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Penguins notebook: Engelland embraces temporary position switch

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland covers the Bruins' Jordan Caron Sunday, March 17, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

PHILADELPHIA — Deryk Engelland wants to play.

That is true even if it means playing a different position.

Engelland, a defenseman, skated as a winger on the Penguins' fourth line against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

“He's done it before,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We know he has an understanding of what the position implies.”

The implication was that Engelland, a reputable fighter, was needed for a showdown with the traditionally roughhousing but struggling Flyers — desperate for any spark after winning once in seven prior contests.

“We like having that grit in the lineup,” Bylsma said of Engelland.

“It's not just necessarily against the Flyers.”

Engelland had practiced as a winger for three sessions, Bylsma said.

Engelland said he played once previously in the NHL as a forward — against Montreal two years ago — and also in “a few games” while with Las Vegas of the East Coast Hockey League.

He has played in only two of the Penguins' previous six contests.

Though he did not endorse a full-time position switch — also, nobody associated with the Penguins has hinted that is a possibility — Engelland said he prefers playing at forward than sitting as a defenseman.

Everybody form a line

Winger Dustin Jeffrey was a healthy scratch for the Penguins against the Flyers. Engelland replaced him in the lineup.

Jeffrey's ice time had decreased in each of the past two games.

With Jeffrey out, winger Harry Zolnierczyk and center Joe Vitale worked with Engelland on the fourth line.

Wingers Tanner Glass and Craig Adams were promoted to the third line with center Brandon Sutter.

Maatta factor

Playing Engelland on the fourth line allowed Bylsma to reunite the defense pairing of Olli Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo.

Maatta had played with Engelland in two prior contests and registered a minus-2 rating.

He was an even player in his opening four NHL games.

Maatta, 19, can play in only two more games before this season counts as the first of his entry-level contract. He cannot play in the AHL because of an arrangement between the NHL and Hockey Canada.

Injury updates

Defenseman Kris Letang is doubling up on his daily on-ice activity, but there is “no timetable” for returning to play, Bylsma said Thursday.

Letang participated in a game-day practice, but he has had only one full session since rejoining teammates last week.

A Norris Trophy (top defenseman) finalist last season, Letang's knee was injured Sept. 27 in a practice at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. He has yet to play this season.

Winger Matt D'Agostini (lower body) practiced with Penguins teammates for the second consecutive day. He remains on the long-term injury list and cannot play until Oct. 26.

Right wingers James Neal (upper body) and Beau Bennett (lower body) did not practice at Philadelphia.

Neal is out indefinitely. He was re-injured against New Jersey on Oct. 3. Bennett is day-to-day. He was injured at Tampa Bay last Saturday.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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