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Latest Penguins drama: Is there a rift between Rutherford, Johnston?

Mike Johnston, Rick Tocchet, Jim Rutherford

Mike Johnston, Rick Tocchet, Jim Rutherford


Plenty of negative headlines have been dismissed - sometimes even by icon Mario Lemieux - but it’s tough to shake the feeling that the Pittsburgh Penguins are swimming in drama this season.

The latest scuttlebutt comes from GM Jim Rutherford essentially telling DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Josh Yohe that he wants Mike Johnston to play young forward Daniel Sprong ... but it seems to go deeper than that. Maybe.

Puck Daddy transcribed some of the juiciest bits (Yohe’s report requires a subscription), including this:

“I have been urging the coach to get him in there,” Rutherford told Yohe. “We need him in there so we can get a better look at him.”

To say the least, people are finding it awfully curious that Rutherford is discussing such differences of opinion with the media. Going further, “Rutherford throws Johnston under the bus” shows up in more than one spot.

As some onlookers note, it’s a stark contrast from the old regime of Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero.

Some are going as far as wondering if this ranks as something of an ultimatum, including TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Maybe this will be another thing that management denies, much like Lemieux’s alleged falling out with Sidney Crosby and members of the locker room being mad (or not) at each other.

We can’t be certain if there’s fire, but it’s increasingly difficult to ignore so much smoke.