Pesonen 'no risk' investment for Pens
Janne Pesonen knows he has an impression to make.
The forward -- who has bounced back and forth between the Penguins and their AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- no longer can live off of his status as a Finnish Elite League star.
And Pesonen doesn't plan to.
"I want to be here and I want to get a place on the team," Pesonen said before Saturday night's 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. "That's been my goal to play in the NHL and try to steadily improve my game here."
Pesonen was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after Saturday's game. He was on the ice for 7:16 and recorded a minus-1 while skating mainly with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora on the second line.
Pesonen was called up Thursday after forward Maxime Talbot left Wednesday night's game with an undisclosed injury. Talbot returned to the lineup Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres, limiting Pesonen's ice time to 6:02.
Pesonen's lack of playing time in the past two games made it difficult for Coach Michel Therrien to "find out" about Pesonen, which is why the Penguins brought him up.
"We got a few guys that are playing real well down there and he's one of them," executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero said. "We wanted to take a closer look at him.
"It's difficult. You come up your first couple games. You don't want to make mistakes. You want to make an impression, but you don't want to hurt your team."
Pesonen made his NHL debut Nov. 1 and played a total of three NHL games this season. He did record two points in three preseason appearances with the Penguins.
Pesonen spent most of his time at Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton, where he is third on the team with 21 points.
It was his performance in the AHL is what caught Shero's attention and earned Pesonen another chance to impress the Penguins.
"I think a guy like this that comes up, he has skill," Shero said. "He's a real smart player. He's good on the wall. He's good defensively. He's smart with the puck. I think he's definitely going to create some offense for himself."
Pesonen, who played on the Finland national team, still is a relatively unknown player two months into his first North American season. Last year, he led the Finnish Elite League with 78 points (34 goals, 44 assists) in 56 games with the Oulu Karpat. He contributed 16 points during the postseason to lead Karpat to its fifth league championship.
The 26-year-old switched gears in July when he was signed by the Penguins as a free agent. That's when his opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream became more realistic.
"Last summer I got a good chance when the Penguins offered a contract to me," Pesonen said. "I didn't have to think about it. Playing in the NHL has been my dream since I was a kid.
"I definitely want to be a better player. I'm not happy the way I am right now. I want to be better. This is the biggest challenge and I'm looking forward to it."
Perhaps the toughest challenge for a player like Pesonen, who splits time between the NHL and AHL, is having a sense of confidence.
"There's a difference when you see a guy out there that's real tentative versus a guy with confidence," Shero said. "It has to take a couple games to get that. Maybe it's 15 to 20 games to get that. Some guys don't get that in 20 games, so you never know."
If Pesonen has it his way, he'll be in North America -- preferably in the NHL -- to stay. And Shero is willing to give him a chance to prove he deserves to play at this level.
"A number of teams wanted to try him," Shero said. "To me it was no risk. The scouts really liked him to take a chance on. I give him a lot of credit for, what is he 26, a guy that wants to give it a chance. He can stay in Finland or go to Russia and make a lot of money. He wants to stay. I give him credit for trying to give it a chance and see where it takes him."