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McCann says Penguins ready to make another run at Cup

Forward has been working on play as wing after switch from center late last season

by Dave McCarthy / Independent Correspondent

TORONTO -- Jared McCann said he believes the Pittsburgh Penguins are ready to compete for another Stanley Cup championship this season after retooling their lineup during the offseason.

The Penguins, who were swept in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Islanders last season, acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes for forward Phil Kessel on Jun. 29, and signed forward Brandon Tanev to a six-year, $21 million contract (average annual value of $3.5 million) on Jul. 1. 

Galchenyuk, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2020, had 41 points in 72 games last season and tied Brad Richardson for the Coyotes lead with 19 goals. Tanev had an NHL career-high 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 80 games with the Winnipeg Jets.

"I feel like we're there to be honest," McCann said on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio at BioSteel Camp on Wednesday. "We've made some great moves this summer, and I feel like I have the excitement and the whole team has that excitement to go back this season and show that we can do it and that the guys who've been there can do it again with a newer group."

McCann, who was acquired by the Penguins along with forward Nick Bjugstad in a trade with the Florida Panthers on Feb. 1, said joining the team late last season was inspiring from the moment he arrived in Pittsburgh.

"It was incredible going to a team with so much confidence," said McCann, who had 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 32 games with the Penguins. "With [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin and those guys who have won multiple Stanley Cups, you walk into the rink and see everybody's photo on the wall with them holding the Stanley Cup, it just gives you chills and goosebumps. Walking in there was a huge confidence boost and I feel like it was a great trade for me with the way I play and the way I've fit in there."

Video: 31 in 31: Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-20 season preview

About a month into his tenure with the Penguins, McCann was switched to left wing after coach Mike Sullivan said the team wanted to see how he would fare in that role. After playing center at every level growing up, he admitted the adjustment was difficult at times, but when he found himself on a line with Crosby and right wing Jake Guentzel for the first time in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Mar. 2, he realized the chance to play alongside those two players was a tremendous opportunity.

"You cannot believe how nervous I was. Seriously, you can ask any of the guys, I was so nervous," said McCann, who had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 win. "Come on, I didn't want to let anybody down. I felt like I needed to take a deep breath. I went in the shower before the game, just took a deep breath and then went out there and it worked out all right."

With an opportunity to potentially continue in that role this season, the 23-year old forward said he has been continuing to work on the adjustment from center to wing throughout the summer.

"I've been working a lot at stops and starts and the in-zone defensive kind of play," McCann said. "The coaches in Pittsburgh were patient with me because I messed up a lot last year, I really did, with becoming a winger. The biggest adjustment was the defensive play, not getting caught down too low and making sure I was covering the defenseman."

After gaining a much stronger appreciation for how good Crosby is after playing with him toward the end of last season, McCann intends to pick up as much information from the three-time Stanley Cup champion as he can to aid in his development.

"I'm just trying to learn as much as I possibly can from the guy. He's pretty amazing to watch on and off the ice," McCann said. "His work ethic is second to none. I'm not kidding, he works as hard off the ice as he does on it. I'm just trying to pick up on the things he does, almost shadow him and follow him around as much as possible. When you play against guys, you don't know the actual person they are. But when you play with them, you realize how awesome he is. I kind of felt bad for chirping him in the past."

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