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Insider Only MORNING PENS BUZZ: Letang pushing hard to play vs NYR; Pens wrapup Pro Scouting Meetings; Four Prospects available with trade value

MORNING PENS BUZZ

We are moving past the midway point of the season and as dangerous as the Penguins might be in the playoffs if they get fully healthy, the Penguins have to start moving away from that No. 8, No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference to avoid a possible first round matchup against likes of the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game against the New York Rangers (29-11-4, 62 pts), 10 points behind the conference leading Rangers. Any hopes of climbing back in the division race starts tonight as a loss would move the Rangers 12 points ahead of Pittsburgh.
The Penguins 0-2 against the Rangers this season, are 0-5 against the top-3 teams in the Eastern Conference (New York 62 pts, Boston 59 pts, Philadelphia 58 pts). They have to start chipping away at getting wins against the likes of New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Pittsburgh has four games remaining against the Rangers, four against the Flyers and three games remaining against the Bruins.
Tonight Pittsburgh looks for a big boost on the blueline as defenseman Kris Letang is pushing hard to play tonight, just two days after starting to skate with the team. Some will argue that he should have to go through a couple more practices and shouldn’t comeback from a concussion in back-to-back situations as Pittsburgh plays tonight vs New York and tomorrow night vs Montreal.
{I’m} 100% confident or I wouldn’t be on the ice, ” Letang said on Wednesday.
All signs point to Letang playing tonight.

PENS WRAPUP PRO SCOUTING MEETINGS AS TEAM PREPARES FOR DEADLINE

Penguins GM Ray Shero and his staff on Wednesday wrapped up three days of Pro Scouting meetings as the team prepares for the February 27th trade deadline.
With uncertainty of what cap space will be available due to the unknown about Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh has different scenarios on the table that the team is ready to explore, sources say.

All signs though continue to point to the Penguins doing nothing major from a trade standpoint for “now” and the “future” like last years move for James Neal.
The Penguins figure to be in the market for a rental winger with the likes of Tuomo Ruutu and Ray Whitney near the top of the Penguins wishlist. More names will be leaking out in the coming weeks.
However, Sidney Crosby (if) being out for at least a couple more months would open to the door for a rental player with a high cap number.
Put this in the unlikely category but one player (wildcard) the Penguins are intrigued about is Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth if the Oilers decide to move Smyth and can talk Smyth into leaving Edmonton who won’t be fighting for a playoff spot.
The 35 year old has 15 goals and 32 points on the season. Smyth carries a $6.25 million cap hit and is an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. He wants to finish his career in Edmonton.
Always subject to change, the Penguins I’m told have no expectations to go after a big fish like a Bobby Ryan or Jarome Iginla if the Flames decide to make him available, although it is considered extremely unlikely that Iginla becomes available this winter.
Prospects Joe Morrow, Beau Bennett and Scott Harrington are off limits and the only way the Penguins would consider moving Simon Despres is in a long-term move that would land a big time ready now player. He’s staying put.
Four prospects available regarded with the most value in the Penguins system include defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, and wingers Eric Tangradi and Tom Kuhnhackl who I’m told team’s regard higher than Tangradi.
Bortuzzo has the higher upside in the eyes of most scouts I speak with who feel Bortuzzo could develop into a No. 4/No. 5 defenseman. Strait’s ceiling is regarded as a No. 6/7 defenseman who has great leadership qualities. The Penguins love Kuhnhackl’s goal scoring potential and they have little to no scoring wingers in their system and Beau Bennett is no sure thing.
2009 2nd round pick Philip Samuelsson will also surely draw interest around the league. The intrigue for teams around the league with Bortuzzo and Strait is that both are NHL ready now while Samuelsson is still a project from a developmental stage.
It’s not clear if the Penguins would be willing to move their first round pick in the right deal. Unlikely……. the only time GM Ray Shero was willing to move the team’s first round pick was for Marian Hossa.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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