Newly acquired winger Hagelin possesses the skills to kill for Penguins

The Penguins' Carl Hagelin fights for position in front of Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack during the first period Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016.
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin fights for position in front of Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack during the first period Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016.
Photo by AP
Bill West
| Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, 8:33 p.m.

Until the scoring touch that has eluded him this season returns, winger Carl Hagelin recognizes his greatest contribution to the Penguins might be his ability to create chaos as a forechecker.

That talent might benefit the Penguins the most when they're on the penalty kill, especially with center Nick Bonino sidelined because of a hand injury.

In his Penguins debut Sunday against Carolina, Hagelin accrued 1 minute, 56 seconds of short-handed ice time. That put him well on his way to surpassing the nine-plus minutes of penalty kill experience David Perron, the winger sent to Anaheim for Hagelin in Saturday's trade, had in 86 games with the Penguins.

“He gets a lot of pressure up ice,” said Kevin Porter, another of the Penguins' counted-on, penalty-killing wingers. “He creates turnovers. Smart player. He's good with his stick.”

While the Penguins pursued Hagelin with a long-term plan in mind, they also accounted for what the Sweden native could provide in Bonino's short-term absence. Bonino ranked second in short-handed ice time per game (2:26) among forwards for the Penguins, one of the league's best penalty-killing teams.

Hagelin spent more than 61 minutes on the penalty kill with Anaheim this season, and he exceeded 127 short-handed minutes of ice time in each of his past two seasons with the New York Rangers.

“I've been PKing for a while now in this league, and I think experience is key,” Hagelin said. “(What the Penguins do) is pretty similar to what we had in New York three years ago. I'm familiar with it.”

Against Carolina, a team that scored in three of its previous eight power plays against the Penguins, Hagelin helped the Penguins hold the Hurricanes to an 0-for-4 game with a man advantage Sunday.

“It was just more hard work and blocking shots and everyone kind of on the same page,” Porter said of the team's improvement against Carolina.

Hagelin's 140 blocked shots in 311 regular-season games also indicated how he might bolster the Penguins' defense more than Perron, who blocked 117 shots in 543 games.

But there's no desire on Hagelin's part simply to provide the Penguins more defensively responsible play on the left wing. He finished with a career-high 35 points with the Rangers last season, and signed a four-year, $16 million contract with Anaheim shortly after the Ducks acquired him via trade in the offseason.

Producing just four goals and eight assists in 43 games with Anaheim qualified as underachievement for Hagelin. But his confidence remained firm. Three of his assists and one goal came in his last four games with Anaheim.

“You just keep working hard,” Hagelin said. “Keep getting pucks to the net. Sooner or later, it's going to go in for you. That's what I started doing there at the end (in Anaheim).”

Situated on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, Hagelin is poised to see his offensive numbers climb. He finished with four shots on goal, tied for his third-highest total of the season, in his Penguins debut.

“I feel like even though you don't know the guys, you've played against them so many times, you know their tendencies out on the ice,” Hagelin said of his new linemates. “(Malkin) is creative, and he finds a way to find people out there. And he can do a lot on his own. ... I think it's just reading off each other and working hard.”

Sullivan told Hagelin not to worry about grasping schemes within the first weekend with his new team. Whether at even strength or on the penalty kill, Hagelin's skills made for a smooth first impression.

“He's real good at pursuing pucks, putting defensemen under pressure,” Sullivan said. “He forces them to have to make plays in a hurry.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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