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Park's experience, playmaking invaluable

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By Josh Yohe
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011
 

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Penguins knew they were acquiring a speedy, versatile player when they agreed to terms with center Richard Park this summer.

They were also signing a mentor.

Park's five early points and strong penalty killing have been welcome this season, but his tutelage of some young players on the roster is perhaps more noteworthy.

"It was opening night in Vancouver," said center Joe Vitale, who might find himself in a battle for a spot in the lineup with Park when center Sidney Crosby returns. "I was having trouble on draws. Richard pulled me aside and talked with me, told me what he saw. He's like that."

Park's many attributes have been on display. He already has a short-handed goal, a pretty power-play assist and three even-strength points.

Scoring, however, is simply a bonus with Park, who scored his second goal this season early in the second period versus the Islanders on Tuesday night. His intangibles figure to exceed his contributions to the score sheet.

"I had played against him many times, and you could always see what a smart hockey player Richard was," left wing Craig Adams said. "He's brought that here. He knows the game. He's just a good hockey player."

Coach Dan Bylsma is pleased with Park's play and has used him in a variety of ways, even seeing time on the point during a recent power play. Although Park's defensive game has long been a strength, it was a recent play he made against the New Jersey Devils in the offensive zone that grabbed his coach's attention.

Park, seeing a rare power-play shift, floated a perfect pass to center Jordan Staal in the slot. Staal's goal was possible only because of the placement and pace of the pass.

"That," Bylsma said, "was a skilled play."

Park acknowledged that he is only scratching the surface of Bylsma's system.

"I'd like to say that I've got it down," he said. "But it's still a process."

The Penguins have no doubt that Park will figure it out in its entirety, and provide some more wisdom along the way.

"He's taken me under his wing," Vitale said. "He's been great to have around."

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