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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

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

QUESTION: Who do think will be the captain of the Penguins next year? If Sidney Crosby becomes captain, would he be the youngest ever in the NHL?

Peter Baxendale of Halifax, Nova Scotia

BOB GROVE: Given that one of Michel Therrien's first decisions upon being hired as the Penguins' coach was to name Sidney Crosby as an alternate captain, it seems most likely that Crosby will be named captain next fall. That would make him the youngest captain in NHL history. That honor currently belongs to Vincent Lecavalier, who was six weeks shy of turning 20 when he was named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 11, 2000. Crosby will be 19 years and two months old when the 2006-07 season starts.

Mario Lemieux, by way of comparison, was 22 when he succeeded Dan Frawley as captain of the Penguins during the 1987-88 season. Lemieux was the youngest captain in team history. Detroit's Steve Yzerman, the longest-serving captain in NHL history, was given the "C" in 1986 at the age of 21.

There seems to be little question that Crosby has the stuff to be captain. It's his team going forward, and naming him as such will formalize the leadership role he's already begun to embrace.

QUESTION: I am wondering now that the trading deadline has past, can players be moved up and down between Wilkes-Barre without being picked up by other teams? If so, will the Pens be planning on sending players down for the playoffs?

Lindsay Ward of Wintersville, Ohio

BOB GROVE: The NHL trading deadline has no effect on the movement of players to and from the AHL. Those players who previously were required to clear waivers still must do so; those who were exempt from waivers can still be moved back and forth and cannot be claimed by other teams.

The AHL's Clear Day, or playoff, rosters were announced Tuesday. The only waiver-exempt players on the current Penguins' roster are Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Whitney, and both were assigned to the AHL before Monday's Clear Day deadline and immediately recalled by the Penguins -- a paper transaction that makes them eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs. Along with Alain Nasreddine, they are the only current players on the NHL roster who can compete in the AHL playoffs.

The Baby Penguins' complete playoff roster: Marc-Andre Fleury, Dany Sabourin, Dennis Bonvie, Daniel Carcillo, Erik Christensen, Kenny Corupe, Stephen Dixon, Shane Endicott, Drew Fata, Jonathan Filewich, Matt Hussey, Chris Kelleher, Krystofer Kolanos, Ryan Lannon, Guillaume Lefebvre, Alain Nasreddine, Andy Schneider, Ryan Stone, Maxime Talbot, Petr Taticek, Noah Welch, Ryan Whitney.

QUESTION: The Penguins seem to need better and more importantly faster defensemen for the new NHL.  That being said, I'm curious is to why we picked up 3 centers and a winger in the most recent moves and why the one right handed center acquired was assigned to Wilkes-Barre?

Michael Pleva of Bellevue, PA

BOB GROVE: While you're correct in thinking the Penguins must upgrade their defense, it's impossible to say whether the Penguins were offered any defensemen they liked in their talks with Carolina, Florida and Detroit -- or any other teams. I don't think Craig Patrick is going to demand defensemen in return without regard for whether those defensemen have legitimate shots at reaching the NHL, and I doubt teams were anxious to send good young defensemen to Pittsburgh in return for a 38-year-old forward or defensemen like Ric Jackman and Cory Cross. There will be plenty of unrestricted free agent defensemen in the market in July, and there's nothing stopping Pittsburgh from trading for defensive help this summer, either.

Krys Kolanos played six games with Edmonton, nine with Phoenix and none with the Hurricanes. This kid needs to get his game in order, which he appeared to be doing with Carolina's Lowell farm team, where he had 10 goals and 21 points in 19 games. He's had three points in three games with the Baby Penguins, so I think the decision to ship him to the AHL is the right one at this time. If he's healthy, he should challenge for a roster spot in the NHL this fall.

QUESTION: How come most of the Penguin's home games start at 7:30 while other cities games start at 7:00?

Seth M. of Greenburg, PA

BOB GROVE: The Penguins are hardly alone in starting their games at 7:30. Other teams that do so include New Jersey, Detroit, Ottawa, Florida, Toronto (except Saturdays), Montreal (except Saturdays), Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas. The Penguins experimented with 7 p.m. starts a few years ago, but some fans found it troublesome getting home from work, fixing dinner and so forth and still getting to the game on time. The 7:30 start seems the best compromise for this market -- it gives you enough time to get to the Arena and doesn't get you home too late.

QUESTION: How many of the big names that the Penguins picked up over the summer do you think will remain, and how important is it to keep them?

Mike Freeman of Fort Frances, Ontario

BOB GROVE: Of the "big name" players the Penguins acquired last summer, only John LeClair, Sergei Gonchar and Jocelyn Thibault remain.

Gonchar's play has improved; he will be important to the assimilation of Evgeni Malkin; and his salary makes him virtually untradeable at any rate.

LeClair has one year remaining on his contract and has played very well in the second half of the season. He could be an important veteran to have around next season. The fact he was not moved at the trade deadline suggests that a) the Penguins want him back next season or b) that there is no other interest in him around the league. If the latter is true, I don't see interest increasing over the off-season.

Thibault also has one year remaining on his contract, but figuring out his future is more problematic. For starters, all questions about him will center on his health after missing most of the last two NHL seasons with hip injuries and playing, all told, just 30 games over the past three calendar years. Then there's the question of whether or not Thibault can regain any semblance of the form he's displayed earlier in his career -- a problem this season even when he was healthy.

I think the Penguins are stuck with him, although they're not going to carry three goaltenders next season, when Marc-Andre Fleury joins Thibault and Sebastien Caron in having to clear waivers before being reassigned to the AHL. Remember two things as well: no one else in the organization's depth chart appears set to challenge for a backup role in the NHL, and Thibault refused earlier this season to go to the AHL on a conditioning assignment. It's not a given that he would report to the AHL next season if assigned there. I can't see him having much trade value, either.

We've gotten a few e-mails about the possibility of Mark Recchi returning to the Penguins in the off-season. He still has one year remaining on his contract, and if the Carolina Hurricanes want him back next season, they have the option to keep him for $2.2 million. If they exercise that option, Recchi is staying with the Hurricanes. Only if Carolina fails to exercise that option can Recchi exercise his own option to become an unrestricted free agent. At that point, his future here would be determined, in part, by the GM. And with Craig Patrick's contract expiring this summer, it's tough to say whether Recchi will be on the Pittsburgh shopping list come July.

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

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