Alex Goligoski was having a wonderful rookie campaign with the Penguins. Unfortunately, with eight healthy defensemen on Pittsburgh’s roster the 23-year-old blueliner became a victim of the bloated blue line.
Goligoski was re-assigned by Pittsburgh to join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday afternoon.
“That’s the only reason, numbers,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “There’s no doubt that kid belongs in the NHL. Right now we have eight healthy bodies with our defense. (Sergei) Gonchar is going to come pretty soon. It’s just a matter of numbers. I talked to him yesterday. I don’t like to see young guys like that leave at this time of the year because he was part of the group that had the (second)-best start in franchise history. He was an important player but that’s the way it is.”
Goligoski received tons of ice time during the season in Pittsburgh. However, the Grand Rapids, Minnesota native has been scratched in nine of the Penguins’ last 15 games, and in two of the games he played he was positioned at forward.
“When you have young players, the No. 1 thing is that you want them to play,” Therrien said. “He probably saw it coming a little bit. It’s never fun. We want him to play. The No. 1 asset is managing the puck and making the first pass. We want him to go down there and work on his defensive game, killing penalties and all the stuff that’s going to make him a defensive player.”
Goligoski made the Penguins’ roster out of training camp. He’s tallied six goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 44 games – leading all rookie defensemen. The youngster has also made progress with his work in his own zone.
“I thought he got better defensively,” Therrien said. “He learned really quickly. It’s good news for us. We have a young kid that is ready to step in and having an important role. I think he’s going down with optimism. He learned a lot of respect not only from the coaching staff but from the players too as well.”>
Goligoski’s re-assignment led to some speculation that Gonchar was going to return to the lineup. However, the veteran squashed that idea by stating that he would not play in Pittsburgh’s final two contests of a four-game home stand against Detroit (Sunday) and San Jose (Wednesday).
“No, I’m going to see the doctor on Wednesday,” Gonchar said. “We’re getting closer. I have to be in game shape. There’s no timeframe. We’ll talk to him and go from there.”
Gonchar has been fully participating in practice since he was cleared for contact Monday. He’s been testing his shoulder’s strength and will not commit to a return date.
“I don’t want to tell you anything because I’m not a doctor,” he said following a rigorous practice Saturday afternoon. “(My shoulder is) sore at night and at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. it starts getting sore and tight. I have a tough time falling asleep because of it. It usually goes away at (midnight). I’m just hoping it’s nothing serious. The doctor said there’s going to be pain anyway. When we see him on Wednesday we’re going to discuss that and see how it is.”>
In another signal that the Penguins are finally getting close to full strength was Ruslan Fedotenko’s return to practice. Fedotenko, who broke his hand Jan. 6, practiced Saturday while wearing a red “no contact” jersey.
“I’m still not strong enough but I’ll take it a day at time,” he said. “I think it was good just to be around the guys and move the puck, read and react with the speed of the practice to feel the pucks. So far, so good.”
Fedotenko did take part in Pittsburgh’s morning skate Friday but only on a limited basis. Saturday marked his first full practice session – though he did not participate in all the drills because of his hand. Fedotenko won’t be able to return to the lineup until he has the strength to battle along the boards and in the corners.
“I don’t want to go if I can’t battle for the puck,” he said. “I can pass and take slap shots. But I don’t want to be a liability out there. It’s a just a matter of time, feeling at least 85 percent, 90 percent so I can go compete and hopefully help the team.”
Fedotenko has worked with Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar to remain in good condition so that he will be in game shape as soon as his hand regains its strength.
“Physically I think I’m in pretty good shape,” Fedotenko said. “Mike Kadar is doing a great job with me. I’m excited to go with the team and not with him anymore. Nothing against him but I just want to get with the team. I’ll just take it a day at a time and see how it progresses.”>
He said it: Marc-Andre Fleury
on what he’ll tell former teammate Ty Conklin before Sunday’s game if Conklin starts for the Red Wings.
“Take it easy on us.” Archive