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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Steve Poapst may not score a lot of goals or quarterback a power play, but he definitely brings one thing to the Pittsburgh Penguins – solid defense.

Poapst, who signed a free-agent contract with the team on Aug. 15, is happy to be in Pittsburgh.

“It’s exciting to come to a team that’s putting together some great players and to get to be a part of that. We have a chance to really do some damage out here in the league,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement here for what the future holds. Now it’s a matter of going out on the ice and getting it done.”

Poapst, a 36-year-old defenseman, spent the past three seasons playing for the Chicago Blackhawks and parts of three others with the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. During those years, he had a chance to acquaint himself with new Penguins defensemen Lyle Odelein and Sergei Gonchar as well as goaltender Jocelyn Thibault.

“It’s definitely helpful to see a familiar face and people you’ve played with. It adds to your ease of coming in,” he said. “Being around a long time, you get to see a lot of familiar faces. You just have to get used to what the younger guys can do. I think that’s the toughest challenge of coming into a new organization.”

The fact that Poapst already has knowledge of what Odelein and Gonchar bring to the defense makes his transition easier.

“It’s good. I have played with a few of the players and we have some common grounds where I know what a few guys can do,” he said. “When you have that understanding among your own defensive corps, that will help solidify things.”

In addition, Poapst played in front of Thibault for the last four years when they were in Chicago.

“He is a great guy and a great person,” Poapst said. “Your goalie becomes a defenseman’s best friend, so the bond is there and that will be helpful.”

The NHL rules place an emphasis on offense, so Poapst will try to remain a steady presence on his blue line.

“With all these rule changes coming about, it’s going to be a new adventure sometimes initially,” he said. “I think the physical part will still be there – it will just be a matter of when you can do it.

“Hopefully I can fill a piece of the puzzle that’s missing.”

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