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Tangradi braces for another trade deadline

| Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012

When Eric Tangradi was a late scratch for a Feb. 3 Baby Pens game, Internet speculation ran rampant that he was about to be traded.

As it turns out, there was a reasonable explanation for his absence — he suffered back spasms earlier in the day — but Tangradi has resigned himself to the fact that such talk will probably continue until the NHL's trade deadline Feb. 27.

"It seems like every deadline comes around, I see my name being thrown around somewhere," Tangradi said. "It's something I've gotten used to. I'm a third-year pro. I've seen all angles. It's just another day at the office for me."

Some have suggested a trade might benefit Tangradi because his style of play could be a better fit in a system not as up-tempo as Dan Bylsma's. Tangradi doesn't seem to see it that way.

"Being a big guy, you always have critics that your skating looks slow, but it's usually just the long-legs effect. I've dealt with that my whole career," he said. "I've felt like I can play at that level with the skating I have now. Obviously, it's something I'll never stop working on. It's something that can improve, but I'm confident I can play at that level and do well at that level."

Powerful streak

The Baby Pens came into this weekend on a 9-1-1-1 hot streak, moving into first place in the AHL's East Division. Their power play hit at a 30.5 percent clip (18 for 59) during that stretch.

"We're really developing an identity on the ice, how we want to play," coach John Hynes said.

The 30-goal curse

With 21 goals in 48 games coming into this weekend, center Bryan Lerg is on pace to become the seventh player in Baby Pens franchise history to record a 30-goal season.

If he gets stuck at 29, however, maybe he shouldn't complain. The milestone hasn't exactly been a stepping stone to NHL stardom in the past.

The past three Baby Pens with 30-goal seasons were Chris Minard, Janne Pesonen and Jonathan Filewich. Minard has two goals in 40 career NHL games. Pesonen (seven games) and Filewich (five games) didn't record a point in their brief NHL careers.

The first three Baby Pens to hit the mark — John Slaney, Toby Petersen and Michel Ouellet — had limited NHL success.

Injury report

Winger Beau Bennett, the Penguins' first-round pick in the 2010 draft, might be done for the season.

Bennett told Denver University's student newspaper that he won't be cleared to begin strengthening exercises for his wrist, which was surgically repaired in December, until March 8. Denver's regular season ends March 3.

Bennett has been doing some skating, however, and the Pioneers are hopeful that he could play in the NCAA tournament, which begins March 23, if they qualify.

Another award

UMass-Lowell freshman winger Scott Wilson, the Penguins' seventh-round pick in 2011, has won Hockey East freshman of the week honors for the fourth time this season. He had two goals and three assists in a two-game sweep of Vermont last weekend.

With 13 goals and 13 assists in 24 games, the 6-foot, 175-pound Wilson is the leading freshman scorer in all of college hockey when measured by points per game.

Additional Information:

One to watch

Geoff Walker

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) • Right wing

6-foot-3, 225 pounds

How acquired: Signed as AHL free agent, June 2011

How he's doing: Walker was undrafted coming out of junior hockey and spent much of his first two pro seasons in the ECHL, but lately, the 23-year-old power forward has become the right-handed version of Eric Tangradi with the Baby Pens. Employing a similar style of play, Walker and Tangradi have posted the exact same stats • 7 goals and 8 assists • in their last 15 AHL games. Walker has been especially effective at the net front on the power play. He is playing on an AHL contract and it would be a stretch to call him a hot prospect, but he is a big, strong, young, offensive-minded winger in an organization that doesn't have many of those.

Why he might make it to the NHL: He plays a prototypical power-forward game in the offensive zone.

Why he might not: His game gets ragged at times, in terms of decision making and systems play.

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