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Reaves has adapted style

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Ryan Reaves knows his reputation around the National Hockey League.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is a bruising power forward that thrives at inflicting punishment on his opposition. 

"I think more than anything I bring that physical play to the ice," Reaves told the Pens official website. "Guys, especially defensemen on other teams, are looking over their shoulder and hoping I'm not coming."

Reaves' top priority with the Pens will be to protect his new teammates, particularly the star players, by acting as a physical deterrent on the ice. It's a role he's filled his entire career, and one at which he excels.

"Obviously, No. 1 is making sure that the boys are taken care of on the ice," he said.

But the truth is, there is more to Reaves than just his physical dominance, although that is his primary characteristic.

Reaves, 30, is one of the strongest players in the league and a heavyweight fighter. But over the past two seasons the Winnipeg native realized that he needed to, as Darwin would put it, adapt or die.

"The game has changed a little bit. That whole fighting role is leaving the game," Reaves said. "I think the game is getting faster and I needed to adapt. I got a lot faster and a lot more powerful in my legs."

Two summers ago Reaves suffered an injury on the first day of training camp. He returned to the lineup too quickly and never fully recovered. After the season he changed his training style. 

Reaves incorporated a lot of power and explosive work with weight training and wearing weighted vests during sprints or on the ice. As a result, Reaves improved drastically upon his skating ability.

"I've gotten faster," Reaves said. "I think I have very deceptive speed. I think because I'm such a big guy and I do skate with a long, powerful stride, you may think I'm not going very fast, but I can catch guys."

Want proof that he can catch guys? Just look at his team-leading 239 hits for St. Louis last year, averaging three per game despite playing just 8:53 minutes per contest.

Reaves' ability to cut on his edges has allowed him to finish his checks and follow through on players.

"I'm not just a straight-line guy. I can catch guys that are trying to turn and I can angle guys off properly," he said. "I think some people do underestimate my skating a little bit. I use that to my advantage."

Reaves' skating ability will allow him to play in head coach Mike Sullivan's system, which places an emphasis on speed and skill. And Reaves is excited about the prospect of joining the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. 

"The name speaks for itself. Two Stanley Cups in the last two years," Reaves said. "Obviously a very talented, very good team that I'm coming to. I'm very excited to help out the three-peat."

Although Reaves did admit that he was surprised to learn that he was traded. He's been a member of the Blues organization since the club drafted him in the fifth round (156th overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft. Reaves has played the past seven seasons in St. Louis and the team protected him in the NHL Expansion Draft.

"I was really shocked. After they protected me I thought I was going to be there for a while," Reaves said. "That's been my home for a long time now so it's a little shocking when you get shipped off. Obviously, not a bad place for me to be going."

Reaves has talked briefly with management. Most of the talks were to welcome him to the team - he even received a welcoming text from captain Sidney Crosby. In due time Reaves will have longer talks about his new team and job.

But for now, Reaves only has one thing on his mind.

"I have to figure out how I'm getting all of my stuff to Pittsburgh now," he said. "I look forward to talking to everybody in the organization over the next week."

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