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Crash The Net - Pens Q&A

by Bob Grove / Pittsburgh Penguins
Crash the Net is a weekly web Q&A on Click here to submit a question.

QUESTION: The talk this off season was about a sniper to join Sidney Crosby's line.  I think, given more time than one shift, Erik Christensen could put up HUGE goal numbers on that
line.  Your thoughts?

Penguins players congratulate Erik Christensen following a shootout goal (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
-Zirkle in Manchester, Pa

BOB GROVE: Exactly where Erik Christensen, a center who has played some wing with Pittsburgh, fits into the Penguins' lineup will be one of the more interesting subplots to training camp this fall. Petr Sykora seems like the logical candidate to play the right side on Crosby's line, but I suppose we shouldn't categorically rule out Christensen being given another shot on Crosby's left.

He played more than one shift there last season, but I didn't see a whole lot of chemistry between those two. I believe Christensen is better suited to play center, as he didn't always look comfortable playing along the wall and in the corners. But he was given a one-way contract this season, so coach Michel Therrien has a regular role in mind for him somewhere. It might also be as a third-line center.

There's little question Christensen has the release to put up some impressive numbers in the NHL if given adequate ice time. But he's got to earn that ice time, and that also means being a little more responsible defensively. He's already earned a reputation as a great shootout asset, but remember that Christensen has yet to play a full season in the NHL, so we're still learning about him and he's still making his way in this league. This is a big season for him.

QUESTION: What is a two way contract?  This question is in regards to defenseman Mike Weaver's one-year, two way contract.
-Dave in Carmichaels, PA

BOB GROVE: A two-way contract pays a player one salary at the NHL level and another, considerably lower, salary at the minor-league level. All entry-level contracts are two-way contracts, as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players Association. That agreement also sets minimum NHL salaries, which for the 2007-08 season is $475,000, and maximum minor-league salaries for drafted players. Players drafted this summer, for example, can earn no more than $65,000 at the minor league level.

It is common for all teams to sign a number of players in their organizations to two-way contracts. These are players farther down the depth chart, typically players who have yet to establish themselves as NHL regulars. The 29-year-old Weaver has played parts of five seasons with Atlanta and Los Angeles. His NHL salary this season is $600,000. The minor-league salaries of players on two-way contracts are not commonly reported.

QUESTION: I keep hearing rumors that Peter Forsberg is interested in playing for the Pens. Don't get me wrong, I love Forsberg and think (when he's healthy) he's still one of the top 5 playmakers in the league, but do we really need ANOTHER left handed center?
-Curt in Butler, Pa

Peter Forsberg (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
We've had a few emails this week about Forsberg, who remains an unrestricted free agent. These rumors apparently stem from a blog Denver Post beat writer Adrian Dater posted last week. It said, in part: "I do know for a fact the Red Wings are sniffing around Forsberg's corner, and I think you can add Anaheim, Buffalo, Nashville, Edmonton, the Islanders, Pittsburgh and, yes, the Avalanche to that list."

When he writes "I think you can add. . ." it sounds to me like Dater is merely speculating. Perhaps he is making some educated guesses based on information he has received from his sources, but Forsberg signing with the Penguins is the longest of long shots.

Let's remember that Forsberg is 1) not yet committed to returning to the NHL, having talked over the past season about returning home to Sweden; 2) still not convinced his problem ankle is healthy; 3) no stranger to the injury list, having missed an average of 30 games over each of the last three NHL seasons; 4) expensive for a team trying to manage its payroll so that it can keep together its core of young players; 5) a center, which is the position of greatest depth for Pittsburgh.

Like many, many others, the rumor doesn't make any sense to me.

QUESTION: I am a marine about to deploy to Iraq and I was just wondering with the additions of Darryl Sydor and Petr Sykora if you think this season may be the one that the Pens are ready to reclaim the cup for the first time since the glory days of 1990-1992?
-Chris in Glenshaw, PA

BOB GROVE: Chris, let me first thank you for what you are doing for our country. The entire Penguins organization supports our troops overseas and looks forward to the day when they return home safely -- and our local troops get back to the Arena to watch the team.

Sykora and Sydor certainly can help the Penguins get where they want to go. Both have Stanley Cup rings, and their post-season experience was part of what attracted the Penguins to them. But if the 2007-08 season is to bring a third Cup to Pittsburgh, a lot of things have to happen.

The Penguins will have to become a better defensive team. Their core of young players will have to continue the improvement they displayed last season. They'll have to start winning faceoffs. Marc-Andre Fleury will have to take his post-season game to a new level. They'll have to show they've learned from last spring's brief playoff experience. And, like every team, they'll have to avoid major injuries.

Of course, that's a lot of variables. But an awful lot of good things have to happen for any team to win the Stanley Cup. I believe another Cup is on the horizon for this team. I'm not sure it will happen next spring, but nobody can rule it out, either.

Crash the Net is a weekly web Q&A on Click here to submit a question.

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