Engelland provides Penguins flexibility with ability to play both ends of the ice
EDMONTON, Alberta — Deryk Engelland played at home Friday, which is a study in geography more than his place in the lineup.
The Edmonton native pops up at right wing and on the blue line — sometimes in the same game — but, one way or the other, seemingly has found a permanent place in the Penguins' lineup.
Engelland played right wing on the fourth line Friday against the Oilers.
‘A factor in many ways'
Coach Dan Bylsma is delighted with the flexibility Engelland provides as the physical defenseman has adapted nicely to playing forward.
“His ability to play both positions has allowed him to be a factor in many ways,” Bylsma said.
When injured defenseman Paul Martin returns to the lineup, which should happen later this month, the Penguins figure to use Engelland primarily at forward. Their preferred top-six configuration on the blue line includes Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Martin, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and rookie Olli Maatta.
With Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres providing defensive depth — and with the reality that the Penguins are thin on their third and fourth lines — Engelland's move to forward seems sensible.
“It's a unique versatility that he's giving us right now,” Bylsma said. “The situation that he is playing in — playing forward, playing defense and even playing defense on the penalty kill in games he's playing forward — is very unique, as is having the mindset to be able to do that.”
A long trip to the top
Engelland's path to the NHL was an unusual one, and it's an indication of his determination.
He played 243 junior games and 486 minor league games — a total of 729 — before reaching the NHL at age 27.
Four years later, he's thriving in an unusual but valuable role.
In recent games, even when Engelland is playing right wing, the Penguins shift him to defense in penalty-killing situations.
Bylsma and assistant coach Todd Reirden like using the duo of Engelland and Brooks Orpik, two of the team's most physical players, in front of the net while killing penalties.
The plan is working as the Penguins' penalty-killing percentage of 88.8 percent is the second best in the NHL and would be the best in team history if it holds.
“Deryk has really done a very good job for us,” Reirden said. “He's gotten better and better this season.”
Making mark at forward
Engelland has scored two goals while playing on the right wing this season and has surprised many in the organization with his success in the offensive zone.
Aside from the goals, Engelland has meshed nicely with the fourth line and adds a physical dimension.
“I get more comfortable the more I play at forward,” Engelland said. “It's still a learning process.”
Incidentally, focusing so much of his time on learning a new position hasn't affected Engelland's work when he must play on the blue line. Rather, the coaching staff recently has asked him to play significant minutes against the opposition's best players.
He has thrived, rarely giving a poor performance.
“The reliability which he has shown is impressive,” Bylsma said. “It's a difficult request.”
Homecoming in Edmonton
Another difficult request was getting tickets for the Oilers-Penguins game Friday.
Many of Engelland's friends and family members wanted to see him play in his hometown, regardless of which position he manned.
Edmonton generally isn't a popular destination on the schedule for NHL players, but for Engelland, having three days in his hometown has been special.
“I'm so happy to be here right now,” Engelland said. “It was so lucky for me to get two full days here. It was lucky for me, maybe, even if the guys (teammates) didn't all think it was great.
“It gave me a chance to spend a lot of time with friends and family members who I haven't seen in quite a while.”
Engelland, who grew up cheering for the Oilers, will do whatever it takes to play in the NHL. His recent opportunity to play against some of hockey's best forwards on a regular basis, in his opinion, has helped him take a step toward becoming a better player.
“I've been asked to play in some tough situations against good players, and I think I'm happy with how I've done,” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Adams not returning to team
- Johnstown rink wins $150K for upgrades, will host Penguins preseason game
- Penguins GM: Team not disciplined enough, buyouts possible, Bennett handled incorrectly
- Starkey: The Penguins’ perpetual question
- Penguins GM Rutherford happy in Pittsburgh
- Penguins assistant rejuvenates Fleury’s career, offers reason for hope
- Rossi: Penguins’ best bet is on Martin
- Penguins president: General manager, coach won’t be fired
- Crosby, Malkin want to remain in Pittsburgh
- Penguins’ Letang nominated for Masterton Trophy
- From injuries to front office, Penguins’ season didn’t lack drama