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Downie: Joining Penguins 'made sense'

| Thursday, July 3, 2014, 6:21 p.m.

Joining the Penguins was a no-brainer for Steve Downie.

The 27-year-old right wing wanted to play for his old coach, Rick Tocchet, in a city he liked and with a team that is eager to win a Stanley Cup.

“It just made sense,” Downie said Thursday. “You only hear good things about the organization and the city of Pittsburgh. And playing for Rick was one of the main factors. It's a great relationship we have. He's really a great communicator with me. I enjoy playing for him.”

Downie enjoyed his finest season while Tocchet was his head coach in Tampa Bay. The Toronto native produced 22 goals during the 2009-10 season while playing on a line with stars Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.

Downie not only proved capable of keeping up with Tampa Bay's stars, but he also was more than capable of protecting them. He expects to provide the same protection for Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“I play a hard game,” Downie said. “And I'm always going to stick up for my teammates, no matter what. There will not be liberties taken against our star players in Pittsburgh. And there won't be liberties taken against any of my teammates. That's what successful teams do, and I'll be a part of that.”

Downie said he will accept any role. General manager Jim Rutherford and Tocchet, a Penguins assistant, suggested Wednesday that Downie is capable of a top-six role.

Crosby always has enjoyed playing with right-handed wingers.

“Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world,” Downie said. “To even think about having a chance to play with him excites me. But honestly, whatever happens, happens. Wherever I play, I'll do what I can. I'm just coming to Pittsburgh to win.”

Downie is satisfied with his health. He has dealt with hearing problems most of his life and sustained a concussion last season while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The hearing problems stem from a condition called otosclerosis, a disease of the bones of the middle and inner ear. His hearing worsened last season.

“I ended up losing 55 percent of my hearing last year,” Downie said. “It was tough. I had a lot of balance issues.”

Downie recently had ear surgery.

“It's hereditary,” he said of his condition. “It's something that progresses. They ended up fixing it, though. So hopefully it stays where it is.”

Downie has been working in Toronto with former Penguins forward Gary Roberts to improve his conditioning.

“I really can't wait to get to Pittsburgh,” he said. “I think it's going to be a good thing for me.”

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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