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McClement looks to seize opportunity

by Jeff Carpenter @Penguins / Pittsburgh Penguins

It's been a constant focus in Pittsburgh this summer, the quest to find a third-line center with the loss of Nick Bonino. That situation was magnified once Matt Cullen joined the Minnesota Wild, commencing questions about the depth behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle.

One name that you can throw into the ring is center Jay McClement, an NHL veteran of 906 games who is currently in training camp on a professional tryout. 

McClement, 34, accepted his PTO on August 25 after discussions between his agent and general manager Jim Rutherford ramped up with the departure of Matt Cullen, who signed with Minnesota.

"Once (Cullen) decided to go to Minnesota, it started up," McClement said. "They wanted to invite me in and see what I can do."

What McClement can do is provide a reliable force on the penalty kill, while also being counted upon in the dot.

While Rutherford's tenure with the Hurricanes didn't overlap with McClement's, who spent the last three seasons in Carolina, he obviously thought highly enough of the veteran to bring him aboard and give him an opportunity to earn a roster spot.

"It's all about opportunity. That's all you can ask for when you're on a PTO, is an opportunity to show your stuff, and hopefully things work out," McClement said. "Killing penalties and faceoffs are two things I definitely take a lot of pride in, but I'm just trying to make sure I do the little things. Things I've done my whole career, be responsible defensively, be strong on the puck in all situations."

Since 2014-15, the Hurricanes penalty kill operated at 84.4 percent, tied for second in the NHL despite middling production in their crease. McClement was a strong component of their success when down a man, as his 447:42 minutes of shorthanded time on ice ranked 20th in the NHL over that three-year span.

McClement has the third-most shorthanded face-off wins among active players since his first full season, in 2006. The Kingston, Ontario native has a career percentage of 51.9, but since 2013 is operating at a 53.7 mark.

He's also durable, playing 80 or more games in eight of the last 10 years, excluding the lockout-abbreviated season in 2012, when he appeared in all 48 games with Toronto.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound pivot has also been a strong locker room presence with a leadership role, holding alternate captain duties in his two seasons in Colorado, two seasons in Toronto, and first season with the Hurricanes.

McClement also spent time in St. Louis, six seasons, after the Blues drafted him in the second round (57th overall) of the 2001 NHL Draft. He has 90 goals and 154 assists in 906 games, with hopes that he can have a good training camp, earning a contract in the process and add to that total.

"I'm just trying to make sure I play my game, and try to get noticed with the little things I'm doing out there." McClement said. "Try to do that every day and see what happens."

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