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From CBS Pittsburgh

Wins and Injuries Continue for Penguins

The Penguins played their last game in March, the month that the Penguins started playing better hockey. The Penguins rattled off four straight wins to go 12-3-1 in the month and find themselves in a tight race for the East Division title. Jason Zucker returned from a one month absence, Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev seem close to returning, while impact forwards Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen have unknown return dates. The final full month of regular season arrives this week, so here are a few thoughts on the Penguins.

Why are NHL Teams so Vague About Injuries?

Tristan Jarry didn’t emerge for the start of the 2nd period last night. After a solid first period from the on fire goaltender, Casey DeSmith led the Penguins out of the locker room tunnel. Immediately, heads perked up. Where is Jarry? Announcers and social media mentioned the Penguins removed Jarry from the game and replaced him with DeSmith, but without any further detail. First and foremost, I hope Jarry is healthy. How can a player be removed as swiftly as Jarry was, without any obvious moment that caused injury, and the only information given out is “upper body injury”? Protecting player’s personal and medical information is a priority, I acknowledge that. Still, what harm is there in providing accurate medical language when discussing a player injury? Perhaps I’m prying too much, but given the strange circumstances, the response given post-game wasn’t enough. 

LTIR Could Benefit Penguins

Long term injured reserve (LTIR) is a friend to the Penguins as the trade deadline draws near. As Brian Burke has stated, they are one of few teams in position to spend actual dollars. Making the cap situation work is a complicated mess, but the Penguins want to add. As a way to relieve the cap stress, why not put Evgeni Malkin on LTIR? Is he going to play by May? The Penguins have given no indication that Malkin is close to returning. The regular season ends May 8. Bringing back a player in the playoffs is a risky proposal, as Malkin particularly struggles to get going. His start to this season left many heads scratching and proposing the decline of a generational player. But if you can bring in an impact player using that freed up cap space, isn’t it worth a shot? The addition of an impact forward will lessen the reliance on these stopgap players Coach Sullivan has been forced to deploy. With less than two weeks left to the deadline, I’m on the lookout for some type of move very soon.

One More Trade Proposal

One player I’ve heard rumblings about is Dylan Strome, the young pivot in Chicago. He has an additional year on his contract with a $3 million cap hit. He’s played with generational players Jonathon Toews and Patty Kane and improved greatly because of it. The Blackhawks want to shed salary if they can, as they eye down their complete rebuild. At just 24 years old, Chicago would be smart to hang onto a young center, but should they decide to sell, Strome would be a phenomenal addition to the Penguins. He’s suffering through a tough season in Chicago, with only 9 points. Still, he is a playmaking center with high-level skill, and he would be the most talented 3rd center on the roster since Jordan Staal, all respect to Nick Bonino. GM Hextall would have to give up considerable assets to acquire this player, but there’s no doubt Strome is an upgrade for this battered bottom-six.

Looking Ahead

The Penguins are in a battle for the East division and home-ice advantage, in a year marred by injuries and downplayed expectations. They play two game sets against Boston, the Rangers, and New Jersey before the April 12 deadline. Winning a majority of those games puts them in a prime position to play for a division title and contend in the playoffs. Buffalo traded Eric Staal and got the deadline ball rolling, teams like Washington and the New York Islanders will certainly bulk up their depth for the stretch run. Hopefully GM Hextall keeps pace and provides reinforcements for this squad. The next couple weeks are pivotal for Pittsburgh, and I can’t wait to see what the Penguins do.