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Inside Scoop: Reaves a natural fit in Pens' locker room

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens have spent the past few weeks taking part in "informal skates" at the team's official practice facility, UPMC Lemieux Complex in Cranberry, Pa.

The informal skates are organized and run by the players, and has become a normal part of every NHL team's routine, which typically run from mid-August until the beginning of training camp. 

The skates provide the players an opportunity to work on their fitness level, strength, conditioning and skillset on the ice. But off the ice the players have a chance to bond with their teammates and catch up on stories from the summer.

Attendance at the skates isn't mandatory, but any new players to a team will use the skates as a way to meet their new teammates and assimilate into the locker room.  

Several of the Pens summer acquisitions were among the group on Thursday afternoon, including forward Ryan Reaves and goaltender Antti Niemi.

Both players chatted with the media. Niemi, who arrived in Pittsburgh on Monday night, discussed the importance of joining a new team early.

"I feel like I always want to be a little early to get settled and get to know how everything works," said the veteran goaltender. "For me, it's important to be at least a week early.

"It feels great being here a few days before the camp and getting to know everybody."

But the main attraction of the day was Reaves, who held court with members of the media.

"It's been fun. Everybody has been really welcoming," said Reaves, who was acquired via trade from the St. Louis Blues at this summer's NHL Draft. "It's been nice. I'm waiting for my house. I'm just trying to get the lay of the land."

 While there will be plenty of time in the future to discuss what Reaves will add as a player (in fact, I already did that this summer), he gave the media a glimmer of his vibrant and confident personality.

After Reaves agreed to be interviewed, the media surrounded his stall. However, silence fell among the gathering as no questions were asked. Reaves pounced with a joke:

"Am I asking the questions or (the media)?"

Then it was time to start with the serious stuff, like, fantasy football.

"I've had a little bit of fun with a couple of the boys. I did a fantasy draft two days ago," he said.

The Pens run a notoriously competitive fantasy football league (you can read about it here). Reaves is the newest member to join. And as luck would have it, he had the first-overall pick.

"I took 'Zeek' first overall," Reaves said referring to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. However, Elliott is facing a 6-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy of the NFL. That fact, however, didn't dissuade Reaves.

"I know he's suspended, but I don't need him right now. I need him down the home stretch," he rationalized. "I have a bunch of Raiders on my team. Those are my boys so we'll be good."

If you need to know which player is the most competitive in the fantasy football league, look no further than the team's captain, Sidney Crosby.

"We've hung out a couple of times. (Crosby is) a really nice guy," Reaves said. "I'm excited to work with him for sure."

That doesn't mean the two didn't have their differences in the past. Reaves, who is known more for his physical toughness and punishing style of play than his scoring touch, has had a few run-ins with Crosby in the past.

"I would say that mine and Sid's relationship before this was rocky," Reaves admitted. "I don't know if we really liked each other on the ice. I don't know many people that like me on the ice."

Both have crossed the bridge to friendship, which is probably unlikely for the rest of the league when it comes to Reaves.

"That's a lot of bridges," he joked. "You need a lot of steel for that."

 Speaking of steel, Reaves does have something in common with the local NFL club, the Steelers. He and a certain Hall of Famer both wear the No. 75. He was well aware of the similarity.

"'Mean' Joe Greene and Mean Ryan Reaves. We'll see if it catches on," laughed Reaves.

Reaves and Greene do play the same type of game: mean.

Though if you ask the tatted Reaves, that isn't the only asset he will bring to the Pens.

"There will definitely be a lot more goals scored on this team," he said with a smile. "I know these guys were struggling with that last year."

All joking aside, Reaves has a natural charisma and personality that will fit well inside the Pens locker room. And he's happy to be a part of it.

"Everybody has been really good. For me, I'm really excited for this opportunity," he said. "It's a really good team and a good chance to win the Cup. That's what everybody wants."

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