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Trio of veterans up for roster spot with Pens

| Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011

Cracking the Penguins' lineup is no easy task, as general manager Ray Shero has constructed a deep, skilled hockey team.

A few veterans, however, are making strong impressions.

Richard Park, Jason Williams and Ryan Craig — who have combined for 1,321 NHL games — are fighting to make the NHL roster.

"The depth here is very impressive," Park said.

Park has been pretty impressive, also.

Entering the NHL with the Penguins in 1995, Park has enjoyed a solid career and, although roster spots are at a premium, he has been a standout during training camp scrimmages. A terrific skater, Park has always been a strong penalty killer and an adequate faceoff man. His career achievements seem to make Park a natural replacement for Max Talbot, whose strengths mirror Park's.

"He's been in position to compete so far in this camp and he will be in that position certainly for (preseason) games one and two, and we'll go from there," coach Dan Bylsma said.

Bylsma is impressed with Park's performance in camp and highlighted a number of the 35-year-old's attributes.

"I think the intelligence and work ethic he plays the game with is extremely high," Bylsma said. "You see that in different situations. Faceoffs, penalty kills, moving in different spots and all of that. Left wing, right wing, center, he's a guy that can do that."

If Park can do it all, Williams has seen it all.

The 31-year-old forward has enjoyed multiple stints with Detroit, while also seeing time with Chicago, Atlanta, Columbus and Dallas. Williams' career numbers suggest that his career is in decline, but he has produced a solid camp and is easily adapting to the Penguins' system.

That system, in fact, feels familiar to Williams.

"It really does remind me of when I was in Detroit," he said. "A lot of the things they do are the same."

The system isn't the only thing that reminds Williams of the Red Wings. Seeing an overwhelming amount of NHL-ready talent also reminds the veteran of the early days of his career.

"Very much so," Williams said. "But all this depth is good. It makes your team better. When you get scoring from all four lines, it takes a lot of pressure off people."

Craig doesn't need to learn the system, as he split time between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre last season. A long shot to make the roster, Craig has played well in scrimmages and will get a chance to impress coaches in the exhibition season.

"There are a lot of good players in this room," Williams said. "A lot."

And the hard truth is that there will be a lot of good players in Wilkes-Barre come October. The battle to stay in Pittsburgh begins tonight with a preseason game against the Red Wings at Consol Energy Center.

"Teams are putting more of an emphasis on having depth," Park said. "And there is a lot of depth here. It's a credit to management. It's a good issue to have."

Rink rats

Richard Park, Jason Williams and Ryan Craig are all fighting for spots on the Penguins' roster. Experience is no issue for any of these veterans:

Richard Park: 684 NHL games, 95 goals

Jason Williams: 447 NHL games, 93 goals

Ryan Craig: 190 NHL games, 32 goals

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