Lyle Odelein doesn’t score a lot of goals, but he has plenty of grit.
That’s exactly why the Pittsburgh Penguins signed the physical defenseman on Friday. Certainly, it wasn’t for the 50 goals he scored in 14 seasons. It was for the 2,266 penalty minutes, the plus-36 rating in 1,029 games and his physical presence on the blue line.
“You give the big boys the puck and they can make things happen,” Odelein said. “I am just going to play my game – play hard, play tough and get the puck out.”
Odelein’s signing may be overlooked in a summer that saw the Penguins add offensive dynamos Ziggy Palffy, Sergei Gonchar, John LeClair and first-overall draft pick Sidney Crosby.
“There is some pretty good talent up front and on the blue line, actually,” Odelein said. “I am thrilled to play another year. Whatever my role is, I will accept it and do whatever I can to help the team win.”
The opportunity to win another Stanley Cup championship lured Odelein to the Steel City. The 37-year-old owns a ring with Montreal in 1993.
“I am really excited. It’s a chance to win again,” he said. “I really like what (General Manager) Craig (Patrick) has done with the team. Just look at the guys they have signed – Wow! Most have won Cups. It is going to be good experience. I am really, really thrilled about it.”
Odelein, who last played for Florida in 2003-04, is eager to join one of the NHL’s top franchises.
“I think Pittsburgh, throughout the years, has been more than fair to everyone. If you play well and are fair, you get rewarded. One thing I know is that I am going to do my job and have a good year and be more than fair to them,” he said. “It was a long year in Florida. It was a young team and they were not winning many games. That gets kind of old. Going to Pittsburgh looks pretty promising.”
Odelein became the envy of some former teammates while working out with near his home in suburban Dallas.
“You talk to even the guys I have been skating with around here – Pittsburgh has as good a chance to win as anybody,” he said. “Look at the moves. It’s a great chance to win – especially at my age; I am not getting any younger to win that Cup.”
While Odelein has marveled at the personnel the Penguins have brought in, he knows the team already had a talented group of young players.
“There is a good group of guys there – a great mix, I think,” he said. “There’s all different age groups. That’s the key to winning. I know in Montreal when we won, we kind of had the same thing.”
Odelein believes the Penguins have a stocked blue line with Steve Poapst joining Gonchar as new additions to the defense.
“They are pretty solid back there. They all move the puck well,” Odelein said. “Steve Poapst is going to surprise a lot of people. I played with him in Chicago. He never gets beat.
“They have done a fabulous job putting this team together.”
Training camp opens Sept. 13 at Mellon Arena. It can’t come soon enough for Odelein.
“It’s been a long year and a half. It’ll nice to get back in the locker room, see the guys again,” Odelein said. “Pittsburgh is a blue-collar city. They have always done fairly well. I am just thrilled about it. I can’t wait to get on the ice and play.”