Hall does it all, but still lacks contract with Penguins

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The evaluation of Adam Hall's performance at the Penguins' training camp sounded like something that might come from his agent.

Or his best friend. Or a family member.

Consider:

"I expected him to come in in great shape, which he did. I expected him to compete hard, which he has. Work hard, which he has. Be a good pro, which he is. He's done all those things."

In reality, that assessment was delivered yesterday by general manager Ray Shero, who also confirmed that there is at least one thing Hall, in camp on a tryout, has not done yet: Earn a contract.

He will get another chance to do that when the Penguins face Buffalo in a preseason game at 7:38 p.m. today at Mellon Arena. Early indications are that Hall probably will be in the lineup again for the exhibition finale against the Sabres tomorrow night in Buffalo, too.

Although he is a right winger by trade, Hall has practiced at center of late and is expected to work there against Buffalo. Coach Michel Therrien and his staff -- guys who will have a major say in whether Hall is signed -- want to see him perform in the middle before passing final judgment on him.

Whether Hall can play -- and contribute -- at this level is not the issue; no one questions that, at age 27, he belongs on an NHL roster. What has not been determined is whether the coaching staff sees him as the best possible fit for the niche available to him, which is why Therrien and his assistants want to see how he looks at center.

"In the end, the coaches will say who they're comfortable with, and what they want to do," said Shero, who was assistant general manager in Nashville when Hall played there.

Hall is one of several established veterans who, for whatever reason, ended up attending camps on tryouts after failing to secure contracts in the offseason.

That means his circumstances are unlike anything Hall has experienced, but the uncertainty surrounding his short-term future hasn't shredded his nerves.

"You just focus on playing every day when you go on the ice, but there always is that little bit in the back of your mind," Hall said. "I think it's good. I think it helps to keep you sharp."

While Hall's forte is a blue-collar, physical game, he is not entirely out of place in the attacking zone. He has 49 goals and 53 assists in 306 NHL games, including 16 goals for the Predators in 2002-03.

But even though he is the only Penguins player to appear in all four exhibition games, Hall does not have a point. That, Shero suggested, is not surprising, because offense tends to be a secondary concern for a player in Hall's situation.

"When you're in on a tryout, you're covering your [tail]," he said. "You don't want to get scored on. You're playing safe."

Picking up a goal or two by now might have helped to solidify Hall's place with the Penguins, because it would have underscored the idea that he can be a factor at both ends of the rink.

For the moment, though, he does not have the luxury of reflecting on what has happened since camp opened, because focusing on the present is more important than dissecting the past.

"Everything's concentrating on looking forward and improving and just going all-out," Hall said.

"That's one of the good things -- there's nothing to save for. Every day, you're putting everything you have into it."

NOTES -- The Penguins assigned center Tim Brent to their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre and recalled forward Jeff Taffe. ... NHL teams must pare rosters to 23 by Tuesday. The Penguins are carrying 27 players. ... Wingers Petr Sykora (nose) and Gary Roberts (illness) did not participate in the workout yesterday at Mellon Arena but skated with conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice. ... Streaming video of the game tonight will be available on the Penguins' Web site.


Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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