-- The Penguins watched this past summer as top forwards Marian Hossa
and Ryan Malone
departed, leaving a giant void in the goal-scoring department.
Pittsburgh hoped signing Ruslan Fedotenko
and Miroslav Satan
and putting them on a line with All-Star center Sidney Crosby
could fill the hole, but it didn't happen. While Crosby had his usual outstanding season, Fedotenko and Satan disappointments.
Fedotenko had 16 goals and 39 points in 65 games and eventually settled into a second-line role with Evgeni Malkin
. Satan also had 16 goals, but he was waived March 4, and after going unclaimed, the two-time NHL All-Star and four-time 30-goal scorer was demoted to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
Rather than sulk, however, Satan took his game to the minor leagues for the first time since the 1994-95 season, had nine points in 10 games and earned a return trip to the NHL on April 10.
Satan didn't get back into an NHL game until Games 5 and 6 of the Pens' first-round series against Philadelphia, but was back in the press box for the first two games of the second round. Upon entering the lineup for Game 3, however, he has been very good. He's played on the fourth line and gotten time with the second power-play unit, but has managed to make the most of his opportunities. He had a nice goal-mouth pass to set up a Crosby goal in Game 4, and his give-and-go with Jordan Staal
in the second period of Game 5 allowed the Pens to score the game's first goal.
"If you saw him after the pass to Sidney in Game 4, Sidney's pointing at him and Miro's pretty deadpan in a pretty big situation and a pretty big play for our team and for himself," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
said. "But that's Miro. He's a quality guy, he's a character guy, he goes about his business in a professional way. He went down (to the AHL) and showed a lot of character, worked. … When he came back here he was ready to step on the ice and help us out any way he can. That's what he said when he came back. That shows a lot about who he is. You don't see that in a still photo, you don't see that maybe from the stands, but I think you see that over the course of how he's acted, how he's played and what he's done here."
Bylsma isn't surprised by Satan's mini-renaissance. Bylsma was an assistant coach with the Islanders in 2005-06 when Satan was there, so he knows the character of the player, as well as the talent level.
"He's been given the opportunity and he's come up with a couple big games," Bylsma said. "I guess it's a little bit of a surprise, but it's not if you've known the guy for a couple years. I don't think it's a surprise to him. He expected to do this, and given the opportunity this was how he was going to play. I don't think he's trying to show us. He's trying to go out and be a part of this team and help out any way he can and I think he's shown that the last two nights."
The same can be said of Fedotenko, who has had a reawakening since a talk with Bylsma prior to Game 2 in Washington. Bylsma wouldn't detail their conversation, but suffice to say, whatever was said has worked. Fedotenko has goals in three-straight games, including a rocket one-timer past Caps goalie Simeon Varlamov in Game 5 that tied the game, 2-2, 51 seconds into the third period. It was one of his 10 shots, and while he was credited with just two hits, he was a force on the forecheck.
"Ruslan is a playoff player," Bylsma said. "He wanted to do more and he wanted to be a bigger factor in the games. Sometimes that's getting an opportunity and sometimes that's just demanding an opportunity with the way he's playing. To Ruslan's credit, that's what he did -- he demanded an opportunity with the way he's played. He demanded to be a factor in the game by the way he was throwing his body around, by the way he was getting into open spots and getting the puck on net, and also by the way he's taking charge of the puck when he has gotten it. Three or four times he's taken the puck and come down the wing with speed, attacked.
"We did talk, but Ruslan is the guy making those plays and demanding more ice time and throwing his body around, and that's what he can do for our team. That's what he's done in the past for playoff teams. It's a big reason why he's on our team, because he's been able to do that in the past and that's what he's been doing the last few games."
Bylsma said he'll need to see more of the same the rest of the way.
"If you're going to have success in the playoffs, if you're going to be considered a good team, you need guys in spots like that to step up," Bylsma said. "It's a credit to Miro, it's a credit to Feds … for staying with it, getting opportunities, creating opportunities, and then cashing in when the chance provides itself."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.