Penguins' new assistant wasn't far away

Reirden promoted; will coach defense

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After an international search for a new assistant coach, the Penguins found their man on their Southpointe ice for development camp a couple of weeks ago.

On the same Wilkes-Barre/Scranton bench that produced their previous two head coaches.

On the same staff for the final two rounds of the 2009 Stanley Cup run.

Who knows coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins' system and most every Penguins player - including having once played alongside and counseled free-agent signee Zbynek Michalek - better than Todd Reirden?

"The last two years have probably served as my interview," Reirden said Saturday after he was officially named to coach the Penguins' defensemen and replace Mike Yeo, who left to become the head coach for the minor-league Houston Aeros. "They've been able to see me in a number of different roles. I'm certainly excited about the opportunity."

Reirden, 39, was elevated once more, in something of the Penguins' way with coaches. After he was promoted from assistant coach once Bylsma arose became the Penguins' coach Feb. 15, 2009, Reirden directed the Baby Penguins to a 55-43-6 record in the American Hockey League.

John Hynes, 35, Reirden's assistant last year, was promoted to head coach of Wilkes Barre/Scranton.

Bylsma is expected to add more power-play onus to his role, though the special-teams coaching duties figure to get divvied up later among the head coach, Tony Granato, who returns along with goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, and Reirden.

In the announcement, Bylsma - who played with Reirden at Bowling Green - was quoted as saying, "We seriously interviewed between 10 and 15 candidates, and conducted an extensive search. And the best fit for us at the conclusion of the process was Todd Reirden."

Reirden was a defenseman for parts of five NHL seasons, two with the St. Louis Blues and 183 games in all. He also toiled on 13 different minor-league teams in three leagues and played two seasons overseas. In the 2004-05 lockout season, he played on the same AHL Houston team as Michalek, signed last month from the Phoenix Coyotes. In fact, Michalek was one of the first pro defensemen Reirden counseled after then-Aeros coach Todd McLellan - now San Jose's coach - asked him to give coaching a try.

"That's the area where Dan and I worked with before; we both play the game a certain way and expect certain things of our defensemen," said Reirden, who has worked with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski in addition to Michalek - encompassing four of the Penguins' top five defenseman, excluding only free-agent Paul Martin. "We both know how we want our team to play and look."


Chuck Finder: cfinder@post-gazette.com .


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