Nils Ekman just wants to make an impact.
That’s why he’s so happy he’s in Pittsburgh.
Penguins General Manager Ray Shero traded for the 30-year-old Swedish winger this summer. So far, Ekman appears to fit right in with the young and exciting Penguins.
“The guys are great. It’s just a fun group. I think we have a team here where we all love what we do and take pride in what we do,” he said. “Good things will happen. The atmosphere around here is very positive.”
Ekman’s speed and goal-scoring ability led him to tally 43 goals in the last two NHL seasons combined. He had 22 goals and 33 assists in 2003-04 in 82 games with San Jose. He posted similar totals of 21+36 in 77 games last season with the Sharks.
“He is playing pretty well on both sides of the ice,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “He’s recognized as a guy who is working hard and he has the speed to be put with Sidney [Crosby].”
Indeed. Ekman was immediately slotted on the left side of the Penguins’ top line, alongside center Sidney Crosby and right wing Colby Armstrong.
“I am honored and happy. I want to be important. I want to be an important part of this team,” Ekman said. “Playing on the first line makes me feel important. I don’t want to let Ray Shero and Michel Therrien down for trading for me. I am eager to show what I can do and what I can do on the first line.”
Ekman is used to being a front-line winger. He skated with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo last year on San Jose’s explosive top offensive unit.
“Obviously, if this line sticks together, the most important thing is chemistry. We work on it when we practice,” Ekman said. “You get to read and figure out what [Crosby’s] doing and where he’s going and how I am going to react in situations. I am learning. It’s a learning process here. I am trying to pick everything up as fast as I can. It’s an adjustment. We’re trying to figure each other out the same way I am trying to figure out the systems here – how to play defensively and where to go and what to do. It’s a lot, but it’s fun to learn.”
Since he’s been in Pittsburgh, Ekman has realized that Crosby really is better than advertised.
“Yes he is,” he said. “Obviously, I know he is a great player and I have seen highlights on TV. But, I had no clue just how good he is.”
And, Ekman remains impressed with the talented young core of players in the Penguins’ locker room.
“I think you can tell that we’re having fun. It’s a good group of guys and we just look forward to playing games,” he said. “You learn as you go along. I think I am rather good at adjusting to different situations. Hopefully, I will figure everything out here what I can do to be successful.”