Trade to Penguins caps frenetic period for winger Stempniak
The trade deadline period can be a stressful time for players.
Lee Stempniak's situation has taken stress to an unprecedented place.
Stempniak, acquired by the Penguins minutes before the trade deadline expired Wednesday, has had a memorable but sleepless week he won't soon forget.
“I guess you could say that it's been a crazy few days,” he said.
While still playing for the Calgary Flames, Stempniak left the team at the end of the Olympic break so that he could be with his wife, Lindsay, in Boston, when she gave birth to twin girls.
The couple's daughters, Lucy and Reese, were born prematurely by six weeks and remain in the hospital.
They are doing well and probably are getting more sleep than their father.
After the twins were born Feb. 28, Stempniak stayed with his wife for two days before catching a flight to Minnesota, where he played his final game with the Flames.
He returned to Calgary with the Flames before learning he was traded to the Penguins.
Stempniak caught a flight from Calgary to San Jose on Thursday morning, played for the Penguins that night, then left with his new teammates that evening for Anaheim.
The Penguins planned to have a day off in Southern California on Saturday after playing Friday night and will fly to Washington for a practice Sunday and a game Monday before returning to Pittsburgh for another game Tuesday.
Perhaps between then and now Stempniak will get a chance to relax. Or sleep.
“But I'm not complaining for a second,” said Stempniak, whose twins are his first children. “This is a great situation I'm in right now. This is a great team. You see where they are in the standings. You see all of the incredible talent that this team has. I can honestly tell you that I couldn't be more excited and that I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.”
Stempniak's “opportunity” isn't just that he has joined one of the best teams.
He always is going to get a chance to play with the game's greatest player.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma made it clear his line combinations could remain unsettled for a while, but he also has said Stempniak will get a look on Sidney Crosby's right wing.
Stempniak started Thursday's game in San Jose with third-line center Brandon Sutter, but by the end of the game he was playing with Crosby a majority of the time.
“He stepped in on a couple of different lines and added something,” Bylsma said. “You could feel the depth (Stempniak and newly acquired center Marcel Goc) added to our team immediately.”
Playing on different lines is nothing for the guy who's been pulling double duty during the past week.
“There's room for improvement for me,” Stempniak said. “But give me a couple of practices and games to get comfortable, and I think it will come pretty quickly.”
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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