Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Young Defensemen Get Shot at Audition for Future Roles

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Young Defensemen Get Shot at Audition for Future Roles

Article excerpt

The NHL trade deadline is March 1, a little more than six weeks away, and Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has a history of striking early.

Whether it's simply bargain shopping or trying to give his team a boost, Rutherford has never been shy about making a move roughly a month out.

With the news the Penguins received Monday - that defenseman Kris Letang now is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury he suffered Saturday in Detroit - these next couple of weeks figure to be an important evaluation process.

More than that, though, they're going to be crucial for the defensemen at the bottom of the Penguins' depth chart trying to make an impression on management and, potentially, obtain regular work beyond this season.

To replace Letang, the Penguins called up Chad Ruhwedel from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He's also a right-handed shot who plays the right side, and Ruhwedel has played well in limited NHL action - 1 goal, 2 points and a plus-3 rating in 5 games.

"I'm trying to keep it simple," Ruhwedel said Monday. "We have to turn this [three-game losing streak entering Monday night] around, and I want to help be a part of that."

How much Ruhwedel, Steve Oleksy or David Warsofsky are a part of anything figures to be an interesting balancing act. Rutherford added a boatload of defensemen this summer with the idea that this could happen.

Now, it has.

And the Penguins' banged-up defense corps, which has watched its defensive metrics slip some this season before bottoming out with three road losses last week, might need an influx or energy or experience.

Or, of course, it might not. That's the scenario Rutherford will be considering over the next couple of weeks while evaluating those three, in addition to the defensemen currently on his roster.

One of those is Brian Dumoulin, who skated on his own Monday. …

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