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Penguins are confident after no shakeups at NHL trade deadline

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Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012
 

The trade deadline had passed, yet Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik found only familiar faces at Tuesday's practice.

There was no new forward, no defensive shuffle and no replacement goalie. The deadline came and went without general manager Ray Shero adding a single player to the roster.

Yet, the team felt bolstered.

"We like what we have here and Ray must, too," Orpik said. "If anything, it gives the guys in here a little boost of confidence knowing they believe in this group."

For those worried about being traded, Tuesday came as a relief.

Defenseman Matt Niskanen, like some of his teammates, said he was "a little nervous the past couple days." He hadn't heard his name in specific trade rumors but thought he might have been a movable piece.

"You can kind of figure out who your staples are in the lineup — who the core guys are — and then there are some other guys," he said. "I fall into that category."

The team's recent history also could have made him worry. In each of his five previous years with the Penguins, Shero had made a move near the trade deadline. Last year, he acquired James Neal and Niskanen from Dallas.

But that kind of blockbuster trade wasn't needed this time, said forward Matt Cooke, nor was this locker room short on quality role players.

"We feel like we have a successful group in this room that can go on and win," Cooke said. "We're confident in each other. We're confident in the group."

That doesn't mean they're ready for the playoffs Wednesday. The Penguins could extend their winning streak to four games in Dallas Wednesday night, but they're still searching for better consistency.

"These last 20 games are crucial," Orpik said. "You've got to gain some momentum going into the playoffs because ... if you're stumbling, it usually carries over and you come out flat in the playoffs."

With the trade deadline passed, that's one less distraction for a team chasing home ice in the playoffs. The Penguins began Tuesday fourth in the Eastern Conference, but the Flyers, Devils and Senators all were within a win or two of catching them.

With his lineup unchanged, coach Dan Bylsma dusted off a Gene Hackman line from the movie "Hoosiers." "My team is on the floor," he said. But there's room for one addition: Sidney Crosby, if he recovers.

Crosby will travel with his teammates on this road trip, but his status remains unchanged. The Penguins are prepared to challenge for a Stanley Cup without him if need be, Orpik said, but they hope Crosby will be back. With a healthy Crosby, they could be considered one of the favorites.

"(Crosby) would blow away any other acquisition that any team made at the deadline," Bylsma said. "We like our team. We like our players. Our team is on the floor."

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