Penguins' Tangradi more comfortable, confident
Eric Tangradi — otherwise known as "Big Dog" — hopes this is the final time he must eat at the kids' table.
Tangradi, a highly regarded forward prospect, wants to make the Penguins' roster for good this fall. He can make a good impression this weekend when he leads a host of youngsters into Oshawa, Ontario, for a rookie tournament among the Penguins, Senators, Maple Leafs and Blackhawks.
No stranger to rookie tournaments and prospect camps, Tangradi said in July that this will be the biggest training camp of his life, and he hasn't altered that view.
"I feel more comfortable," he said. "Last year, I just wanted to stick around. I know I can make an impact now. I feel good."
The easiest path for Tangradi, 22, to make an impact is on the power play. The Penguins' final two power-play goals of the 2010-11 season -- during the regular-season finale in Atlanta and in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Tampa Bay -- included Tangradi's 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame in front of the net.
Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to Penguins general manager Ray Shero, said he wants to see Tangradi play his game this weekend. He doesn't have to produce loads of points to get the organization's attention.
"I don't like the word 'dominate,' " Fitzgerald said. "It's a really strong word. There's a lot of pressure when you throw that word out. Go play a strong, Eric Tangradi game. Go do what you do best. Don't be somebody other than yourself. We want him to dominate the net front, the corners, puck possession, the wall — those things. The end result will be scoring chances."
Tangradi's new look suggests he should be able to thrive in the areas where the Penguins will be watching.
"Being knocked out of the playoffs earlier, I was able to get in the gym earlier than ever," he said. "I wanted to change my body, get stronger, get faster. I feel like I have the body and the strength to play at the NHL level and to do well. I'm more confident than I've ever been."