Eric Tangradi knows how to stick with the Penguins: make life miserable for goalies

erictangradiscreen.jpgBack in the Mario Lemieux Era, the Pittsburgh Penguins were at their greatest when they sported an incredibly deep lineup that included Kevin Stevens, a power forward who enjoyed his best years skating alongside Super Mario.

While the “current” edition of the team already won one Cup with a twilight-years power forward (Bill Guerin) and a hellacious forechecker with suspect hands (Chris Kunitz), the team seems like it misses a certain presence at the forward position. With that quibble in mind, perhaps the biggest wild card for the Pens this season is prized prospect Eric Tangradi.

At 6’4″ 221 lbs., Tangradi knows what he needs to do to crack the Penguins lineup: create havoc, particularly in front of the net. Mike Colligan wrote about Tangardi possibly being a diamond in the rough for The Hockey Writers and might be able to play a role that hasn’t been filled properly since Ryan Malone bolted to Tampa Bay for big bucks in free agency.

The combined length of Tangradi’s goals in this 3:16 AHL highlight reel (via Eric P. of The PensBlog) wouldn’t add up to the length of an NHL ice surface and should remind many Penguins fans of Ryan Malone. Malone had a career year with Malkin and Petr Sykora in 2007-08, scoring 27 goals and landing a 7-year, $31.5m contract with Tampa Bay.

When I asked Tangradi about other NHL players he feels play a similar style, he pointed to two of the premier power-forwards in the Western Conference:

“I think [Tomas] Holmstrom is one of those guys especially and [Johan] Franzen as well from Detroit. They’re skill guys, but they use their big frame to get to the front of the net and they’re able to play with high-level players. As a group they’re very effective because of the big guy driving down the middle to the net.”

OK, it might be a little hasty for Tangradi to compare himself to a true technician at screening goalies (Holmstrom) or a player with scary drive and scarier hands (Franzen), but I think the message is that he’s prepared to crowd the crease to the best of his ability. Such a presence would be especially welcome on the Penguins power play, as the unit has often been a little “too cute” and guilty of making too many passes in the last few years. Screening a goalie is one of those “easier said than done” tasks, but blocking a netminder’s vision can force all those hours of positional training to dissolve into seconds of sprawling desperation.

Tangradi may very well be one of those subtle wild cards for the Penguins, a guy who determines the team’s “ceiling.” If he flourishes as a rookie, the Penguins would have Kunitz, Tangradi and Staal/Malkin as suitable wingers. If he doesn’t then the team will once again rely on Crosby and Malkin to produce nearly all their offense.

He might not be a likely Calder candidate, but Tangradi is nonetheless a rookie to watch in 2010-11.

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    Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

    Steven Stamkos
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    He’s in.

    As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

    Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

    More:

    Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

    That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

    Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

    It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

    To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

     

    Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

    In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

    And then Stamkos took the warmup.

    As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

    “If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

    No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

    Stay tuned…

    Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup

    NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 17:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.

    Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.

    Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

    Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.

    WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins, Game 7

    TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning falls to the ice at the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    Not much more to say than this:

    GAME 7.

    Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, but you can also catch the game online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

    It’s been a ‘roller coaster’ — Pens, Bolts ready for Game 7

    Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

    Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

    Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay