Healthy scratches feel like part of Pens' playoff run
In the rarest of moments, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby became quietly annoyed by a reporter earlier this week.
Rookie right wing Beau Bennett was asked what it's like to “not be part of the team” during the playoffs.
“He is part of the team,” Crosby snarled to anyone who would listen.
The Penguins' unrivaled depth is keeping some pretty respectable hockey talent off the ice — for now.
“I feel like it's our responsibility to be ready to play at any time,” said rookie Robert Bortuzzo, fresh off a solid first NHL season.
Bortuzzo, like the rest of these players who remain prepared for action on a daily basis, doesn't consider himself a “black ace,” the common hockey term for players who don't play during the postseason.
“Not at all,” Bortuzzo said. “We've been part of this team all season. We're just trying to get better and pushing the guys who are playing at the same time.”
A typical Penguins' practice takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete.
Players not seeing regular playing time, though, stay on the ice for a substantial amount of work while attempting to remain in game shape.
The grueling work has impressed the newest Penguin.
“It's unbelievable,” goalie Eric Hartzell said. “From top to bottom, this team is as deep as you can possibly get. You've got guys like (Dustin) Jeffrey and (Tanner) Glass, who work hard after practice every day. They may not get as many opportunities, but their talent level is so high that it makes me better.”
There is no shortage of talent in this group of players hoping to crack the lineup:
• Jeffrey scored seven goals in 25 games during the 2010-11 season and finally seems healthy after a knee injury he suffered two years ago.
• Glass played in all 48 regular-season games and is an accomplished fourth liner.
• Bennett enjoyed a precocious rookie season, scored the first goal of the postseason and is a plus-3 in four playoff appearances.
• Bortuzzo recorded four points in 15 games this season and was a plus-3.
• Rookie defensemen Simon Despres recorded seven points and was a plus-9 in 33 regular-season games.
• Deryk Engelland, a regular in the lineup during the past three seasons, can't even crack the ice. He has played in 178 of the team's past 212 regular-season games but isn't among the team's top six defensemen.
“Of course, you want to be on the ice playing every game,” Engelland said. “We all do. But we know we have a lot of depth here, and a lot of guys who can do different things. You just have to be ready.”
Crosby and other Penguins players have voiced just how impressed they are with the teammates who aren't always in uniform on game nights. Those teammates continue trying to get better in every way possible.
“When you sit up in the press box,” Engelland said, “you just pay attention to everything, try to learn and get better. You never know when your number will be called.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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