For years, the Pittsburgh Penguins often sent players away at the NHL’s trading deadline. This time, they added veteran leadership and toughness to try and reach the postseason for the first time since 2000-01.
Before Tuesday afternoon’s trading deadline, Pittsburgh (33-20-9) acquired Roberts and Laraque in separate deals from Florida and Phoenix, respectively.
Roberts, playing in his 19th season, had 13 goals and 29 points in 50 games with the Panthers. A 12-time 20-goal scorer, Roberts knows his role will be to help Sidney Crosby and rookies Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin as Pittsburgh continues its drive for a playoff spot.
“I’m not a big yeller or screamer,” Roberts said. “I just come to the rink every day, be a pro, play hard, be a good teammate, and hopefully that will rub off on some of the young guys—though, to me, I don’t know how much rubbing off needs to be done with these young guys.”
Laraque has 878 penalty minutes in 546 games with Edmonton and Phoenix. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound right wing will be reunited with junior coach Michel Therrien, and his role is to provide protection to Pittsburgh’s young stars.
“Teams know that to beat the Penguins, you have to hit Sidney Crosby, hit Evgeni Malkin, hit Jordan Staal,” Laraque said. “I’m up for the challenge to (protect them). I know I’m going to be a lot busier and have more responsibility.”
The Penguins are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 75 points, but only nine ahead of 11th-place New York (30-27-6).
“We want to win,” Therrien said. “We want to be part of the playoffs. That was our plan, and right now we’ve put ourselves in a position to be there. Adding players like this will help us to finish the season strong.”
Pittsburgh has stumbled a bit after recording at least one point in 16 straight games. The Penguins lost 1-0 to Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey on Tuesday, their third defeat in four contests.
Crosby and Malkin each saw their seven-game point streaks end in the loss. Crosby, who needs one point to become the youngest player in NHL history to reach 200 in his career, has two goals and five assists in three games against New York this season.
The Penguins will be playing against a goaltender that is coming off a shutout win. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 19 shots en route to his third shutout this season in the Rangers’ 4-0 victory over Montreal on Tuesday.
“It was a huge game,” Lundqvist said after the Rangers blanked the Canadiens for the first time since 1990. “We kept it really simple.”
Lundqvist has given up three goals while winning his last two starts against the Penguins after surrendering nine goals and losing his first two outings against them this season.
New York is 1-1-1 on its season-high six-game homestand and will be trying to win consecutive games at MSG for the first time since Dec. 30-Jan. 4.
“I think we recognize that we have a lot of work in front of us now, and whatever the individual price is has to be paid,” Rangers coach Tom Renney told the team’s official Web site. “I’m sure there’s a sense of relief, but at the same time the guys know what’s in front of them.”
Marian Hossa scored twice for New York, giving him eight goals and two assists in his last 11 games. He’s failed to record a point in four appearances against Pittsburgh this season.