By; Joe Kapp

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Pittsburgh Penguins General Manger Jim Rutherford joined the Cook and Poni Show on Wednesday, saying he is a bit more upbeat these days now that his team is starting to look like the Pens who have won back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships.

“We have had more rest [since they hit the midway point], and our guys have taken their game to the next level,” Rutherford said. “Our stars have been our stars.”

Rutherford has made moves to try and spark his team, which haven’t worked until now. Still, with the Pens starting to play better, Rutherford says that won’t keep him from being active before the trade deadline this year.

“I feel better about where we are at. Our lines are better now,” Rutherford added. “We’re always trying to make the team better, and I’ll continue to do that right up until the deadline.”

KDKA-TV Sports’ Bob Pompeani Reports:

Could that mean a return of fan favorite Matt Cullen? Rutherford says that he can’t talk about players on active rosters with other teams, but did say that everyone is aware of what he meant to Pittsburgh, and he has the utmost respect for him. And that is where he’s choosing to leave it for now.

How about the big deal he made for Ryan Reaves? Does he regret making that move?

“I believe, without him, we would be looking at a very different situation,” Rutherford said, referring to injuries being cut way down to star players this season. “I don’t have any second thoughts.”

Rutherford added that Reaves has done everything they have asked of him since he has been brought here and he is a great teammate.

So what about a deal for Patric Hornqvist?

“If we can re-sign him, I would like to do that,” Rutherford said.

He added that there will be a ton of interest in Hornqvist on the open market, so he is willing to go against his own rule and is open to resigning him during to the season to avoid losing him.

So, is Ian Cole the dangling carrot at the trade deadline? Has he asked to be moved?

“I wouldn’t phrase it quite that way,” Rutherford said. “I think Ian just wants to have a chance to win again, but when you are in a contract year, you want to be playing as much as you can be.”

Rutherford said that this is not the first time Cole had been benched to try and spark him. He thinks that he started slow and the coach expected more from him.