Tangradi takes a rap, but avoids another concussion

| Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011

As Baby Pens winger Eric Tangradi reached for a puck in the neutral zone last Saturday night, his left cheek was met by the elbow of Hershey Bears defenseman Sean Collins.

Seconds later, some unpleasant memories began flooding back.

Tangradi has a history with concussions, including one caused by an elbow from New York Islanders heavyweight Trevor Gillies last February that cost him two months at the end of last season.

"I was scared to death," Tangradi said. "Concussions are something that have not been in my favor the last couple years."

As it turns out, Tangradi's fears were unfounded. He passed a battery of tests and was back on the ice after missing just a few shifts.

"Just a serious case of whiplash," he said. "Kind of shook me up more than anything."

More Tangradi

Before Saturday's game, Tangradi was second on the team in scoring with eight points in eight games. He had just two points in his first seven games after being sent down from Pittsburgh last season.

The difference?

"His work habits in practice are better than they were last year," Baby Pens coach John Hynes said. "His effort and his intensity in the games are consistent. He's going in the right direction, and it all starts with his mindset and work habits."

Ahead of schedule

Windsor Spitfires winger Tom Kuhnhackl was scheduled to return to the lineup this weekend, five weeks after suffering an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sept. 23. It was originally thought the injury would keep him out six to eight weeks.

Kuhnhackl, a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, is one of the Penguins' top offensive prospects. He had 39 goals in 63 games with Windsor last season.

International competition

The Penguins' top two picks in last June's draft, defensemen Joe Morrow and Scott Harrington, will play against Team Russia in the Subway Super Series, a string of six exhibition games played across Canada from Nov. 7-17.

Morrow has 11 points in 11 games for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks. Harrington has a league-leading plus-18 rating in 13 games for the OHL's London Knights.

Veteran touch

Jason Williams' plan this fall was to follow the Richard Park path to the Penguins roster. Show up as a veteran forward on a two-way contract, win the trust of the coaching staff and earn a spot in the lineup.

A training camp groin injury derailed that. Now, Williams is working his way back into game shape.

"I know myself, when I'm 100 percent, I can play at the NHL level," Williams said. "I have confidence in myself that I'll be back there, hopefully soon. It's just a matter of staying healthy and doing the right things on and off the ice."

In the meantime, the Baby Pens are glad to have a player with 447 NHL games in the lineup.

"He's been great in team meetings as far as observations about our game, things we should do," Hynes said. "He's got good insights."

Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached at jbombulie@aol.com.

Additional Information:

Player to watch

Robert Bortuzzo

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) -- Defenseman

6-foot-4 -- 211 pounds

How acquired: Third-round pick (78th overall) in the 2007 NHL draft

How he's doing: Bortuzzo returned to the lineup Friday after suffering a knee injury in a September rookie tournament in Ontario. He was one of the top defenders in the AHL last year, posting 26 points, 111 penalty minutes and a team-best plus-28 rating and earning an all-star berth. Unless something unexpected happens, his first NHL call-up is right around the corner.

Why he might make it to the NHL: He has a nice combination of size, snarl and stay-at-home defensive ability, and he's not terrible with the puck. Blessed with a long reach, he uses his stick effectively.

Why he might not: The only question mark with his game is how his physical defense will translate against bigger, stronger opponents.

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