An afternoon update from Consol Energy Center, were the Penguins practiced around noon on Wednesday. This was an optional session.
= C Evgeni Malkin (upper-body injury) skated with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar in the 10 a.m. hour. Malkin wore only a track suit, but showed no apparent signs of any setbacks on his recovery from a shoulder injury. He returned to the ice and practiced with teammates – his second straight day of practice. He hopes to play Friday night at the New York Islanders.
= The Penguins won a 10th consecutive game on Tuesday – 2-1 over Washington at home – and they did so without Malkin and D Kris Letang (lower-body injury). Letang is believed to have aggravated a sore groin during the first period of a home win over Boston on Sunday.
Letang did not practice Tuesday. He also missed a session Monday.
= GM Ray Shero is to attend the in-season general manager meetings in Toronto on Wednesday.
= The trade deadline is two weeks away. Expiration is 3 p.m. on April 3.
No big deals have been done, though TSN’s Insiders – all friends of this blog – had some trade talk here: http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=418613
Nothing earth shattering, as Calgary RW Jarome Iginla has been linked to the Penguins for several weeks.
Somebody (cough, cough) is not a fan of bringing Iginla to Pittsburgh: http://triblive.com/sports/nhl/3655870-74/rob-rossi-iginla#axzz2O5phL0ff
In any case, Iginla is on the Penguins’ radar, and Shero has coveted what he could bring in the dressing room – veteran leadership and a sense of going for it attitude to a group that consists of 12 players to have won the Cup in 2009 – as much as what he could do on the ice; though, Shero does believe Iginla can contribute on the ice.
There were scouts from seven clubs at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday night. The regulars (Tampa Bay and Columbus, the latter which has had officials here often the past few weeks) were joined by scouts from Colorado, Winnipeg, Boston, Edmonton, San Jose and, indeed, Calgary. Edmonton had two scouts at the game.
= One bit of information picked up after the game is that there is a growing sense, at least within the league, that the Penguins will make a push to add several players before the trade deadline.
They continue to target a top-four defenseman, preferably a partner for Letang, which would allow Matt Niskanen anchor a third defense pairing. The coaching staff believes Niskanen is one of the NHL’s better fifth defensemen, and that the overall corps would benefit if he could bring stability to a third pairing.
The Penguins are currently carrying eight defensemen. Only rookie Simon Despres would need not clear waivers for an AHL assignment.
= The Penguins also want to bolster their bottom-six forwards, ideally with a one of two players, including a center that could contribute on the penalty kill in a fourth-line role. The club also is looking for a third-line option on the right wing, though coaches are enthused by the recent coming-around play of RW Tyler Kennedy.
= Newer information, however, has the Penguins looking for a top-six winger in addition to the defense and lower lineup needs.
There is some concern that rookie LW Beau Bennett, coming off two injury-shortened college seasons, might not physically hold up for another three months of hockey, especially with the every-other-day format of this truncated regular season and the playoff grind.
The word late Tuesday night was that the Penguins may look for a veteran on an expiring contract, one who could play the left wing on a line with Malkin and RW James Neal. The Penguins want to spark Malkin and Neal, who were so dominant last season, but had combined to score 11 of their 22 goals on the power play.
The aim is to find 5-on-5 comfort for Malkin and Neal.
This does not eliminate Bennett from the mix going forward, but a second-line left winger would give the Penguins some options – and one of those options might be, if Kennedy is part of any trade, for Bennett to work in some on the opposite wings on the third line with LW Matt Cooke and C Brandon Sutter.
Coaches like Bennett’s skill and how it leads to puck possession in tight quarters, and they also have been impressed with his defensive awareness.
So, indeed, and as expected, there is growing buzz, even if there is no indication that trade talks are turning serious.
= Something to consider: The Penguins will play only 10 games after April 3. They play that night – at the New York Rangers – and there is a preference to do something sooner rather than at the deadline, though there is not a lot of reason for optimism that a deal would get done soon because this remains a sellers’ market.
That is all for now.