Penguins Notebook: Waiver-wire claim nets speedy winger Boychuk

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NEW YORK -- The Penguins entered this season searching for someone to play alongside Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.

Two weeks later, the hunt continues, and Thursday it led them to Carolina's waiver wire.

The Penguins claimed left winger Zach Boychuk, 23, off waivers from the Hurricanes, and coach Dan Bylsma immediately suggested that because of his speed and skill, Boychuk "could see time on Malkin's line."

Boychuk, who is expected to join the Penguins for practice today, was Carolina's first-round draft choice in 2008 and has seven goals and 11 assists in 73 career NHL games.

He was scoreless in his lone appearance with the Hurricanes this season, but put up 16 goals and 16 assists in 37 games with their American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte.

Boychuk is versatile and competitive, with good instincts, but, at 5 feet 10, 185 pounds, is somewhat undersized. Although his skill-set is tailored to a top-six role, he had slipped to the fourth spot on Carolina's depth chart at left wing.

"He has real good speed, creates opportunities with his speed, and can shoot the puck," general manager Ray Shero said. "Our [scouts] have liked him.

"Maybe get a guy on waivers like that, a younger guy, give him an opportunity and see how he does. It's an opportunity for him, and we'll take the chance and see where it goes."

Boychuk told the Raleigh News & Observer that his situation with the Penguins is "no different than at Carolina. There's a lot of pressure but also a lot of opportunity."

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told that newspaper that if the Penguins put Boychuk on waivers later this season, Carolina will claim him.

The decision to bring in Boychuk reflects the dearth of high-end young forwards in the Penguins' organizational pipeline. Beau Bennett, currently out with an undisclosed injury, is the only young winger with that kind of pedigree on their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

At last, Bortuzzo plays

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo made his first appearance this season Thursday night, replacing Ben Lovejoy in the lineup against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

He became the last of the 23 players, including eight defensemen, who opened the season on their major-league roster to dress for a game.

"It's been a long time," Bortuzzo said. "My last game was in Wilkes-Barre [during the NHL lockout]. I've just been champing at the bit, staying prepared physically and mentally."

Bortuzzo, 23, played six games with the Penguins in 2011-12, and believed that experience would help to tamp down any nervousness that might have arisen around game time.

"I got those games in last year, and that's where some of that overexcitement would have come in," he said. "I've been around the team for a long time now, and I think they know what they're going to get from me."

Rough day for Tangradi

Eric Tangradi started Thursday as the left winger on the No. 1 line.

Within a matter of hours, he was out of the lineup altogether and facing new competition for a spot on the major-league roster.

Tangradi lost his place with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis when Chris Kunitz, who sat out the morning skate because of illness, was healthy enough to dress for the Rangers game.

Adding Boychuk doesn't cause a personnel problem for the Penguins because injured defenseman Matt Niskanen has been placed on injured reserve, freeing a spot on their 23-man roster.

If the Penguins ever have everyone healthy, Tangradi and Boychuk could battle for the last spot on the NHL depth chart.

"[Boychuk] is going to add some competition in our lineup," Bylsma said.

Neither Tangradi nor Boychuk has had the hoped-for impact at the NHL level yet, and Tangradi does not have a goal in his past 39 games. Goals aren't the only thing he's capable of contributing, but any guy with a history of scoring gets exasperated when he's in a protracted slump.

"To see one find the back of the net would definitely be encouraging," Tangradi said. "It would start something for me if I was able to find the back of the net."

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