Deryk Engelland is used to battling forwards in front of his net and protecting his goaltender.
So it was quite a different experience for Engelland when he found himself playing as a forward, crashing the Philadelphia Flyers’ net and creating problems for goaltender Steve Mason.
“That’s probably the fun part,” Engelland said. “Get to go there and create havoc, try to be a big net-front presence, that’s the fun part. Getting to run some D-men instead of getting run is a lot of fun.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Engelland was moved from his original position of defense up to forward on the Penguins’ fourth line, with Joe Vitale and Harry Zolnierczyk, in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 win in Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center Thursday night.
“It’s different. You’re not battling as much. It’s up-and-down the ice,” Engelland said of the switch. “A defensive D-man you don’t have to coast up the ice. As a forward you are always going. It’s a little more tiring, but in a different way.”
“I thought he played well,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He forechecked, held the puck in the offensive zone, was good on the wall, got some scoring chances with his line, he had a great scoring chance. Deryk was responsible and reliable defensively as well, he had three shifts against their top group, (Claude) Giroux.”
Engelland looked a little unsure of himself in the first period, but as the game wore on he started to find his rhythm. He finished the game with 7:23 minutes of ice time and one shot.
“The more I was out there, the more comfortable I felt,” he said. “The first period I was thinking a lot and wondering where I should be at times. As the game went on I got a little more comfortable.”
Engelland, who is listed in NHL Central Registry as a defenseman, even had an opportunity to score when he was crashing the net. He beat a Flyers defenseman to a rebound, but his shot was stopped.
Two years ago forward James Neal was listed by Central Registry as a left wing even though he played the past two seasons on right wing. The oversight nearly cost him a selection in the All-Star Game.
Bylsma feared the same incident could happen to Engelland.
“When Deryk had the chance in front of the net the thought went through our mind that (his position change) would hurt his All-Star chances (for the voting ballot),” Bylsma joked.
The biggest adjustment for Engelland was playing in the defensive zone. He’s used to being low along the goal line and protecting the front of the net. But as a forward he found himself roaming more and trying to locate his proper positioning and man.
‘That’s the biggest change. That will take some time to get used to,” he said. “Once you start going up ice it’s easier. You’re a high F3 or getting in on the forecheck. You can turn your brain off once you get up there. But in the D-zone it’s a lot different. Instead of being in front of the net and seeing everything, you’re on top of the circles. It’s a lot different. That’s the hardest thing.”
Bylsma said that it is possible that Engelland could play forward again this season. Although he prefers to play defense, Engelland said he’ll do whatever is asked of him.
“I still would rather be a D-man, but whatever they need is good,” Engelland said. “It adds to my game, another position I can play. In the long run if that’s what they need, I’m willing to do that.”