Penguins Notebook: Surgery thwarts Bathgate -- again

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For the second summer in a row, center Andy Bathgate was relegated to watching his fellow Penguins prospects skate at the club's development camp, thanks to a second surgery in as many years for a separated left shoulder.

"I guess [the first operation] just didn't work right," said Bathgate, a fifth-round draft selection in 2009.

Bathgate tried to get by without surgery, but the shoulder separated six times before the first operation and twice between operations. He had the second procedure in April and hopes to be healthy for training camp in September before he heads back to Belleville of the junior Ontario Hockey League.

The camp has not been a total bust for Bathgate, grandson of the former Penguins star with the same name. He has been able to learn new exercises for his shoulder from the medical staff, do dry-land training and absorb information during various meetings and seminars.

He even picked up a tip that he hopes will help for the rest of his career.

"Hydration," Bathgate said. "I learned a lot about that. When you wake up, you've got to drink. Before the game, you've got to drink

"I was one of those guys who didn't. They told me you'll feel a little bit tired toward the end of the game, and that was me."

Thiessen on upswing

Reality is a roller coaster for goaltender Brad Thiessen.

In the spring of 2009, he turned pro after being a Hobey Baker Award finalist as a junior at Northeastern University and signed with the Penguins. He was added to the taxi squad during the playoffs, lived an NHL lifestyle briefly and got to hold the Stanley Cup.

Establishing himself as a pro was tougher. He often was idle at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, then got sent down to Wheeling of the ECHL for several weeks.

"It wasn't something I expected was going to happen at the beginning of the year, but it's something that helped me out, getting back in the groove again," Thiessen said.

He was 8-3 at Wheeling with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. Back with the Baby Penguins, Thiessen finished strong and supplanted John Curry as the starter. His AHL numbers: 14-14-1, 2.45, .914 and four shutouts.

That puts the 6-foot, 175-pounder No. 3 in the organization, behind starter Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Brent Johnson. That made development camp that much more enjoyable with the exception of a shot by college free agent Alex Smigelski that caught Thiessen in the throat Tuesday and felled him briefly.

"It's a lot more comfortable, knowing the guys, knowing the coaching staff a lot better, knowing how things work around here," he said. "Coming off last year, the last couple of months of the year, I proved that I could belong and be a good goalie in that league."

Common background

Smigelski, a recent graduate of Williams College, figures he was part of an early wave of better hockey prospects to come through Delbarton, a private high school in Morristown, N.J., that has claimed four state titles in the past five years. Two other Delbarton alums, fifth-round 2009 draft pick Alex Velischek and fifth-round 2010 pick Kenneth Agostino, also were in the development camp.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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