After the Whistle: What should the Pens do?

Hockey Night in Canada reporters Tim Wharnsby and Scott Morrison tackle Pittsburgh's options in the wake of injuries to their two biggest stars, take the media to task as well as Ron Wilson and Phil Kessel, and share what Hockey Day in Canada means to them in the latest edition of After the Whistle.

Each week hockey columnist Scott Morrison and his protegé, senior hockey writer Tim Wharnsby, exchange (mostly) friendly banter on the latest storylines in the NHL.

1. With long-term injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Mark Letestu, do the Pittsburgh Penguins need to run out and acquire a top-six forward?  

WHARNSBY: In the short term, this adverse situation allows the Penguins to give Jordan Staal and Max Talbot expanded roles and take extended looks at a prospect like Dustin Jeffrey. But Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero has to pull off another trade-deadline move. The difference, however, from the past three seasons in which Marian Hossa (2008), Chris Kunitz (2009) and Alexei Ponikarovsky (2010) were acquired before the trade deadline is that the Penguins situation is desperate and the asking prices will be steep.

MORRISON: I agree that short term the Penguins will be fine. And they have actually fared well at times without Malkin and Crosby, but that won't last long and goals will be hard to find. Shero doesn't have to focus on just a centre, he can broaden the search to a top-six forward. And the good news is the Pens are confident Crosby will return, though not likely until March.

2. What was your take on the Phil Kessel-Ron Wilson controversy over the past two days? 

MORRISON: I think it was a case of Kessel being frustrated with yet another scoring slump, another loss and another demotion to what is perceived to be the third line. I believe Kessel was referring to lines when he suggested something needed to be changed, adding he wasn't sure the one they were making was the right one. Perhaps there was a deeper message, but we won't know at least for a while because the damage control has been done. How long it lasts is anyone's guess.

WHARNSBY: Whatever happened to the follow-up question? When Kessel made his, "we've got to change something," remark, clarification was needed. I thought he was talking about the line alterations that Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson made in practice on Sunday. Others thought it was a shot at Wilson. Not sure if this is a product of big scrums, in which tape recorders are stuck in the subject's face and reporters can't hear soft-spoken players like Kessel. Then the reporters listen to what was said on tape, but the player is no longer available for a follow-up question. Wilson didn't help matters by calling out the player and his horrible play defensively. 

3. What does Hockey Day in Canada mean to you with the 11th annual edition on the horizon from Whitehorse this Saturday?

WHARNSBY: Hockey Day is a chance to celebrate the game on many different levels. For the most part we focus on the NHL, the Stanley Cup playoffs and massive events like the Olympics. But hockey in this country represents much more. It's the local junior B team, men and women university teams, minor hockey, adult recreational clubs, the pick-up games at the neighbourhood outdoor rink or pond. All these tentacles of the game matter. Hockey Day is a success story that has been copied in Minnesota, Michigan and now the entire United States.

MORRISON: I couldn't agree more Tim, it gets us back to the grass roots, celebrating players at levels, the volunteers, organizers, everyone who makes a difference in this great game. This will be my fifth and I look forward to it every year, to see how deep hockey runs in the community. And this is not just a rural phenomenon, because folks in the big cities are knee deep in their passion for the game. But it is fun to go to smaller towns where the rink really is the centre of attention seven days a week.