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Defenseman Daley flourishes in 1st month with Penguins

| Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, 7:39 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Trevor Daley has six points in 17 games since being acquired from the Blackhawks. 'I think I'm fortunate that I'm getting a chance, and I just want to try to take advantage of the opportunity,' he said.

Cautious with his words after he let slip that he glanced at numbers to gauge his performance, Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley clarified that he loosely tracks in his head the scoring chances for and against his team.

Leave the advanced metrics for someone else to study, Daley said. Let someone else fret about what counts as a shot attempt or a quality defensive zone exit.

Yet the concept of measuring performance mildly intrigued him. And he recognized his first month with the Penguins, who acquired him Dec. 14 in a trade that sent defenseman Rob Scuderi to Chicago, included some pretty notable numbers, ones likely to overshadow the zero goals and six assists he had in 29 games with the Blackhawks.

“I've felt good most of the year,” said Daley, who enters Saturday's home game against Vancouver with four goals and two assists in 17 games as a Penguin. “I just wasn't playing very much (in Chicago). I think I'm fortunate that I'm getting a chance, and I just want to try to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I've been here before (in terms of on-ice production). When you're given a chance and then you're not given a chance, and then you get a second chance, you tend to not take things for granted as much.”

With a power-play goal that began the Penguins' comeback in their 4-3 win over Philadelphia on Thursday, Daley scored for the third time in the past four games.

Brought in primarily to bolster the team's transition play, Daley also provided the Penguins better options during its extra-man advantages. His willingness to shoot from the blue line and drift down to the walls changed the dynamic of a unit that struggled under coach Mike Johnston.

Daley's per-60-minute rates for goals (1.6), assists (3.2) and points (4.8) on the power play rank among the best of his career. They likely will fade as he appears in more games.

He's unlikely to see a diminished role on the unit, though, especially as Kris Letang struggles with injuries.

Three goals in five-on-five play puts Daley on a pace to far surpass his previous totals. He finished with a career-high seven goals in five-on-five play in 68 games with Dallas last season. But his value to the Penguins at even strength has gone beyond goals scored.

The opposition's five-on-five shot attempt rate with Daley on the ice is at its lowest point since the defenseman's 2008-09 season with Dallas, according to war-on-ice.

And with Daley on the ice, the Penguins attempt more shots than almost any of the Dallas teams did.

“He has made real good decisions as far as when he gets involved and when he needs to stay behind the attack and make sure that he's in a defensive posture,” Sullivan said. “I think he's got really good instincts coming off the offensive blue line. … If your defensemen don't get involved in the offense, both off the rush and in zone, it's hard to generate scoring chances. I think Trevor is a guy that adds that element to our team. He's a mobile guy… and his mobility allows him to recover if there's a turnover or if the play doesn't go the way we expect it to go.”

Sullivan, who made his coaching debut the night of the Scuderi trade, immediately trusted Daley's speed and wits. That faith factored heavily into the ease with which the defenseman fit into the Penguins' plans.

“With a new coach coming in, I felt like I could get a fresh start,” Daley said. “It doesn't really happen often where you get traded and there's a coach that comes in at the same time you're coming in. But I guess under the circumstances, it kind of worked out pretty good.”

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

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