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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Mark Eaton didn’t know what to expect when he signed a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 3.

He’s been pleasantly surprised.

“This is a great group of guys,” he said. “They have made the transition pretty easy for me. It’s been nice finally getting on the ice and getting things going.”

Eaton hopes to solidify the Penguins’ blue line this season. The gritty defenseman, who had three goals and one assist last season with Nashville, doesn’t produce much offense – but he is not expected to, either.

Instead, Eaton’s signature traits are solid defense and a willingness to sacrifice his body to stop the puck. Last season, he blocked a Predators-best 170 shots. Also, he ranked fifth on the team in average ice time at 19:43.

Eaton was a crucial part of Nashville’s penalty-killing units, too. He led the team and ranked seventh in the league in average short-handed ice time per game (5:22). He led the Predators to a fifth-place finish in penalty killing success.

So far, he’s starting to find some chemistry with his defensive teammates.

“We’re learning about each other. It’s a slow process, but we’re making some headway,” he said. “I think we’re getting more and more comfortable each day. That’s all you can ask for right now.”

The native of Wilmington, Del., played for Team USA at the 2001 and 2002 World Championships. Only 29, Eaton finds it easy to fit in on a team that has a bevy of talented young players.

“Everybody has a great attitude,” he said.

In addition, the seven-year NHL veteran wants to help the Penguins get off to a better start in 2006-07.

“We want to rectify things from last year. Nobody likes that feeling of what they had to go through last year,” he said. “We just want to get things started right and working hard is something we can control, so that’s what we’re bringing. We’ll let things fall into place.”


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