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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: With Angelo Esposito not playing for Canada in the Super Series because of his groin injury, what do you think his chances are of playing for the Penguins this season?

Angelo Esposito listens to coaches during the first hockey training session for rookies in Canonsburg, Pa.,Tuesday, June 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
-Trevor in Ottawa, Canada

BOB GROVE: We've probably had more mail about Angelo Esposito this past week than any other subject -- and that was before it was announced Tuesday that a groin injury would prevent the Penguins' first-round 2007 draft pick from playing in the eight-game Canada/Russia Super Series. That series begins next week between the countries' under-20 teams to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the epic 1972 series.

Esposito's junior team, the Quebec Remparts, informed Hockey Canada about the decision Tuesday and said its doctors plan to re-evaluate Esposito sometime next week. At this point, his status for the start of rookie camp Sept. 5 in Kitchener, Ont. and the start of Pittsburgh's main camp Sept. 13 is unknown.

Many fans are wondering about Esposito's chances of making the Penguins' season-opening roster, and obviously those chances won't be helped by any injury problems. But considering that he is a center on a team stacked with talented centers -- and has never played the wing -- and that he has junior eligibility remaining, it's probably a very long shot. One thing we learned last fall with Jordan Staal is that you never say never, but I would not expect Esposito to reach the NHL this season.

QUESTION: As an out of town fan, its not always easy to watch the games. Is the an internet package available similar to the coverage?
-David in Atlanta, GA

BOB GROVE: This season the NHL Center Ice package will also be available online, allowing fans to watch out-of-market games. Details are still being worked out and will be released in the next few weeks. Keep checking back to and for more information.

QUESTION: Which prospect do you think has the best chance of making the Penguins roster this year, besides Kris Letang? I think it should be Ryan Stone, they could use another power forward in the lineup with some size, grit, and a scoring touch ala Gary Roberts.
-FJ in Lebanon, PA

BOB GROVE: Other than Letang, I believe the prospects with the best chance of landing a roster spot out of training camp this fall are Stone and Jonathan Filewich.

Stone, a center, is coming off a miserable AHL season in which he broke a bone in his wrist and then wound up in the hospital fighting off the flu. He played only 41 games. He has some good skills but is a scrappy player who projects as a possible power forward type, although the Penguins would like to see him improve his quickness.

Filewich, a right wing, led the Baby Penguins with 30 goals last season, one shy of the team record, and won the fastest skater competition at the AHL All-Star Game. He is a very conscientious player who works hard off the ice and listens to coaches, and I think he will get a very long look at camp.

QUESTION: What is your opinion on the goaltending situation? Fleury is number one no question about that.  What's with the additions of Ty Conklin and Dan Sabourin? Do you think Dave Brown has a shot at the number 2 post?
-Jamie in Winnipeg, MB

BOB GROVE: We've had a lot of mail about the Penguins' goaltending situation, no doubt fostered by the fact Dany Sabourin has played only 14 NHL games and Ty Conklin 76. But since Sabourin was signed to a one-way contract and Conklin to a two-way contract, you can bet Sabourin will begin the season as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup -- barring an injury or a major camp meltdown.

David Brown, drafted in 2004 and coming off a fantastic season at Notre Dame, and John Curry, signed as a free agent this summer after a very good career at Boston University, are likely to battle it out to join Conklin with the Baby Penguins. The odd man out among the five would likely go to Wheeling of the ECHL.

QUESTION: Can you explain the NHL schedule? Why won't the Penguins be playing Chicago this year?
-Paul in Portage, In

BOB GROVE: The last time the NHL schedule enabled every team to play every other team at least once was during the 2003-04 season. The NHL has had an unbalanced schedule since it returned from the lockout, emphasizing division rivalries. Under the current format, the Penguins play eight games against each of their division rivals (for a total of 32 games); four games against each of the other teams in its conference (40 games); and 10 games against teams from the Western Conference.

In the Penguins' case, the NHL accomplishes that last piece of scheduling this season by having Pittsburgh host each team from the Pacific Division and travel to play each team in the Northwest Division. The Penguins will not play any Central Division teams this season. The NHL rotates which division is bypassed by each team each season, so the Penguins will play the Hawks again in 2008-09.

Maxime Talbot
QUESTION: I remember hearing that Maxime Talbot won an NHL poker tournament and was given a seat at the World Series of Poker. I was just wondering how he did since i dontremember hearing anything about his results?

-Daniel in Waynesboro, PA

BOB GROVE: Max earned his way into the 2007 World Series of Poker by winning a charity tournament between NHL players that included Martin Brodeur and Simon Gagne. But, alas, Max isn't ready just yet to retire as a millionaire. He was eliminated on the first day of competition.

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

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