Erik Christensen is back in the ’Burgh.
This time, he hopes it’s for good.
Christensen re-joined the Penguins for practice on Tuesday and will be in uniform when the Ottawa Senators visit Mellon Arena on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
“I am just glad I got the opportunity again,” he said. “Hopefully, I can make the best of it.”
Christensen, a 22-year-old center, had an impressive training camp, but started the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He was called up to Pittsburgh on Oct. 31 with Ryan Whitney and played in 29 games before he was returned to the Baby Penguins on Jan. 9.
The 2002 third-round pick (69th overall), was called back up to the NHL for the Penguins’ final two games before the Olympic break. He had an assist in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 win in Carolina on Feb. 10, but did not have a point in the Penguins’ 6-3 triumph in Washington the next night.
“It was a shorter stint, so it was probably less pressure to perform,” he said. “I didn’t think I played well in Washington, but I played well in Carolina and that’s what I wanted was to feel confident again and feel I could play here. I was definitely happy to be a part of a couple wins with the team.”
He was returned to the AHL following the game, while NHL action was shut down for the Olympic break. Christensen produced seven points (5+2) in a grueling nine-game road trip for the Baby Penguins.
“It was a long road trip in Wilkes-Barre the past month. It’s nice to get off the road. By Saturday and, especially Sunday, your legs are just not there and you’re doing anything to get them going again,” said Christensen of the trip, which had the team play Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. “Those are tough weekends and I know there’s not many of those up here, so that’s one advantage of being here is that you’re flying everywhere and you get a little more rest between each game.”
Christensen wasn’t exactly done with his traveling when the Baby Penguins returned to Wilkes-Barre on Monday.
“We got back from Toronto at about 4 p.m. I was on the road [for Pittsburgh] by about 6:30 or 7 p.m.,” he said. “On [Interstate] 80, as soon as I hit the junction [with I-79 South], I hit a bad snowstorm.”
In addition, Christensen hopes to find some stability in Pittsburgh through hard work.
“I have an apartment in Wilkes-Barre and an apartment here. When I first got called up, I had all my furniture put up here. When I got sent back down, I had no furniture in my old apartment, so I was in a hotel for another two weeks,” he said. “Then, I rented furniture for my apartment in Wilkes-Barre. It’s been difficult. I have been eating meals out a lot. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way – being here in this locker room, definitely.”
Christensen, who has 13 points (7+6) in 31 NHL games, wants to be consistent.
“This has probably been my best year where I have been the most consistent,” he said. “Everybody has bad games and bad stretches. I think, hopefully, this time around, I can learn from whatever mistakes I made my first round up here. Hopefully, I can play here as long as I can.”
The Penguins have 23 games left for players to prove themselves.
“Whoever wants to be here next year, we’re going to have to play hard and win some games,” he said. “Let’s play the spoilers, maybe, the rest of the year and work on our games and the system we have in place here and really try to carry some momentum into next year and get excited about next year.”