Sidney Crosby and the Pens return to action Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators

After a three week break the Penguins return to the ice this Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators. The Pens compile a record of (14-34-11) and have 23 games remaining. They need to put on a strong finish as they head into next year. This team is not as bad as it seems and take my word on it they will finish the season strong like they did a few seasons ago. My prediction for the final 23 games. 13-8-0-2 finish ….And optimism brews in the burgh heading into the 06-07 season…

Here are five players to keep a eye on.

1.Marc Andre Fleury: He has been outstanding at times and so-so at times. He’s a great talent and gives his team a chance to win almost everynight. Heading into next year he knows he will #1 starter from the start of the season so its crucial for him to keeping his confidence and piling up some wins starting on Wednesday – Prediction 12 wins – 7 losses.

2.Tomas Surovy: He started off with 6 goals in a 8 game span but since they we haven’t seen much from him. He either needs to start producing or I think it’s time to get rid of him. The kid has talent but I don’t see the consistency from him.

3. Ryan Whitney: Another player who started off strong but has cooled off as of late. Hopefully the Olympic break was the best thing for him. The one positive sign I saw from him was the Carolina game. He was phenomenal at both ends of the ice. He was the best player on the ice that game, and we need to see that constency from him the rest of the season.

4. Sergei Gonchar: Started playing much better last month before the Olympic break. During the Olympics he was okay but he looked more like the Gonchar from the beginning of the year. I still believe that he is going to turn it around, and I expect a strong finish from him.

5. Eric Christensen: Just got called up right before the Carolina game. Don’t really know why they sent him down for so long, but this kid is a keeper. This team has to make a decision on him though. Ryan Malone has picked it up as of late, so if you’re going to keep Malone then I believe you move Christensen to the wing the last 20 games with Crosby to see if he can develop as a winger. Going into next year, Crosby – Malkin will be your top 2 centers. Eric Christensen looks like a player who needs to be on a top 2 line to play to his strengths.

Forwards to keep for next season as of right now. 1.Crosby 2.Armstrong 3.Christensen 4.Recchi 5.Leclair 6. Malone 7.Talbot and Quellet

possible additions through the Draft or farm system: 1.E.Malkin, 2.J. Samuaelson ?

on the bubble… 1.Surovy 2.Koltsov 3.Rita 4.Roy ( has shown that he can be productive at times when giving a chance)

Defensemen to keep for next season. 1. Ryan Whitney 2.Orpik

on the bubble 1.Jackman 2.Scuderi

possible additons next season through farm system: 1 N. Welch 2.Ryan Lannon

For players such as Koltsov , Rita, Jackman and Scuderi, these next 23 games are critical for them. Koltsov is one player im a big fan of, but he needs to start producing offensively. He’s a great forechecker and a energy guy but for him to stick with the club he needs to produce a few goals here and there.

Other moves I would like to see. N. Welch, defenseman from Wilkes Barrie get called up. He’s a young defenseman who most likely will be on the roster next year, so why not bring him up the final 20 games to get him some experience.

Trade Deadline Thursday March 9th

John Leclair – the biggest name that is available that will draw interest. I say keep him. Has played really well the past month. Still brings a lot to the table in a 3rd line role.
Teams interested – New York Rangers, Montreal, Boston

Mark Recchi – Same as Leclair. You can’t go into next season with all young guys, so unless you get a really good deal for one of them you hang on to them.
Teams interested – Flyers,Red wings,Montreal

Ryan Malone – He’s the one player that can bring the most in a trade. I hang onto him the rest of the season and keep developing him as the teams 3rd line center for next season. If he doesn’t keep progressing then make a decision on him in the summer.
Teams interested – Toronto, San Jose, Colorado, Edmonton

Tomas Surovy – One player that hasn’t been mentioned but when your a bad team that has a young nucleus with players such as crosby and Malkin why not try and package a young player like Surovy with a Malone or Leclair to bring in a nice return. Just a thought.

Rick Jackman – His name will be thrown out their, but how much will he really bring except for a late round draft pick. Although I think he’s been a big disappointment this season, but with a cap number of only 800,000 id hang on to him

Eric Bogunecki – Has played fairly well as of late. Could be trade bait as a team in the playoff race looking for some speed on its 3rd and fourth lines

Andre Roy – He is another one, that maybe a team like Ottawa would add to solify their 4 th line

Steelers Free Agency buzz

Talks have begun with DE Brent Kiesel. The Steelers are working out to restructure Jeff Hartings contract, but don’t count out Hartings getting released. As for Chris Hope, who I believe should be the the Steelers first priority, they have not giving up on resigning him, but Hope and his agent believe he is a top 5 safety so it’s not looking good right now. 50-50 chances of right now. As for Randle El, The Washington Redskins are also in the sweepstakes at landing the versatile reciever. 1.Chicago,2.Eagles, 3.Patriots 4.Redskins.

Other rumors around the league…. Shaun Alexander is most likely to return to Seattle but dont rule out the Panthers and Vikings to make a run at him…. Drew Brees is about to hit the free agent market, and expect the Dolphins to snatch him up on the first day. Not looking good that he will return to San Diego…..Pass rusher John Abraham is being shopped and one ideal place for him to end up is San Diego in a trade for Phillip Rivers but with the Brees saga going on it’s looking like that deal wont happen at all.Other teams interested – Redskins,Texans,Browns and Broncos. The Green Bay Packers are reportedly throwing around Javon Walkers name as trade bait to see what kind of value he has. After coming off of knee surgery no one knows what kind of player he’s going to be, but a trade is unlikely. Rumors are they are looking for a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him. Teams interested. Washington,Denver,Nyj. Ty Law is going to be a wanted man on the free agent market, but rumors are some teams feel he has the chance to be a star for years as a free safety. Interested teams – Dolphins, Steelers, Chiefs ,Jags

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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