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Rutherford updates the state of the team

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford did a conference call on Wednesday to discuss a number of different topics. Here's a summary of what he had to say...

Tweet from @penguins: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford offered some words of encouragement in this afternoon's media availability 💛And this morning? He watched the Penguins win the 1991 Stanley Cup. pic.twitter.com/4NICzdFFXX

* Rutherford said that to the best of his knowledge, no Penguins player has been tested for Coronavirus COVID-19. 

"The people that would be tested would have to fall within the guidelines, and no one has told me that they have had any symptoms or that there would be any testing," Rutherford said. "So, that's to the best of my knowledge."

* With the season currently paused, the NHL gave players the option of returning to their home cities outside of their club's home cities, including outside of North America. Rutherford said initially, the players all stayed in the area. But it eventually came to a point where some of them did decide to leave Pittsburgh for the time being.

"The players have gone through (director of team operations) Jason Seidling to communicate," Rutherford said. "Most of their agents have called me for my advice. And my advice to all the players or our employees is you have to make your own decision. This is not a decision that we should be making for them. The transition and the process has been very smooth and everyone has handled it very well."

Rutherford himself has been quarantined at home with his wife Leslie, son James and their two dogs since the Penguins returned home from Columbus on March 12. Tomorrow (Thursday) will mark Day 14 of that quarantine. "I think as a family, we're excited that tomorrow will be the 14th day," Rutherford said. "But as I remind everybody, it's the first 14th day. There may be a few more of those periods of 14 days. We just have to continue to stick together and do the things that we can do."

* Rutherford was asked about Jake Guentzel, who underwent successful shoulder surgery on Dec. 31. The forward was given a projected recovery timeline of 4-6 months. 

Rutherford said taking the shorter end of that timeline would have him back around the end of April and the longer end of the timeline would have him back around the end of June, which means there's a possibility Guentzel could be back in time for the season depending on what happens.

"I would expect that, knowing Jake Guentzel, that he's going to be ready," Rutherford said. "His rehab's going well. He's at the point now where he's one of the guys that's going to return home and continue to work on the rehab on his own. But all the reports that I've had, there have not been any setbacks at this point."

* Rutherford said that he and the rest of the Penguins hockey operations staff are continuing to work from home - for example, the team recently signed college free agents Drew O'Connor and Cam Lee - and that he is aware of what each different department is doing. 

Rutherford talks daily with Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, who in turn talks daily with his staff. Rutherford also talks daily with Penguins CEO and president David Morehouse. And overall, Rutherford feels everybody has stayed up to speed on what's going on.

"For example, the trainers have given each player a workout program at home because we want the players staying at home," Rutherford said. "We want them to follow the guidelines, stay quarantined, but here's what you can do to work out at home and be prepared that if by chance we play again you're not going to be behind. I think we've covered most of the bases."

* Rutherford and the rest of the general managers also do a weekly conference call with the NHL, and the owners have a separate weekly conference call of their own with the NHL. 

"(The league) is always telling us, if you have any thoughts about anything that's in contracts that are going to have to be addressed in transition, please contact us and make us aware of it," Rutherford said. "And if you have any ideas as to format, as to how we get through this season, they're looking for ideas from the managers. They have been very open to it."

* In that regard, Rutherford said the Penguins are just trying to be as prepared as possible for whatever the next step may be. 

"I could probably go through 10 different scenarios that are possibilities, but it doesn't make sense - I'm not the one making the decision," he said. "I'm certainly ready to work on any playoff format that the league decides we're going to have and when that's going to be."

If the 2019-20 season does resume, Rutherford knows one thing for sure - it doesn't matter when the winning team lifts the Stanley Cup, whether it's in the summer or the fall.

"We're in new times. We have to adjust," Rutherford said. "If, in fact, we're fortunate enough to play for the Cup, whoever wins that Cup is going to feel the same way about winning it whatever day they win it, compared to winning it usually in the middle of June."

* At the end of the day, Rutherford said the main priority is keeping everyone healthy and safe and he looks forward to being reunited with his entire Penguins family at some point in the future.  

"This is something that is unexpected, it's something that nobody thought was coming and we have to adjust to it," he said. "But we live in a great country, and we live in a great, great city where people have gone through tough times. We'll pull through this together."

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