PITTSBURGH - The NHL trading deadline is 3 p.m. today.
If Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero does nothing else in the final hours, he's tried to address his team's suddenly critical lack of offense.
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out for the long term, and with Chris Kunitz missing most of this month, the Penguins have been challenged to score goals.
Before defenseman Brooks Orpik left the lineup with a hand injury, he addressed the situation with characteristic candor:
"We know if we give up more than two goals that we're not going to win a lot of games right now," he said.
The truth hurts.
Tyler Kennedy got hot and scored seven goals in 11 games, and Jordan Staal is a consistent threat.
Otherwise, look at the scoring droughts that Penguins forwards carried into Saturday night's game at Toronto:
n Max Talbot had one goal in the last 37 games, and that was scored into an empty net.
n Mike Rupp scored one goal in 18 games.
n Chris Conner had one goal in 20 games.
n When Pascal Dupuis scored the only goal in Friday's 4-1 loss at Carolina, it was his second in the last 16 games.
Clearly, something had to be done, and Shero did it. He made two distinctively different deals, adding left wing James Neal (along with defenseman Matt Niskanen) and forward Alex Kovalev.
Neal is a bear of a power forward who has scored at least 20 goals in each of his three NHL seasons.
He has a value to the Penguins beyond the current emergency, which is why Shero was willing to give up defenseman Alex Goligoski in the deal with Dallas.
The enigmatic Kovalev is nearing the end of his current contract and perhaps the end of his NHL career.
He had some of his best years in Pittsburgh, but his reputation as a "floater" helped exasperate the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers and, most recently, the Ottawa Senators.
The Penguins got him for a conditional choice near the bottom of the draft.
Shero drew a comparison to Bill Guerin, the forward he acquired at the 2009 deadline.
"Billy was with the Islanders at the time. Billy was not playing well," Shero said. "And we took a chance on him based upon certain things. The same with [Kovalev] Their team is not having the season they expected, and it's difficult to play in those situations.
"So we're taking the chance that he'll translate his game and his skill level in playing here in Pittsburgh. I think he's going to play like Billy Guerin. He's a proud player, he'll want to do well. That's the hope."
It's worth a shot, given the Penguins' lack of offense. If Kovalev can contribute the way Guerin did in the Stanley Cup run, the Penguins will have gotten a bargain for the $1 million they'll pay him for the rest of the season.
The Penguins have been here before, reshaping the team on the fly at the trading deadline.
Guerin was a huge help, on and off the ice. Last year's acquisition of Alex Ponikarovsky from Toronto fell flat. He did nothing, and the Penguins exited in the second round of the playoffs.
The in-season deal that has become the NHL's standard for excellence is the March 4, 1991 trade that helped the Penguins grow up in time to win their first Cup.
Center Ron Francis and defensemen Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings were acquired from Hartford for center John Cullen, defenseman Zarley Zalapski and long-forgotten forward Jeff Parker.
Francis was the second-line center the Penguins needed behind Mario Lemieux, as well as an exceptional penalty killer and faceoff man. Samuelsson, and to a lesser degree Jennings, provided the physical presence the defense lacked.
What gets lost in the legend of that trade is the Penguins gave up good players. Cullen had 31 goals and 94 points in 65 games at the time of the trade. Zalapski had outstanding offensive skills.
But the mix was right for the Penguins, who embraced the changes.
This year, they'll be happy if the new players can simply score more than one goal a month.
The issue of concussions has really hit home for Shero, and not just because Crosby has been out of action since Jan. 5.
Shero's son Chris, a freshman at Upper St. Clair High School, sustained a concussion and is out of the lineup for the Pittsburgh Hornets, an under-16 team.
Famous last words
Bob Berry coached the Penguins from 1984-87 and was an old school taskmaster.
The gruff Berry didn't make the playoffs during his time in Pittsburgh.
Berry became especially frustrated late in his final season when the Penguins followed a lopsided home victory over Quebec with a sloppy road loss in Toronto.
It was after that March 5, 1987 loss at Toronto that Berry unleashed this famous rant:
"Win one 8-1, lose one, 7-2.easy come, easy go. That's the [expletive] attitude we had tonight. They don't have the [expletive] intestinal fortitude. Big shots. In the back door, put the [expletive] show on, back out on the bus, go somewhere else. Just like circus performers. They tell everybody they're professional hockey players. They might be hockey players, but they're not very [expletive] professional.''