Forward Nick Drazenovic was walking his dog when his phone started ringing. Calling was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes.
“I knew it was either a trade or a call up,” Drazenovic said.
It ended up being the latter.
Drazenovic, 27, joined the Penguins for practice Tuesday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center, centering a line with Tanner Glass and Craig Adams.
“I was really excited for this one,” said Drazenovic, who has played in 11 career NHL games. “I’ve always looked up to the Pittsburgh Penguins as being a top team in the NHL. Sitting beside Sid here is pretty incredible.
The first person he called after receiving the news of the call up was to his father Davor.
“He’s pretty excited,” Drazenovic said. “He tries to play it down, I can tell, so I don’t get nervous or overexcited and just play hockey.”
To make room for Drazenovic, the Pens placed center Joe Vitale (upper-body) on Injured Reserve. Also Brian Gibbons missed practice with a lower-body injury.
Winger James Neal missed his second straight practice. He is now listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury, but hasn’t been ruled out for Wednesday’s matchup with the Washington Capitals.
Head coach Dan Bylsma noted that Neal’s current injury is not the same one that he suffered at the beginning of the season.
With the injuries at forward, the Pens had a unique look at practice, including Simon Despres playing wing. They used the following workflow…
The Pens used the following workflow…
The six remaining defenseman rotated.
Ten days ago forward Taylor Pyatt was waived by the New York Rangers and his future was uncertain.
Today, he skated on the wing with Evgeni Malkin as his center.
“Expect the unexpected. That’s what it’s been like for me. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks,” Pyatt said. “At practice today I’m playing with a pretty good center. I’m just trying to play my game and fit in, go play hard.”
Not to mention that Pyatt played against his former team 24 hours after being waived.
“It was a drop him in our uniform after being here for 10 hours and go out and play,” Bylsma said.
Pyatt, 32, has been adjusting to the Pens’ terminology and system. But probably his biggest obstacles has been, well, playing. Pyatt was regularly scratched by the Rangers in his final stretch with the team and he’s still trying to find his conditioning.
“I was out of the lineup for quite a while in New York,” Pyatt said. “I’m trying to get my game back under me and playing that quick style of hockey. I feel like it’s coming. I just want to improve every game.”
This week will offer Pyatt a chance to do just that. With one game in an eight-day stretch, Pyatt will have a lot of time to work on essentials like systems and conditioning.
“This is a pretty important week for me to get more comfortable in practice,” Pyatt said. “It’s one thing to understand the system. It’s another to go out and execute it at game pace. It’s good to practice with these guys and get familiar with everyone at there.”
“We saw at this week as a time to get more implemented in how we play and get that speed and pace into his game,” Bylsma said.
But the adjustment isn’t only on the ice. The Pens’ recent trip to Western Canada gave Pyatt an opportunity to bond with some of his new teammates.
“I had a few team dinners and got to know some of the guys away from the rink,” he said. “Everyone has been great, very welcoming. I feel like I fit in pretty good. I just want to play some good hockey.”
ODDS AND ENDS
-Robert Bortuzzo hasn’t been contact by the NHL after receiving a match penalty in a game against Calgary on Saturday. Both he and the team expect him to be available for Wednesday night’s game.
-Pascal Dupuis is still scheduled to undergo surgery on his ACL.
-After the trip to Western Canada, Brooks Orpik is not envious of players that play in the Western Conference. “It makes you never want to play in the West, that’s for sure,” he said. “I don’t know how those guys do it. I was texting Tyler Kennedy yesterday. He said, ‘You get used to it. That’s all we do it travel. Play hockey and don’t sleep.’ I don’t envy the guys in the West at all. It’s definitely tough, changing time zones like that.”