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Tim Benz: Penguins better heed Jim Rutherford's wake-up call



59 minutes ago

In a best-case scenario, the Penguins will make a nice playoff run with newly acquired Erik Gudbranson and Chris Wideman in the press box as scratches

They are not all that good. Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford gave away two players who are not all that good to get them: Tanner Pearson and Jean-Sebastien Dea

The two new guys are on board to stop the bleeding during this patch of injuries to defensemen.

What Jim Rutherford said about these players he picked up at the trade deadline on Monday afternoon was not important

What was important is how Rutherford decided to characterize his team's playoff chances

He is "nervous" about those chances.

"We're good enough to get in," Rutherford said. "We're good enough to take a run."

"I feel comfortable with this team. But I say that at this time it's a bit nervous as to whether we're going to get in. It's going to be a battle until the end. "

Yeah. Could not have summed it up better.

Seems obvious. I've been feeling the same way for months. But those sentiments have more gravitas when the guy in charge of the roster says so out loud.

The Penguins have Conn Smythe winners, all-stars and Stanley Cup rings aplenty in this locker room. Should the club get into the playoffs, who can say that they can not do the damage

They own the Blue Jackets in the postseason. They can beat the Islanders. Sure, the Capitals have eliminated them last year.

"We've been playing well, but there are some inconsistencies in our play," said Rutherford.

Ya think? Kennywood is going to name his next roller coaster "The Penguin."

"We've got everything going that makes you a good team," Rutherford said. "Our goaltending has to be consistent and strong. We have to get healthy on defense, and, hopefully, we can do that by this weekend. (1

9659003) Rutherford is right, though.

Rutherford is right, though. If this is not enough for a wake-up call for Penguins' fans, how about this quote from GM when I asked if he came close to trading his first-round draft choice

"This is a year that we're on the bubble to get into the playoffs, "Rutherford said. "I did not want to risk that, but also, it's a very good draft. "It's Rutherford admitting that a roster with a core remaining from teams that have won two of the last three Stanley Cups is now" on the bubble. "

• It's Rutherford prioritizing and future pick over the prospect of helping a roster now.

It's Rutherford hedging that his team might be in the lottery with a top-half-of-the-draft selection

That's pretty drab considering Rutherford is usually an optimistic, go- at-all-cost kind of GM

The next nine games will largely dictate the fate of the Penguins season. Eight of those contests are against teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.

Three of them are against Columbus, Tuesday night's opponent. The Blue Jackets have a franchise with 73 points, one better than the Penguins. They are currently entrenched in the third spot in the Metro, good for the last automatic playoff-qualifying position.

They all play duels against Canadiens, Capitals, Bruins and two against the Sabers.

The Penguins occupy the ninth slot in the East right now, one spot out of the postseason. It's the latest in a season that a Sidney Crosby-led team has been out of the playoff picture since 2009.

"You're in desperation mode," Crosby said. "I think we've been in there before we are at this point with 20 games left. You just have to make sure you have a playoff mentality. We've understood that for a while now. We have to fight hard to get points and get our way in there. "

The captain seems aware of the circumstances. The general manager seems aware of the circumstances. Maybe after reading these quotes, fans and media will be aware of the circumstances.

Pittsburgh hockey fans should hope the rest of the Penguins locker room is as well

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter . All tweets could be reposted.



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