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Former Predators winger Hornqvist embraces recent trade to Penguins

| Thursday, July 3, 2014, 12:36 p.m.
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Former Nashville Predator Patric Hornqvist (27) was acquired by the Penguins in a trade involving James Neal. He had 22 goals and 31 assists for the Predators last season.

Patric Hornqvist never played with star forwards in Nashville, but don't expect him to be star-struck this season.

Hornqvist said Thursday that while he never has played with star centers such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he isn't about to change his game into something it isn't. The 27-year-old winger who was traded from Nashville to the Penguins last Friday plays a simple, hard-working style, which is exactly what the Penguins like about him.

“I'm going hard to the net and scoring goals around the net,” Hornqvist said.

Just how many goals might he score with Crosby and Malkin?

“It's hard to say,” Hornqvist said. “But I've got a great opportunity playing with two of the best centers in the world.”

Hornqvist was asleep in Sweden when news broke he was traded. He received a phone call from Nashville general manager David Poile and couldn't believe what he was hearing.

“I was shocked during those first couple of hours,” he said. “I still thought it was a dream. After a few hours, though, I was so happy that Pittsburgh wanted me. I've only heard good things about the team and that organization. They always have a chance to win, so I'm excited for this fresh start.”

Hornqvist said he has evolved as a player. When he played in Europe, he said he scored most of his goals from the high slot.

The player he was traded for, right wing James Neal, scored most of his goals from that area. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford made it clear the Penguins love Hornqvist's ability to score in front of the net and provide a physical presence in the corners.

“In Nashville,” Hornqvist said, “I just started going to the net. It gave me more ice time. So I started going to the net even more.”

Crosby and Malkin love playing with forwards who barge toward the net.

“I'm going to give energy to the team,” Hornqvist said. “They know what kind of player they got.”

Hornqvist said he is willing to play left or right wing. He also noted he is eager to become a positive presence in the locker room. Hornqvist was an alternate captain with the Predators.

“I always try to be a good guy in the locker room,” he said. “Nick (Spaling) is the same way. Happy around the rink. I'm pretty sure they already have those kinds of guys there. I'm just excited to meet the coaches and the players and to build something up there.”

Note: The Penguins re-signed forward Zach Sill to a one-year, two-way contract worth $550,000 at the NHL level.

Sill is a candidate to play on the fourth line next season. He played 20 games with the Penguins last season, and, while he failed to record a point, impressed the Penguins with his penalty killing and physical play.

Rutherford said last month that he wants the Penguins to become a more physical team. Sill, known for big hits and his willingness to fight, is a candidate to help in that regard.

A native of Nova Scotia, Sill, 26, has played parts of the past five seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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