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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Crash the Net is a new weekly web feature appearing Wednesdays on Click here to submit a question.

QUESTION: The thought of Evgeni Malkin coming to the team next year has alot of fans drooling with anticipation. How big of an immediate impact do you see him making? Also, seeing how the penguins look like they are heading for a top 2 pick, how do you decide between Erik Johnson and Phil Kessel?

Jonathan Murray of Waterloo, Ontario

BOB GROVE: Malkin should have an immediate impact, most dramatically in providing the foundation for a second scoring line to complement the one centered by Sidney Crosby. This has been a problem all season for the Penguins and is one of the reasons they are among the lowest-scoring teams in the league. Opponents now can focus either their best defensive line or best defensive pair (the most common choice) against Crosby, and with Malkin here the hope is that other teams will begin to have to make a choice. Also, let's remember that Malkin shows himself to be a solid defensive player as well, so there's another impact. But we all have to keep in mind that Malkin has adjustments to make with the language, the smaller rink and the culture, and you can't underestimate the challenge of those.

Choosing between center Phil Kessel and defenseman Erik Johnson would be a good problem to have. If the Penguins have their choice -- and there's still plenty of hockey to play, so let's not assume too much -- I would take Johnson if I felt all other things were equal: projected impact, adaptability to the NHL game, character, etc. Given the presence of two young centers in Crosby and Malkin, I would go with the big defenseman. But if the Penguins get pushed down the order a bit, they might consider center Jordan Staal, Eric's not-so-little brother. I don't expect Kessel or Johnson to turn pro next season, so their impact will be in the future.

QUESTION: Would it be possible to use Mellon Arena as a parking facility, or for retail or housing space? This may offset any public outcry for demolishing a historic landmark.

Ed Rohm of Pittsburgh, PA

BOB GROVE: The Mellon Arena failed a couple of years ago to earn protected status as an historic landmark, and it's doubtful its demolition will cause much of a public outcry should the Pittsburgh First bid for a slots license be successful. Remember, the 28-acre site on which the building sits is a critical component of the Pittsburgh First bid, as it is slated to be redeveloped by Nationwide Realty with residential, retail, office and green space to reconnect the Lower Hill with the Central Business District.

QUESTION: Max Talbot's play has had more of an impact this season than Shane Endicott's, yet he has been sent to the minors. Is there a contractual reason why Endicott has not been re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton?

Lindsey Ward of Pittsburgh, PA

BOB GROVE: First off, remember that Endicott has to clear waivers to play in the AHL. The Penguins were at least a little concerned earlier this season that he might be claimed, and they wanted to take a longer look at him since he should now be at the point where he's ready to contribute at the NHL level. This whole evaluation was made more difficult by Endicott's ankle injury in training camp.

Given the fact that Endicott's effectiveness as a penalty killer has dropped recently, along with his ice time, it is not inconceivable that he may be reassigned after the Olympic break. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: I was wondering who the new "C" or captain is for the Penguins?

Steph Ward of Toronto, Ontario

BOB GROVE: No one has been named captain since Mario Lemieux's retirement. Currently, Mark Recchi, Sergei Gonchar and Sidney Crosby are serving as alternate captains. It is highly unlikely that a captain will be named until next season, which seems a wise move since the makeup of that team will be different.

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