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