Alexei Ponikarovsky has his visa issues cleared up and is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow when the Penguins play the Dallas Stars. Veteran Bill Guerin missed the game with minor back spasms and his status is unknown, but it doesn't seem like a long-term injury. Which means the Pittsburgh Penguins face the prospect of having a forward that dressed last night becoming a spectator in the very near future.
It's a good problem to have: too many players that are playing well and only a finite number of jerseys to hand out. But a good problem is still a problem. Injuries or ineffectiveness could change the story in a heartbeat, but for now let's look at the candidates to become healthy scratches.
#27 / Right Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Apr 26, 1977
|2009 - Craig Adams||64||0||8||8||-8||50||0||0||0||0||62||0.0|
Pros of scratching him: 0 goals, doesn't win many faceoffs (42.7%)
Cons of scratching him: Only right handed faceoff man, does good work on the PK, is a good, physical forechecker
#25 / Center / Pittsburgh Penguins
Feb 11, 1984
|2009 - Maxime Talbot||30||1||4||5||-4||26||0||0||0||0||35||2.9|
Pros of scratching him: Dreadful season hampered by injuries, not scoring, not winning faceoffs and not really standing out for good reasons
Cons of scratching him: Because just maybe it's a bad idea to scratch the guy who scored the team's only Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals goals.
#17 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Jan 13, 1980
|2009 - Michael Rupp||64||12||4||16||3||80||0||0||1||0||73||16.4|
Pros of scratching him: Can have a better skating 4th line without him
Cons of scratching him: Lose a lot of size, toughness and pseudo-enforcer, not to mention a goal scoring touch that can't be ignored
#26 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Jan 18, 1979
|2009 - Ruslan Fedotenko||62||9||16||25||-14||20||2||0||3||0||118||7.6|
Pros of scratching him: Other players have worked harder and produced more than the guy who's been on Malkin's line nearly all season long
Cons of scratching him: The All-European connection could be huge with Ponikarovsky and Evgeni Malkin. Plus he's playing well in the brief time after the Olympic break (3 points in 2 games)
#9 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Apr 07, 1979
|2009 - Pascal Dupuis||63||14||12||26||1||8||0||0||4||0||119||11.8|
Pros of scratching him: Doesn't take faceoffs, unlike some other guys
Cons of scratching him: Arguably has been the best forward not named Crosby, Malkin or Staal the past couple weeks. He's producing (5g, 7a in last 18 games), he's killing penalties, providing effort, taking shots, throwing hits
Which one player will get the tough news that they're out (for the time being, at least)? None of them really should be pulled out of the lineup, but it's looking like some good players are getting lessened roles as the team adds improved skill.