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Hornqvist sees great opportunity with Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Patric Hornqvist said he thought he was dreaming after being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Reality has set in less than a week later.

Hornqvist, along with forward Nick Spaling, was traded from the Nashville Predators to Pittsburgh for forward James Neal during the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft. The 6-foot, 190-pound Swedish wing was in bed when he was informed of the trade and said he was pleased with the idea of playing for the Penguins.

He is excited to have a change of scenery, but does not expect much else to be different, despite playing with two of the NHL's premier players, forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

"Obviously, it's hard to say how much I can produce while playing with [Crosby and Malkin]," Hornqvist said Thursday. "I got a great opportunity in front of me, playing with two of the best centermen in the world, but I'm not going to change my game. I'm still going to go hard to the net and try to score goals around the net. Obviously, I'm so happy for this opportunity to come to this organization and a good team and have a great chance to win.

Patric Hornqvist
Right Wing - PIT
GOALS: 22 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 53
SOG: 248 | +/-: 1
"So I'm excited and ready for the season to start."

Hornqvist, who played each of his first six seasons in Nashville, is coming off a career-high 53 points in 2013-14. He scored 22 goals after having four in the shortened 2012-13 season.

"When I came to Nashville, I was always trying to go to the front of the net and they put me on the front of the net on the power play," he said. "And after that I get more ice time and get on the power play … and the puck starts to go in, and from then on I was always trying to go hard to the net."

With the loss of Neal, a 40-goal scorer and a regular linemate of Malkin's, Hornqvist could be relied on heavily to make up for that production. Malkin will enter the 2014-15 season with new linemates after forward Jussi Jokinen signed with the Florida Panthers on the first day of free agency Tuesday.

Even with several players lost to free agency, the Penguins may have built a deeper lineup, with the additions of Hornqvist, Spaling and forwards Blake Comeau and Steve Downie. Hornqvist said he thinks Pittsburgh has an opportunity to compete for a Stanley Cup next season. Last season, the Penguins' Cup hopes were dashed when they lost in seven games to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round after holding a 3-1 series lead.

"Obviously, Pittsburgh before was a really good, Cup-winning team. They always have a good performance and a good goalie," Hornqvist said. "So I was really looking forward to playing against them and playing against probably the two best players in the world, and I think they had a little bad luck there last year, when they were up 3-1 against the Rangers and couldn't finish the deal.

"Everybody probably wants to come back and show the fans and the media … that they have a chance to win."

Pittsburgh has had an eventful offseason, changing its general manager and coach. Hornqvist spoke to Penguins GM Jim Rutherford and coach Mike Johnston after being traded and was reassured when they welcomed him.

"We haven't really talked about what I've got to do on the ice or anything like that," Hornqvist said. "The only thing I know I've got to do is I have to be the same player I've been in Nashville. I can't change anything. They know what kind of player they got and I have to show it."

Hornqvist hopes he and Spaling can bring a positive dynamic to the Penguins, much like he did with the Predators.

"In Nashville, I was proud to be a good guy in the locker room," Hornqvist said. "I always liked to laugh and joke around a little bit before practice and try to be a funny guy and stuff like that. Hopefully, I can be the same thing in Pittsburgh."

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