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Bjugstad making impression with Penguins, Crosby

Forward playing second-line center after being acquired in trade with Panthers

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- It didn't take long for Nick Bjugstad to impress Sidney Crosby.

Bjugstad, who was acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade with the Florida Panthers on Friday, played second-line center that same day and had one assist in a 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators. The 26-year-old, who was traded along with forward Jared McCann by the Panthers for forwards Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan and three picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, followed it up with five shots and three hits in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

"I think he's done a great job," Crosby said. "He had some really good chances in the last game, created some really nice plays. I think he's looked really good there (at second-line center). I think you just have to do the same things. If he keeps getting those chances, he's going to start scoring some goals."

Bjugstad will likely continue to play on Pittsburgh's second line with Evgeni Malkin day to day because of an upper-body injury, while McCann has replaced Brassard as third-line center ahead of the Penguins game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, FS-CR, NHL.TV).

Malkin, who has missed the past two games, did not practice Monday but skated with skating and skills development coach Ty Hennes. When he returns, Pittsburgh could move Bjugstad to right wing and keep McCann at third-line center, but for now, he's comfortable filling in for Malkin.

"I've played center pretty much my whole life growing up," Bjugstad said. "Last few years, I've played in and out, mostly wing. But there's advantages to both, definitely. Wherever they put me, I'll be happy. This is a deep lineup and there's lots of good players to play with."

Bjugstad has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 34 games this season after having an NHL career-high 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games last season.

Bjugstad and McCann practiced with the Penguins for the first time Monday. Their plane landed in Pittsburgh at about 6:18 p.m. Friday, and a police escort helped them arrive at PPG Paints Arena about 10 minutes before puck drop. The Penguins did not hold a morning skate Saturday or a practice Sunday.

After watching the Super Bowl with some of his new teammates Sunday, Bjugstad said he enjoyed the fast-paced practice and thought having a unique introduction could have done him some good.

"Jumping right into that game [Friday], that was something else," Bjugstad said. "Maybe it was easier that way. Not much thinking. Didn't have much time to go over the systems or anything. Just go out and play. It's fun to get traded here. I'm very excited."

Crosby made sure to say he doesn't think practice is overrated, but agreed that how everything lined up benefited Bjugstad and McCann.

"It's tough, but I think they handled it well," Crosby said. "There's not much you can do in that case. I mean, it's a really tough situation to come into. You just have to kind of go with it. I thought they handled it great, coming into a new dressing room 10 minutes before the game.

"Getting thrown in there right into the game, playing some pretty good minutes (16:13), too, I think there's a lot to be said about that. Sometimes that's the best way, to just kind of be thrown into it like that and adjust."

Four days into his Penguins tenure, Bjugstad said he's getting used to the new environment.

"There's an attitude of winning," Bjugstad said. "I could tell from the pregame speech. Everyone stepping on the ice, you could just tell there's a mentality of winning in here. So it's definitely a good team to come to."

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