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Penguins Players React to Losing and the NHL Trade Deadline

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Not since Sidney Crosby was a rookie, Mario Lemieux was forced to retire with a heart ailment, and a string of big-name free agents flopped spectacularly have the Pittsburgh Penguins been this far out of a playoff position this early in the season with the NHL trade deadline the increasingly spoken elephant in the room.

Their 16-year streak of playoff participation ended last season but not officially until after they played Game 81. The Penguins will play Game 60 Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena, 10 points back of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lighting. Even if the Penguins win their four games in hand, they’re still three points out.

It’s an entirely new experience for defenseman Kris Letang, who was not a part of that disastrous 2005-06 team but was instead still playing in juniors after being the Penguins’ third-round pick.

“It’s awful, to be honest. From the beginning of the year, it was our job to put ourselves in a good spot. And we didn’t,” said Letang. “And so now we’re here today, and we have to deal with this. But at the same time, we’re within reach. And the goal is the same.”

Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic has been through this before. As the backstop for the Detroit Red Wings in the past two seasons, he saw his fair share of teammates traded away for draft picks and futures.

He was on the other end of that equation when the Carolina Hurricanes dealt him to Detroit. PHN asked Nedeljkovic the “big” question about the NHL trade deadline.

“It’s not a good feeling, being in this position, being here, obviously with Detroit the last two seasons prior when we knew we were in a tough spot, we were selling,” Nedeljkovic said. “So it’s not a good feeling. You never know what’s happening, who’s going to stay, and what direction the team wants to go. But all we can do is control what we can control.”

The Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames ripped off well-timed winning streaks to get themselves back in the playoff race, though it should be noted that despite their five-game winning streak, one loss put Calgary five points out.

That’s how tough the comeback is.

“I think the experience we have, they’re an accomplished group. They’ve had a lot of successes and a lot of disappointments; I think that offers all of us a certain perspective that maybe other teams don’t have,” coach Mike Sullivan opined. “I’d like to believe that will help us in these circumstances.”

According to Moneypuck.com, the Penguins have just an 18.2% chance of making the playoffs, and that would require some help. Not only do the Penguins trail Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, but they’re now outside the games-in-hand margin behind the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders, too.

Of course, in my viral moment with Sidney Crosby from Sunday night after the Penguins lost to the Edmonton Oilers 6-1, not everyone is feeling awful. Some are determined, and Crosby’s steely eyes as he shot against any talk of the bigger picture, or doom and gloom, should back tell you where the captain lies.

“The¬†deadline date hasn’t changed, and we still need to get points. So, yeah, I don’t know what picture you’re talking about, but it’s the same situation it was (Saturday).”