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Tangradi works for bigger role

| Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012, 11:53 p.m.
The Penguins' Eric Tangradi plays at Consol Energy Center Jan. 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
The Penguins' Eric Tangradi plays at Consol Energy Center on Jan. 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Eric Tangradi knows the Penguins attempted to sign wing Zach Parise in July, and he knows they've had interest in free agent wing Shane Doan.

So far, however, the Penguins have done little to externally enhance their roster at left or right wing. For Tangradi, this represents hope.

“It's definitely scary when you see the potential that more guys could be coming in,” Tangradi said Thursday at Neville Island Sports Complex, where he was a guest instructor at Penguins broadcaster Phil Bourque's youth hockey camp. “When guys like that don't come, there's a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel that you could get an expanded role if you earn it.”

On the surface, Tangradi does not appear a strong candidate to play in the “top-six” on a line with centers Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Tangradi has produced one goal in 40 NHL games, and many in the organization worry that his skating isn't slick enough to play with the star centers.

Tangradi, though, is doing something about that.

“I've definitely slimmed down,” he said. “My body fat is as low as it has ever been. I paid a lot of attention to that this summer.”

Tangradi, who had his tonsils removed earlier in the summer, was informed by the coaching staff in April that his skating needed to improve. So, along with a stronger commitment to fitness and a better diet, Tangradi has worked out two times per week in his native Philadelphia with Los Angeles Kings assistant coach John Stevens.

“He's been putting me through skates twice a week that have been really beneficial,” Tangradi said. “It has helped a huge amount. It has helped me on the ice. I feel great. I'm not the kind of guy who needs to be light on the ice. But (the new body shape) can suit me.”

Noticeably slimmer, Tangradi said he still weighs 230 pounds.

Tangradi is still without a contract, but the restricted free agent said he expects to sign a new deal soon.

“I'm in Pittsburgh and I'm pretty confident I'll get things done,” he said.

But will he get things done on the ice this season?

In the hours after Parise signed with Minnesota, Penguins general manager Ray Shero was asked about possible solutions for finding another wing to play on the top two lines. He mentioned Tangradi, a blue-chip prospect when acquired from Anaheim along with left wing Chris Kunitz in 2009.

“I think it would be a great thrill,” Tangradi said. “It's definitely something I have to earn. I've shown I can play a bottom-six role. I'm just going to be myself and not somebody I'm not. If that awards me a top-six role, great.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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