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Rutherford confident, but realistic

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

2019 Trade Deadline: Rutherford

General Manager Jim Rutherford speaks to media

General manager Jim Rutherford speaks with the media following the 2019 Trade Deadline

  • 09:35 •

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is confident, but also realistic. 

The Pens sit just on the outside of the NHL playoff bubble - 9th place - but are currently tied with Carolina for the second Wild Card spot (losing a tie-breaker) and trail both Montreal (1st Wild Card position) and Columbus (3rd in Metro Division) by one point. 

So while the Pens may be on the outside looking in, they're within punching distance of being right back in the mix. 

"We're good enough to get in. We're good enough to make a run," Rutherford said Monday afternoon. "There has been some inconsistency in our play. We have to have everything going to be a good team.

"I feel comfortable with this team, but I say that at this time with being a little bit nervous on if we're going to get in." 

More concerning for the Pens than their current standing in the NHL is the standing of their top two defensive players - Kris Letang (upper-body) and Brian Dumoulin (concussion). Both members of the team's top defensive pair were lost during an ugly altercation against Philadelphia on Saturday. 

Both players are currently out with Letang being evaluated on a day-to-day basis. The team has opted not to place either player on IR, which means they could possibly return by the end of the week, an optimistic situation.  

"Since (Letang) was injured the other night, we're encouraged," Rutherford said. "We're still not exactly sure when he's coming back … Based on what could happen in those injuries we're encouraged."

Rutherford filled the sudden hole on the blue line at the NHL's trade deadline on Monday by adding Erik Gudbranson from Vancouver and Chris Wideman from Florida. 

"We obviously have issues on defense with injuries," Rutherford said. "Even without the injuries, getting the type of player that Gudbranson is was something we've talked about for a while.

"In Wideman's case, he gives us depth at defense."

Rutherford is a typically active GM, and isn't afraid to use his first-round draft pick to acquire a worthy player. However, this time around he made sure to hold that top-round selection. 

"This is a year that we're on the bubble to get in. I did not want to risk that, but also it's a very good draft," Rutherford said. "It was important to keep that pick."

For now, the Pens will get Gudbranson in the fold and hopes to find their swagger. 

"Our goaltending has to be consistent and strong. We have to get healthy on defense … and our forwards have to do what they're capable of doing," Rutherford said. 

"We made most of these moves early enough that it shouldn't take a long time for guys to fit in. Hopefully, Gudbranson can fit in pretty quick. There's not a lot of margin for error down the stretch."

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