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Goligoski Shines In Expanded Role

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Takeaway:

  • Alex Goligoski had parlayed his strong preseason play into the regular season.
  • Goligoski is tied for the team lead with four points (2G-2A).
  • As a result of his improved all-around play, Goligoski is seeing more ice time in all situations.
  • Goligoski is excelling at the point on the top power-play unit.
While the Penguins might not be getting the desired results in the win column during the opening week of the 2010 National Hockey League regular season, there have been several bright spots head coach Dan Bylsma can build upon as he prepares his team for back-to-back divisional contests this weekend against the New York Islanders on Friday at CONSOL Energy Center and a Saturday visit across the commonwealth to battle the Philadelphia Flyers.

But perhaps the biggest positive that the Penguins should be most excited about to this point in the season is the rapid maturation and improvement in 25-year-old defenseman Alex Goligoski.

Goligoski has parlayed an outstanding training camp, where he tied Letestu and Evgeni Malkin for the team scoring lead with six points (2G-4A), into an opening week which has him playing at perhaps the highest level of his three-year NHL career.

As of Thursday’s games, Goligoski ranks tied with Paul Martin for the team scoring lead with four points (2G-2A), a figure which ties him for third among all blueliners in the NHL. Goligoski’s two goals place him tied for the top spot among defensemen with former Penguin Jordan Leopold.

“I feel good,” Goligoski said of his start. “Personally, I feel very good out there. It seems like I am moving my feet and skating. When I do that, the rest of my game seems to kind of come with that. So that’s something I like to concentrate on.”

Fellow defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who has played with Goligoski the past four seasons in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh, has taken note of the high level Goligoski is playing.

“He really has become an all-around player,” Lovejoy said. “He is a guy who logs a ton of minutes and excels at every part of the game. He is fun to play with and fun to watch. He’s been great for us here at the start of the season.”

A couple of early-season injuries to veteran shutdown defensemen Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek has created more ice time both at even strength and on special teams. Goligoski has shouldered much of the load in their absences, ranking second on the team in average ice time at 23:53 minutes per game.

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It’s helped Goligoski’s game that he is seeing regular minutes serving as the quarterback of the Penguins’ top power-play unit, where he has already picked up a goal and an assist. More importantly than the offensive production, Goligoski looks more comfortable on the man-advantage than any previous point in his career.

Goligoski has looked so comfortable on the power play that Bylsma even changed his role a bit before the Toronto game, moving Goligoski from the center point position he had been occupying to the high-slot spot where Mike Comrie had been deployed.

Goligoski said he has no preference on where he is used. He is more concerned with the Penguins becoming more cohesive with the new constant motion power play setup implemented for this season.

“We have been tinkering around with things a little bit,” Goligoski said. “It will probably be that way for the start of the season. It’s all a part of everybody learning the new way that we are going to run the power play. Hopefully, as the season goes on we will continue to improve as a unit.”

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