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NHL Stadium Series

Ron Hainsey set for Penguins debut at Stadium Series

Defenseman, traded to Pittsburgh on Thursday, expected to be in lineup on Saturday against Flyers

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Ron Hainsey's introduction to the Pittsburgh Penguins was anything but ordinary.

One day after being traded from the Carolina Hurricanes, the 35-year-old defenseman walked onto a mock golden bridge encompassing Heinz Field just after 4 p.m. Friday. He wore a gold Penguins sweater in near 80-degree temperatures and joined his new teammates for a group photo in a rink surrounded by more than 68,000 empty bright yellow seats.

Hainsey then had an outdoor practice to prepare for his expected Penguins debut in the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV).

"It was a little different than the normal 11 a.m. twirl around, but it was good to get out there and see the sightlines and everything," Hainsey said. "It was a little bit different of a depth perception and all of that. It's certainly fun to be part of this right away."

Hainsey joined defenseman Brian Dumoulin, 25, on a pair Friday. Dumoulin's usual partner, Kris Letang, was skating next to defenseman Steve Oleksy. Following practice, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he expects Hainsey to provide a veteran presence.

"Ron's a good player," Sullivan said. "He's played a lot of games in this league. He has a wealth of experience, and I'm sure he'll share that with the defensemen we have. We have a lot of young guys, like Brian Dumoulin, that has an opportunity learn some things from Ron and I'm sure Ron will feel the same way about [Dumoulin]."

Sullivan said he couldn't take much from Hainsey's first practice.

"I think we know Ron's game pretty well having played against him for a number of years," Sullivan said. "I'm not sure a 35-minute practice on an outdoor rink is going to change what we think we have. We're pretty comfortable with what we have. We're excited to have him."

Hainsey's addition could bolster a Penguins defense thinned by injuries.

Letang (upper body) and Justin Schultz (concussion) will be game-time decisions Saturday, Sullivan said. Trevor Daley is expected to miss six weeks after having knee surgery Thursday, and Olli Maatta is recovering from a hand injury.

Schultz, who said he felt fine following practice Friday, was impressed with what he saw from Hainsey.

"He's going to be huge for us," Schultz said. "Just adds more depth. He's a really solid defender and we're happy to have him. Pretty cool for him to step into an outdoor game for his first game."

Hainsey said his role hasn't been defined. He expects to have a better idea of what's expected of him sometime next week, when the Penguins go on a two-game road trip.

It's been a surreal two days for Hainsey. On Thursday, after being informed of the trade at around 10 a.m., Hainsey rushed to meet his daughter at her school before heading back home to pack for his 4 p.m. flight to Pittsburgh.

Hainsey said he doesn't expect to settle in until after the Stadium Series.

"We have so many games coming up in March that once we start playing every other day, that will be when I just start getting into it and getting into a rhythm," he said. "With this huge event [Saturday], it's kind of a special game, obviously. A special event. We're looking to get a win, but it will get a little easier and more routine once we get into next week."

In 14 NHL seasons, Hainsey has played 891 games, but none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has 250 points (49 goals, 201 assists) with the Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers and Hurricanes.

Now with the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, who are second in the Metropolitan Division, Hainsey could be a little more than one month away from his playoffs debut.

"I was obviously excited to come join this group," Hainsey said. "They were the champs last year and a team that I think is certainly looking to repeat. So, if you were going to get traded, coming here and having the opportunity here is certainly all you could ask for, without question."

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