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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    Here’s what deal between women’s team, USA hockey is reportedly worth

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    It’s great news that the U.S. women’s national team and USA Hockey came together on a deal for the upcoming world championships.

    Still, all we really know is that the contract lasts four years, as the two sides decided to keep the dollar figures between each other.

    The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell laid out a lot of the possible numbers on his Twitter feed, giving us an idea of what reportedly sealed the deal.

    First things first, Campbell reports that the deal is worth $3.7-$4 million overall.

    That’s quite the impressive number on face value, but what does it mean for players over a four-year contract?

    Campbell reports that earnings will range between $850K and $950K, depending upon how they perform in the tournament:

    They’ll also receive the same travel and other miscellaneous amenities as the men’s team, but what about years that are more about training than competition?

    Interesting stuff. Definitely check out Campbell’s feed for additional details.

    This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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    For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

    Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

    Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

    Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.

    Milestones: Matthews, Nylander break Leafs rookie records; Chara hits 600

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    Auston Matthews likely ranks as the top reason that many Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to get the same feelings they had in better times, so it only makes sense that he broke a beloved Buds’ record on Tuesday.

    With his 35th goal of a potential Calder season – but a brilliant debut either way – Matthews passed Wendel Clark for the Maple Leafs’ rookie record for goals in a season.

    That goal was also meaningful for William Nylander, as he extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist. This team, fueled by young players, just keeps shattering first-year marks:

    Switching gears, let’s go from new to (relatively) old: Zdeno Chara collected the 600th point of his outstanding career with an assist:

    Yes, it’s true that most people think of his imposing size and all-world defensive instincts in praising Chara, but he’s been a respectable point producer, too.

    U.S. women end boycott, will represent USA Hockey at worlds

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    The U.S. women’s national team voted in favor of accepting USA Hockey’s deal, so they’ll participate in the world championship tournament. USA Hockey recently made the news official with this press release.

    The press release confirmed a report that the contract will last four years, while financial terms were kept confidential. (Team members had been seeking a living wage to represent USA Hockey.)

    “Our sport is the big winner today,” Team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

    The U.S. women’s national team is scheduled to face Canada on Friday.

    Here’s a screen cap of the press release for your convenience: