Filewich hopes he is Jonathan on the spot for Penguins

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KITCHENER, Ontario -- Jonathan Filewich can skate. Quite well, actually.

He owns a hard, accurate shot, too, and needs very little time to get it off.

Fact is, he is capable of rushing the puck into the offensive zone and unloading a shot that is behind the goalie almost before he realizes it is coming.

But Filewich does not score many goals that way. And does not seem to mind much.

"He can shoot the puck well enough to do that," said Todd Richards, who coached Filewich on the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre last season.

"[But] he would prefer to be around the net. He goes to that hard area, knowing he's going to get hit, knowing he's going to get cross-checked. He's willing to pay the price to score goals."

Filewich, a right winger, scored his first goal in two games at a rookie tournament here in the Penguins' 6-3 victory against Florida yesterday, and did it often enough last season to finish with 30 and reinforce his credentials as a threat to open the 2007-08 season in the NHL.

Although his speed tends to get overlooked -- he won the fastest-skater competition at the AHL All-Star Game last season -- Filewich is hard to miss when he ventures into the high-impact area near the opposing team's net.

"That's exactly where I want to be," he said.

At 6 feet 2, 208 pounds, he's big enough to absorb whatever punishment is inflicted on him and skilled enough to convert rebounds and other close-range chances made possible by his positioning.

"He's got very good hands, a quick release and, obviously, he's a great skater," Richards said. "As a scorer in the NHL, those are the things you need. And he has them."

Last season, Filewich came within a goal of tying the franchise record shared by Toby Petersen and Michel Ouellet and probably would own that mark if his scoring touch hadn't deserted him during much of the second half. After getting 21 goals in the first 47 games, Filewich managed just nine in the final 33 -- and that total was swelled by a two-week stretch in March when he scored six times in eight games.

"I went to the all-star game and probably put a little too much pressure on myself," Filewich said. "Then people started bringing [the slump] up, and I started thinking about it. I still felt I was playing the same game.

"I didn't feel my [overall] game dropped off, whatsoever. I was still doing the same things. Maybe the bounces just weren't going my way."

The training camp that begins Thursday will be Filewich's third as a pro; he was pleased with his performance during the first -- "I knew then that I was not going to be in the NHL straight out of junior, so I think I was more relaxed, played my game," he said -- and disappointed in his lackluster showing a year ago.

He does, though, believe those camps, and a couple of winters in Wilkes-Barre, have helped to elevate his game.

While the Penguins could use another reliable goal-scorer on the wing, Filewich believes he does not have to fill a top-six role to contribute in the NHL.

"I really don't know where they see me," he said. "I do have goal-scoring ability. I've scored consistently in the AHL, and I believe I can do it in the NHL.

"I'd like to think they could put me in any position, from second- to fourth-line right winger, and it really wouldn't matter to me. I think I'm capable of playing in any of those roles."

NOTES -- Tim Wallace, Kyle Rank, Alex Grant, Brian Ihnacak and Ryan Stone also scored for the Penguins yesterday, while Florida's David Brine (two) and Keegan Dansereau beat Penguins goalie John Curry. ... The Penguins' victory clinched a spot in the championship game tomorrow evening. ... Defenseman Kristopher Letang and forwards Tyler Kennedy and Kevin Henderson were healthy scratches for the Penguins, who will face Ottawa's prospects in their final round-robin game today.

Dave Molinari can be reached at .


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