Wednesday’s tilt against the Islanders won’t be Eric Tangradi’s first National Hockey League game.
But it sure feels like it.
“(Wednesday) feels like my first NHL game all over again,” Tangradi said, who was recalled Wednesday morning from the Penguins’ top minor-league affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
“I have that same energy, that same excitement. (Wednesday)’s going to be really special for me. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”
Tangradi, 21, started the 2010-11 campaign with Pittsburgh after a strong performance in training camp.
The forward recorded a goal and an assist through Pittsburgh’s first nine games, but has played with WBS ever since.
But with a fresh influx of injuries striking the Penguins, Tangradi is getting another opportunity to prove himself at the NHL level. And he’s more than ready for his chance, which is what makes tonight so special for him.
“Being up in the NHL, you tend to be a little tentative at first and you just kind of want to blend in,” Tangradi said. “But really, my opportunity here was to stand out ... Going back to the AHL, I’ve realized all those things, got my head back on track and I think mixing all those little pieces together to make me the player I can be now and in the future is where I’m at right now.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma has been impressed with the way Tangradi has been able to develop his game on both an emotional and physical level to become the player the Penguins need him to be.
“It’s been a process,” Bylsma said. “And there are certainly some ups and downs emotionally, getting sent down and being here for a while trying to find that game on a consistent basis. But he’s certainly always been involved in the process, working at it and understanding what he needs to do.”
The 6-foot-4, 221-pound forward will provide a much-needed net-front presence and will be utilized on the power play, according to Bylsma.
While just getting the call to report to Pittsburgh made Tangradi giddy enough, he plans on doing whatever it takes to contribute on the ice.
“All I know is that I’m here, and I’m going to be putting on the jersey,” he said. “So I’m going to play my game (Wednesday) and take it from there.”