The Penguins signed Steve Sullivan
in the offseason with the intent of playing him in their top six and hoping he would help revitalize the power play.
He’s certainly done just that, finding quick and blistering chemistry on a line with Evgeni Malkin
and James Neal
while averaging over four minutes a game on what’s currently the league’s sixth-ranked power play (tied with San Jose).
But what Sullivan has also done is bring is an easygoing, likeable personality and passion for the game to Pittsburgh that’s allowed him to mesh seamlessly with the Penguins’ tightly knit group.
“He’s an easy guy in the locker room, a guy that everybody likes,” Neal said. “He’s been a great addition here.”
Sullivan’s stallmate Chris Kunitz
agreed wholeheartedly, adding “He fit right in. He’s definitely one of the most easygoing guys in the league who loves the game of hockey and also fits really well with our group.”
Sullivan, 37, signed a one-year contract with the Penguins on July 1 after spending the previous six seasons in Nashville, arriving in Western Pennsylvania a few weeks later to start getting situated in his new surroundings.
And now that he’s got a full training camp and 15 games in a Penguins sweater to his name, Sullivan is thoroughly pleased with how the transition into his new organization is going.
“It’s been great. It’s been outstanding. The guys have welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “I’m really starting to get comfortable with the system. It’s an easy system to play in once you get comfortable and it’s fun to play in.
“This is just a really close-knit group. There’s a lot of leadership and the guys really enjoy each other’s presence.”
While Sullivan isn’t necessarily the most vocal individual in the Penguins’ locker room, the 24-year-old Neal has benefitted greatly from playing on a line with the 14-year NHL veteran.
“He’s just easy to be around, he’s easy to talk to,” Neal said. “He’s a guy that just helps you with little things on the ice. It’s fun to play with him when we’re doing good things. The chemistry has been there, I think, since our first couple games. We talk all the time about little plays on the bench, just hockey talk.”
Sullivan’s play on the ice continues to improve each passing day. And off the ice, Sullivan and the rest of his family – wife Kristen, their sons Aidyn, Garner and Drake and daughter Karlisle – are now feeling fully settled in their new home.
“They’re all in school, have a lot of friends. The house is packed with buddies now,” he said. “That makes me feel good. If the kids and my wife are comfortable, it makes it a lot easier for myself. The adjustment has gone extremely well.
“Really, it’s been energizing coming to the rink every single day. So I’m really happy with the move.”