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Streit playing key role for Penguins since trade

| Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 6:21 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Streit (32) warms up prior to an NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Friday March 03, 2017. Pittsburgh won 5-2.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Streit (32) warms up prior to an NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Friday March 03, 2017. Pittsburgh won 5-2.
Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Mark Streit #32 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates past Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
USA Today Sports
Mar 11, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) checks Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Streit (32) during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA – When defenseman Mark Streit was traded from the Flyers to the Penguins earlier this month, he went through a culture shock that went beyond switching his gas station of choice from Wawa to Sheetz.

This was a life-changing event.

He went from one side of a storied rivalry to another. He went from a team in the lower-middle of the Eastern Conference standings to a team at the top. Perhaps most strikingly, he experienced a significant change in role. The Penguins didn't want him to mentor their young defensemen. They just wanted him to help them win right now.

“It doesn't matter how many times you get traded,” Streit said before the Penguins and Flyers squared off for the third time this season Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. “It's tough on the players. Maybe from the outside it looks easy. For the players, it's not. It's not their daily business. It is certainly special going from Philly to Pittsburgh because it is such a big rivalry. It's a special feeling. That's all part of it.”

Putting everything else aside, the logistics of the trade were jarring enough for Streit.

As a veteran player with an expiring contract on a team not expected to contend for a championship, he knew a trade was a possibility. He didn't think it would go down like this.

About an hour before the 3 p.m. trade deadline on March 1, Streit was traded to Tampa Bay for veteran center Valtteri Filppula. Shortly thereafter, he was flipped to the Penguins for a 2018 fourth-round pick.

Through conversations with his agent, Streit knew he probably wouldn't end up in Tampa. Still, it made for an interesting afternoon.

“He basically told me to hang tight, something else might happen, and that's what I did,” Streit said. “That was a crazy day. I never experienced it. It was a long day.”

Once in Pittsburgh, Streit's role changed pretty dramatically.

With the Flyers, he was an elder statesman, expected to help bring along the team's younger players on the blue line.

Ivan Provorov, a promising 20-year-old rookie, and Shayne Gostisbehere, a 23-year-old puck-handling ace, are big parts of the team's future. A handful of other defensemen – Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning – are only 26.

“I had a great time here,” Streit said. “A great experience playing for the Flyers. A lot of young guys came up and they're doing well. It's a good feeling if you can help somebody in their careers.”

The Penguins have some young defensemen who could learn from the 39-year-old Streit as well, especially when it comes to handling the puck with poise, but that's not the reason he was acquired.

The Penguins' depth on defense was –and still is – being tested by injuries. They wanted someone who could come in and play effective minutes.

Streit has done that, posting a goal and four points and making a positive impact on the team's possession game in his first six games with the Penguins.

“He's helped us win since he's been here,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He's a veteran guy. He's played a lot of hockey. I think he knows his strengths. He knows how to play within himself and certainly the type of player that he is lends to the type of game we're trying to play.”

The whirlwind of the trade deadline has shaken up Streit's season without a doubt. The turmoil will be worth it, of course, if it ends with him raising the Stanley Cup for the first time.

“I have a great opportunity with a great team, so I'm excited,” Streit said. “I want to embrace it as well. The transition was smooth. All the guys were really nice. It's been fun so far.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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