Two solid stories developing around the Penguins today. First and foremost, Sergei Gonchar was cleared for contact in practice. Just over a week ago Gonch was advised to not go overboard with slapshots and now he's taking some hits. This is definitely a big sign of improvement and potentially even a sign that he may be back in the lineup by the second or third week of the month.
One of the popular discussions here on Pensburgh when it comes to locker room chemistry is whether or not the Pens have a veteran leader. A glance at the roster would show they don't. Gonchar could be that leader, but he's obviously been off the ice for the most of the season and doesn't really strike me as a commanding voice in the dressing room.
In situations like this, it's nice to know the trading deadline is approaching. Veterans like Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin and Doug Weight may be dealt elsewhere over the ensuing weeks. Could one of those guys land in Pitt?
"It's important for us to get into the playoffs. It's a message to the players, it's a message to our fans. That's our expectation. We want to make a push, and [qualifying] is our expectation. If there's something there we believe can help us, we're certainly going to try to look at it and do it."
But right now it all comes down to the "who do you give up" factor. Fans have speculated Ryan Whitney as potential trade bait, and even mentioned up-and-coming defenseman Alex Goligoski as well.
Ray Shero didn't elaborate on where he expects to take the team by the trade deadline, but he did share this one motivating factor:
"We want to be a playoff team. I believe we'll be in a position on March 4 that we'll be around a playoff spot, if not in one."
Let's hope so...