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Penguins Third Liners Respond (Kind of) to Hextall’s Trade Talk (+)

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter, Brock McGinn, Win over Minnesota Wild

CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins usually find drama. Even when they reach for calm stasis, but especially when a team with dwindling Stanley Cup opportunities and now endangered playoff hopes starts losing, heightened tensions usually follow.

And so the Penguins, just 3-3-3 in the nine games leading to the All-Star Break and bye week, have been searching for answers to their most significant issue: consistency.

The team can look like Stanley Cup contenders for 20 minutes, but Connor Bedard-candidates in the other two periods. Coach Mike Sullivan has pushed his team for consistency and gritted his teeth as he talked about “volatility” in the game.

Penguins winger Jason Zucker was not one of those players delivered to the hot seat by GM Ron Hextall on Sunday, but he’s been there before. He knows what it’s like to fight the outside noise. For over a year, his name appeared in the trade rumors while he was a member of the Minnesota Wild. Eventually, the Penguins were the team that snagged Zucker, but make no mistake, most players hear the rumors.

“At the end of the day, you have to be professional–that’s part of the job, you know,” Zucker told PHN. “At the rink, I didn’t think about it–you’re always doing something. You’re busy. I’d think about it sometimes, away from the rink. It would get to me a little bit.

“I don’t think it affected my play too much.”

Sunday at UPMC Lemieux Complex, Hextall put another catchphrase in play and put a few players on notice ahead of the March 3 NHL trade deadline.

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