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Rosen's mailbag - Nov. 12, 2014

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Nov. 12 edition of Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday during the season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for a top-six wing to acquire before the NHL Trade Deadline. Who do you see as a potential fit? -- @Idlematt

I think the Penguins are hoping Beau Bennett plays his way into the top-six rotation and stays there, but that would mean he has to stay healthy, which has obviously been a problem. He played his first game of the season Tuesday and was mainly on the fourth line.

The good thing is Pittsburgh has time here to see if Bennett can stay healthy and be a reliable wing in the top-six, ideally on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis. If he can't, I absolutely see the Penguins going into the trade market for a top-six wing. It would likely be a reasonably priced veteran player in the final year of his contract currently playing for a team that is either deep at forward or isn't likely going to contend.

Three names that come to mind:

1. Jiri Tlusty, Carolina Hurricanes -- Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford acquired him when he was the GM in Carolina.

2. Matt Cullen, Nashville Predators -- Rutherford had him in Carolina too. Good on faceoffs. Might be expendable when Mike Fisher returns.

3. Chris Stewart, Buffalo Sabres -- A higher average annual value to his salary ($4.15 million), but a power forward who could create space for Malkin.

Do the New York Rangers' struggles go beyond their defensive depth being depleted? They seem to be avoiding physical play. -- @johnnyb3910

They were until Tuesday night, but you sent me this question before the game against Pittsburgh so it's a good question. The better question now is can the Rangers find some consistency in their game to play the way they did against Pittsburgh all the time?

The Rangers were fast, physical and aggressive in the forecheck against Pittsburgh, forcing turnovers that led directly to goals. They didn't give the Penguins much room in the middle because their forwards were funneling back into the middle of the ice to help their defense. Tanner Glass, who seemed to be invisible for a while, got involved physically and made a contribution on the defensive end, swiping the puck off the goal line before Mats Zuccarello made it 1-0 in the first period.

If the Rangers play like that they are dangerous and they can win even without Dan Boyle and Ryan McDonagh. The good news is that Boyle should be back in the lineup this week, perhaps as early as Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. But they have yet to show anyone that they can play that way all the time. That's the big test and the big question for the Rangers.

With the emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, should the St. Louis Blues still be worried about inconsistent offensive production? -- @ceaton151

They should be less concerned, but it's still somewhat of a problem for the Blues. A big reason for that is their 5-on-5 play. They are one of the lowest scoring teams in 5-on-5 situations in the NHL this season despite being one of the better possession teams based on shot statistics. Their shooting percentage at 5-on-5 is relatively low (.065 percent, 25th in the League). I'd expect it to go up over the course of time. But their 5-on-5 save percentage is relatively high (.951, third in the League). That could regress.

Tarasenko, Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz have chemistry and it's coming through, but the Blues can't be a one-line scoring team. They need more out of David Backes and Alexander Steen. I assume Paul Stastny is going to come around here soon to help Backes and Steen become more productive. T.J. Oshie being out hurts as well, but the Blues have to play through that.

Why aren't the Dallas Stars scoring more goals and winning more games despite incredible offensive potential? -- @kallejou

They're scoring enough, but they are struggling to win because they're struggling to keep the puck out of their own net.

The Stars should have more than five wins in 15 games scoring 2.87 goals per game. They are tied with the Rangers for 11th in the League in goals per game. The Rangers and the nine other teams ahead of Dallas have at least two more wins because the Stars are 28th in goals-against per game at 3.47. That puts them in lockstep with the Buffalo Sabres. I'm fairly certain no one is going to say the Sabres and Stars are equals in terms of talent.

Kari Lehtonen has not been great with a 2.95 goals-against average and .906 save percentage and 2.95 goals-against average, but the Stars have been much worse with Anders Lindback in net. Lindback, who struggled last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, has a 4.41 GAA and .852 save percentage. Dallas is 0-3-0 in his starts. As a whole, Dallas is 23rd in 5-on-5 save percentage (.911).

Any hope for the New Jersey Devils? -- @C_Diercks

Yes, of course there is hope for the Devils. It's Nov. 12. They've played 16 games. The season isn't even a quarter of the way over. The Devils are two points out of a wild-card spot, if you care to even look at the standings on Nov. 12, which I don't necessarily do often. If they were six, seven or eight points out at this point then yes, I'd agree that you should be concerned, but it's too early to fret.

That said, it's fairly obvious that coach Peter DeBoer has to show some faith in his backup goalie or else Cory Schneider is going to get run into the ground. Schneider has started all 16 games. He is letting in some questionable goals. He won Tuesday, but looked like a goalie that needed a breather on Monday. DeBoer has to give him a break at some point. He has to show some faith in backup Keith Kinkaid. If he doesn't have faith in Kinkaid, general manager Lou Lamoriello has to acquire a veteran backup. There are some good ones available, including Tomas Vokoun.

Should Chicago Blackhawks fans be worried about their recent play? -- @TheFilmOgre


The Blackhawks have won two in a row and three out of four. Consistent scoring has been a concern for them this season, but it's starting to come around now, as expected.

They are still 28th in the League in 5-on-5 shooting percentage at .057 percent. That's going to come up if they continue to generate the number of shots and quality scoring chances that they're generating. In fact, it already has started to come up.

The Blackhawks consistently have the puck and have a plethora of scoring options. They'll be just fine.


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