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Black and Gold is the New Orange

Mark Friedman happy to be with Pens after getting claimed from the Flyers

by Caleigh Burchfield / Pittsburgh Penguins

On Monday night Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman got a phone call from assistant coach Todd Reirden, who posed him a question.

"He asked if it would be pretty cool playing against my former team," said Friedman, who made his Penguins debut in the team's 5-2 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena. "Obviously, I said yeah."

That one came a few weeks after Freidman received a phone call from Penguins general manager Ron Hextall, informing him that the team had claimed him off waivers from the Flyers.

Hextall, who had originally drafted the 25-year-old in the third round (86th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft when he was general manager of the Flyers, jumped at the chance to bring him on board.

"We have a good relationship," Friedman said. "When Hexy called, he just pretty much said that we've claimed you and we're happy to have you. I was with him for five years and I already know his rules, so he didn't have to go over them. And no matter the circumstance, I'm always going to be a good teammate, if I'm in or if I'm out, and always have a smile on my face."

Friedman made the most of his opportunity to slot into the lineup for the Penguins, which marked his first game action since Philadelphia's 7-3 loss to Boston in their Lake Tahoe outdoor spectacle on Feb. 21. The defenseman actually played as a forward in that game, collecting an assist.

He was back in his normal position on Tuesday, skating alongside Cody Ceci on Pittsburgh's third pairing. It was quite the debut for Friedman, who earned his first point in black and gold with an assist on Ceci's goal and drew a roughing penalty to send his team on the power play late in the third.

"I thought my game was the best it's been in a while," Friedman said. "The last game I played was forward in the outdoor game, so it was nice to play defense, and I thought that I chipped in offensively and played well defensively.

"Obviously it's the Battle of Pennsylvania. It's nice to be on this side of the rivalry as opposed to the other. A couple guys last night were saying, 'No friends on the ice,' and that's definitely how I played (laughs). Didn't have any friends, and it was quite funny to give it to some of them and draw that penalty on the guy at the end."Friedman had played in 11 career NHL games with the Flyers - including four this season - since his debut in 2018-19. He also played 186 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League from 2017-20.

Friedman made the most of his opportunity to slot into the lineup for the Penguins, which marked his first game action since Philadelphia's 7-3 loss to Boston in their Lake Tahoe outdoor spectacle on Feb. 21. The defenseman actually played as a forward in that game, collecting an assist.

He was back in his normal position on Tuesday, skating alongside Cody Ceci on Pittsburgh's third pairing. It was quite the debut for Friedman, who earned his first point in black and gold with an assist on Ceci's goal and drew a roughing penalty to send his team on the power play late in the third.

"I thought my game was the best it's been in a while," Friedman said. "The last game I played was forward in the outdoor game, so it was nice to play defense, and I thought that I chipped in offensively and played well defensively.

"Obviously it's the Battle of Pennsylvania. It's nice to be on this side of the rivalry as opposed to the other. A couple guys last night were saying, 'No friends on the ice,' and that's definitely how I played (laughs). Didn't have any friends, and it was quite funny to give it to some of them and draw that penalty on the guy at the end."

Friedman said his biggest strength is his skating ability, and while he admits that he isn't the biggest guy at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, there's an element of scrappiness to his game as well.  

"I like to mix it up a little bit," he said. "Not necessarily fight, but I'll give it 110% every time I get out there and will do whatever it takes, whether that's block a shot or take a hit to make a play. I got some offensive abilities as well and I think I'm just a good two-way defenseman."

In the days since he's joined the Penguins, Friedman has been working hard to learn his new team's style of play. The amount of cramming takes him back to his college days at Bowling Green, but he's happy to do it, and feels like he's a good fit for the system.

"I downloaded a couple apps that they have the systems on, and I've been studying them like the SATs or the ACTs," he said with a chuckle. "I'm still not 100% with all the systems, but I'm learning every day here. There's no better coaches to learn from than the ones we got here in Pittsburgh, and I'm just super excited for this opportunity and I'm going to soak everything up like sponge."

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