TORONTO – His Penguins had not yet won a seventh consecutive games, and general manager Ray Shero was talking trade Thursday night.
Kind of, anyway.
“There’s too many teams (in contention),” Shero said. “As a manager all you can do is keep touch with teams, continue to monitor your own team and see what needs may be.”
Only two NHL clubs – Washington and Florida – can really be considered out of playoff contention as every team gets ready for its home stretch.
The Penguins, like many teams, have 20 games left. This is enough time to play out of or into a funk. This is also enough time to sure up some problem spots.
Shero is looking to do just that.
He also is looking at Calgary right winger Jarome Iginla, even though there is no obvious fit for Iginla with the Penguins.
With center Evgeni Malkin soon to return from an upper-body injury, there are more than enough top-end forwards – especially with the emergence of rookie left winger Beau Bennett for the second line.
Scoring, clearly, is not a problem.
Also not a problem: Drive.
That has been obvious during this seven-game winning streak.
The Penguins are improving, though far from perfect, but they are carrying themselves like players treating this truncated schedule not as a warm-up but a series of tests that will prepare them for the final that will start when the playoff begin.
Take, for example, them going five of eight games without allowing a power-play goal. That is no great accomplishment, but it signifies growth.
So, the April 3 trade deadline approaches.
Iginla might bring intangibles, but the Penguins need actual upgrades.
That will start with a top-4 defenseman.
That will continue with a bottom-six forward, or two, that can help with that slightly improving penalty kill.
Shero will not tip his hand. He never does.
He has moved to bolster his club in five of six previous deadlines, the lone exception being last season.
He does not need to make a big splash, but he probably won’t go two straight years without some tinkering.
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Rob Rossi covers the Penguins and NHL for Trib Total Media and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He is ClearChannel’s Penguins Insider. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib.