Courtesy of Point Park University

Rutherford clarifies ‘harder to play against’


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Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The pain of the Penguins' ejection from the Stanley Cup playoffs after just four games in April was still raw and fresh when Jim Rutherford vowed that he would devote the off-season to making his team harder to play against during the coming season.

Some interpreted that as evidence that he would look to ratchet up the Penguins' physicality, to bring in players who would punish -- in the most literal sense of the word -- opponents for daring to share a slab of ice with them.

A reasonable interpretation, perhaps, but it was not the message Rutherford was trying to convey. Or, more important, the plan he was hoping to execute.

"That's not what I was referencing," he said today. "That's not what I meant."

And while training camp doesn't begin for more than a month and at least one roster change is expected before those workouts begin, Rutherford believes that the moves he has made since the Penguins were swept by the Islanders -- bringing in forwards Dominik Kahun, Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Tanev -- have achieved the objective he set.

Not necessarily because they're physically imposing (although it's worth noting that Tanev finished third in the NHL with 278 hits when he was with Winnipeg last season), but because of their skating and their potential to enhance the balance on the Penguins' lines.

"With the speed that we've added, we'll have more puck pressure," Rutherford said. "The depth of our forwards, we should be able to get more production out of all of our lines."

Precisely what those forward units will look like probably won't be determined until sometime during camp, or even later. With three new forwards in the personnel mix and a number of players capable of working at more than one position, Mike Sullivan and his staff figure to experiment with quite a few combinations before settling on the ones they like best.

"(Sullivan) is going to have to play around a little bit and figure out who goes where, with the new additions and everything," Rutherford said. "But certainly, with the players we've added and the way they play, the puck-pressure will make a big difference."

Of course, it's always possible that the makeup of the group will change again before camp convenes, if only because Rutherford has publicly acknowledged the need to open some salary-cap space to make it possible to re-sign defenseman Marcus Pettersson, a restricted free agent.

For the moment, though, there don't appear to be any front-burner trade talks in progress.

"It's been pretty quiet," Rutherford said.

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