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Insider Only THIS YEAR’S MODEL

Refreshing hockey notes: What a way to start the New Year!
*Jordan Staal is this year’s model. Brenden Morrow is last year’s model. In a nutshell, that’s why Canada underachieves in international hockey.
*The Penguins’ power play is much better in its current alignment. The numbers don’t lie: 7-for-32 (21.8 percent) since the change. The increased possession and pressure don’t lie, either. Evgeni Malkin doesn’t touch the puck as much, but three guys can’t play catch. That’s reality. Malkin will have to do more with fewer touches, i.e., SHOOT!
*New Jersey’s trap poses a problem for the Penguins. But a best-of-7 series, where the Penguins can get the rhythm of cracking the trap, will be a different – and short – story, one that has a happy ending for the Pens. The Devils’ skating, however, has troubled the Penguins more than the trap in the four games between the teams, all Devils wins.
*If Malkin takes dumb penalties immediately after committing turnovers any more frequently, college kids will turn it into a drinking game.

*With all due respect to Bill Guerin, I hope he doesn’t make the US Olympic team. The Penguins need him more in the spring than the US needs him in February. Those old legs can only play so many games.
*If you’re frustrated with Ruslan Fedotenko’s inconsistency, fine. But the Penguins didn’t re-sign him for what he does now, they re-signed him for what he’ll do in the playoffs.
*I heard an announcer compliment Tyler Kennedy for all the shots he takes (3.3 per game). To which I reply with several questions: Are they good shots? Do they create second shots? Are teammates open for better shots when Kennedy takes his?
*Alex Goligoski is going to be a big component for the Penguins in the long term. But right now, Martin Skoula may be better.
*I’ve been resistant to date, but it’s time to give Mike Rupp a lengthy run at wing on one of the top two lines. It’s desperate and pathetic to say Rupp can’t do any worse, but Fedotenko, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, etc. have the Penguins’ wing situation in a desperate and pathetic state.
*Devil’s advocate time: The Penguins have Malkin, Staal, Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury locked in together through 2013. If you consider that the Penguins’ prime window to win Stanley Cups, with no guarantees past then because some of those players will likely leave, it might make sense to re-sign Sergei Gonchar, not Kris Letang, this coming off-season.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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Mark Madden

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