A quick update on an off Wednesday for the Penguins – their first since the All-Star break and one that is much needed given the heavy schedule this month. Again, they play 14 games in 28 days in February, and considering the injuries with which they are dealing – they played Tuesday without four players who have contributed 75 goals – anything close to a .500 point mark for the month should be considered a successful four weeks.
Anyway, the only real news, and this developed late Tuesday night and has been reported already on many outlets, is LW Matt Cooke’s impending disciplinary hearing with the NHL for his hit on Blue Jackets D Fydor Tytuin. The hearing will take place Thursday morning over the phone – and there seems to be a consensus among folks with whom I’ve spoken that some discipline toward Cooke will be assessed. If so, that might have more to do with Cooke’s reputation than then hit – and I suggest that not in defense of the hit, but rather seemingly the lone consistent aspect to NHL discipline, which is its push to punish multiple-time offenders.
This quote from Tytuin, passed along by Tom Reed of the Columbus Post Dispatch:
“It was the worst hit I’ve ever had from behind. I wasn’t surprised not when you see (Cooke) in the highlights all the time for dirty hits.”
Steering this away from the possible discipline – because I clearly lack an understanding of what goes into the NHL’s thinking when it comes to disciplinary action after the lack of punishment for hits last month that have prevented C Sidney Crosby (concussion) from playing 14 straight games – if Cooke can’t play Thursday night against the Kings, and LW Chris Kunitz misses a second straight game with a lower-body injury, the Penguins will be down 85 goals of the 161 they have scored this season.
GM Ray Shero said this Tuesday morning about possible trades before the Feb. 28 deadline:
“Our scouting meetings were last week and I’m going just going to – like any manager will be doing – follow up with some other teams, call around. I can speculate all you want about some names or holes or things like that, but until I talk with other managers about what might be available, what they may be willing to move and, at the end, see what that cost might be in terms of assets – you know, I just have to lean on my staff and coaches at this point. We’ll have to see what time brings us.
“It’s definitely an adjusted plan.”
That last sentence is crucial to keep in mind over these next few weeks. The Penguins weren’t planning to have cap space available to make a significant move before or at the deadline. Calculations are difficult to make because of the many up-and-down moves they’ve made this year, but I’m told it is possible they will have close to $9 million by the deadline in terms of cap space. That doesn’t mean they’ll use it, doesn’t mean they won’t. The read I get from within the organization is that they’re still trying to get a handle on all these injuries and how they will impact the players already on the roster.
Shero may have found the title that best suits this season, though: An Adjusted Plan.