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Wilson making the most of his opportunities

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Scott Wilson saw his opportunity, and he pounced. 

After a faceoff in the defensive zone, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman couldn't handle a puck at the blue line.

That's when Wilson jetted past the Tampa defender and retrieved the loose puck for a breakaway. The 24-year-old forward turned the puck over to his backhand and lifted it behind goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to help the Pens defeat the Lightning, 6-2, at PPG Paints Arena Sunday night.

Video: TBL@PIT: Wilson races into zone, nets backhanded goal

It was another example of Wilson, who logged just 6:47 minutes in the game, making the most of his limited opportunities.

"Sometimes you're not going out there five or 10 minutes on the clock, but it's 35-40 minutes with whistles," Wilson said. "You just have to mentally stay in it and try to keep your legs, even though it's pretty tough."

Wilson doesn't see much action on the power play and none at all on the penalty kill. So the bulk of his workload comes from his fourth line duties with veterans Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr, which given the flow of the game can be very little at times.

It's a drastic change from his American Hockey League days where Wilson was a top-line forward and power-play mainstay, logging over 20 minutes regularly.

"It's hard to stay focused the whole game and be ready to go on the attack when you have a chance to get out there," Cullen, 40, said. "For a younger guy especially, it can be a real adjustment because it's not easy. It's a challenge mentally to stay focused the entire game. But I think he's done a good job of adapting to that and staying ready whenever we're called on.

"It's a challenge for anybody, including Eric and I, when the minutes aren't there."

Wilson has averaged 10:57 minutes of ice time per game, but still has contributed five goals and 11 points. He's also been a physical presence and has used his speed to create offensive chances for his line.

"Once you get over (the boards) you're pretty zoned in," Wilson said. "That's second nature to us now. Mentally when you step over the boards you're ready to go, but it's keeping the blood going and your legs into it, which is the tough part."

But while Wilson's challenge is to make the most of his little opportunities, the coaching staff has a different challenge.

"My challenge is that I have find him more minutes somehow because he's played really well," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "His production, given the opportunity he's been given by the coaches, has been really strong. Our challenge is we have to find a way to find more minutes for him. I'm going to try to do that moving forward."

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