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Insider Only Daily Five Christmas Eve Version: On Ben Sitting; Malkin’s best set of wingers in career; Staal or Neal; Who would you keep?

Christmas Eve Daily Five Version

1. Sitting Ben Roethlisberger is the right move but this quote via from Mike Tomlin has some a little uneasy about the Steelers thinking St. Louis will be a pushover. “Obviously, he’s {Ben Roethlisberger} less than 100 percent, and it’s our desire at this juncture to get him as close to 100 percent as we can for January football. I felt like this week provided an opportunity to do that.
The decision to play Roethlisberger vs San Francisco was clearly dictated by the 49ers being a more competitive team, despite what Tomlin claimed last week.
2. The Penguins coaching staff envisioned loading up a top line of Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby and James Neal this season. That plan has been altered and it’s been Evgeni Malkin who has filled that role just as good and maybe better than Sidney Crosby would have.
For the first time since having Ryan Malone on his left wing and Petr Sykora on his right wing, Malkin has a power forward type of winger on his left wing who drives to the net and wins battles in the corners and can put the puck in the net in Chris Kunitz and a goal scoring winger who can do it all on his right wing in James Neal. This is arguably the best set of wingers Malkin has ever had in a Penguins uniform.
Malkin (16 pts), Neal (9 pts) and Kunitz (9 pts) have combined for 34 points in their last seven games.
3. James Neal is the Penguins first premier goal scoring winger since Marian Hossa and based on current production and potential, Neal is clearly emerging as a $5.5 million per season winger and that might be a discount.

Not that this is likely but due to cap reasons, if the Penguins had to make a choice to sign Neal or Jordan Staal at the same cap hit ($5.75 million), Neal would have to be the priority over Staal, despite what Staal means to this team.
4. Simon Despres makes some rookie mistakes on a nightly basis that all young defenseman make but I loved the composure he had last night bringing the puck up. His confidence is growing by the day.
5. Pitt’s lost to Wagner was one of the worst losses in the Jamie Dixon era but the big story surrounding Dixon in the future is whether 5-star athletes are going to want to come here after Khem Birch’s departure last week. Birch was wrong in bailing on his school and team but regardless of how people feel about Birch, his departure doesn’t look good on Dixon as the 6-foot-9 forward was just the second McDonald’s All-American to play at the school. There’s a notion from some Pitt officials who adore Dixon that maybe he needs to baby star athletes who come here.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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