Penguins' Megna defies long odds just to reach camp

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There is no longer shot in this training camp, no player less likely to be on the major-league roster when the Penguins open the regular season Saturday in Philadelphia, than Jayson Megna.

He understands the situation he's in, appreciates the odds he is facing.

He doesn't seem fazed by them, though.

Perhaps because he has overcome greater ones.

He is, after all, a professional hockey player who was born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a guy who's is on a NHL training camp short list just months after being an undrafted free agent.

"I hoped it," he said. "I dreamed it. But I can honestly say I didn't expect to be here."

But he hasn't looked out of place and doesn't believe that he is.

Megna, a 22-year-old center, came here intent on claiming a spot on the 23-man roster.

"Any player at this level is competitive and wants to play at the highest level," he said. "That's why we're all here. I definitely didn't come to camp with the expectation that I just wasn't going to make the team.

"I want to play my best, show what I have, work hard. And, hopefully, that would land me a stop."

The Penguins were one of several teams that last year sought to sign Megna, who learned the game after moving to Chicago at age 3, but general manager Ray Shero said they did not guarantee him an invitation to camp as an inducement to come here.

Rather, he said, Megna earned it with his play in Wilkes-Barre, despite a high ankle sprain that hobbled him through the early part of the season.

That injury is the primary reason he has dressed for just 19 of the Baby Penguins' first 38 games -- he has three goals and three assists so far -- but he said it is a non-factor in games.

"It's something I have to deal with, off-ice," Megna said. "But on-ice, I feel strong. It's come a long way."

So has he.

Bortuzzo keeps sharp focus

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo will see a lot of his Wilkes-Barre teammates when the Penguins have a public scrimmage at 7 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center.

It might be the last time for a while.

Bortuzzo is a serious threat -- at the every least -- to earn a job on the Penguins defense. And if he wouldn't, he would have to go through waivers to rejoin the Baby Penguins.

The chances of a solid defense prospect with his future making it through unclaimed seem close to nil.

For now, however, Bortuzzo says he isn't focused on how the start of full-time employment in the NHL likely is just a few days away.

"Ultimately, I try to not think about stuff like that," he said. "I'm just trying to put my best foot forward here, make an impression within the organization. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to play NHL games."

Bortuzzo's forte is defense, so he doesn't do much that's splashy. At the same time, he doesn't have to stray outside his game to impress the Penguins' decision-makers.

"They've been watching me for three years," he said. "I think they have a good idea of what I can do. I'm just going to try to play my game, as far as I can, in practice and, hopefully, that's enough for them to want me here."

Strange mix tonight

The Penguins are trying to making their public scrimmage tonight as real as possible. Even if that means some of it has to be faked.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday that some aspects of the game will be staged -- such as both squads having a 6-on-5 edge in skaters at various points during the final two minutes of the third period -- so that players can experience them before the regular season opens Saturday in Philadelphia.

The game will feature a five-minute overtime and a five-round shootout, regardless of the score after regulation. Players are being brought in from the minor league team in Wilkes-Barre so that each side can dress 12 forwards and six defensemen. The game will be televised by Root Sports.

Waiver-wire strategy

For the second day in a row, the Penguins did not put anyone on waivers. Teams must be down to 23 or fewer men on their major-league roster by Friday afternoon and because waivers-eligible players in the American Hockey League must clear before they can continue to play there, the Penguins and other clubs might well decide to do a massive "waivers dump" Thursday, putting everyone on their depth chart who must pass through the system there at the same time.

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First Published January 16, 2013 5:00 AM


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