Penguins Notebook: Goligoski gets new role as power-play's rover


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ST. LOUIS -- Alex Goligoski doesn't have a technical term for the position he is manning on the Penguins' power play.

Or even an informal name for it.

"Rover" is as good a suggestion as any, he said with a shrug.

"It seems to be what everyone calls it," Goligoski said. "It seems like a lot of teams are doing that the last couple of years, having that guy in the middle. It's just another option that's tough to defend."

The thing that likely stands out about Goligoski filling that role in a revamped power play that features a lot of movement and rotation is that he is a defenseman who works mostly in the slot area instead of being assigned to a point spot.

That's a nod to his offensive skills.

Going into the Penguins' game against the Blues Saturday night, Goligoski, 25, had three goals, seven points in eight games. He had a point in each of the team's first seven games, tying a career high for a point streak.

Goligoski had a strong start offensively last season, too, with six goals, 13 points in his first 15 games. He didn't maintain that pace, finishing with eight goals, 37 points in 69 games, although he declined to blame a few nagging injuries.

Coach Dan Bylsma said he was more surprised by Goligoski's start in 2009-10, his first full NHL season, than his rush from the gate this season, but he has a strong appreciation for what the 25-year-old is doing.

"He's playing with confidence," Bylsma said. "His skating ability and his poise with the puck on both sides, offensively and defensively, has added to our team.

"The biggest surprise is probably his shot. He's got a shot that's a threat, and he's using it as such. That's a dynamic that maybe we did not count on coming in. His start's been great."

Goligoski worked on that shot in the offseason and switched to a stick blade with slightly more curve.

"I'd probably say I shot a little more this summer than I did in the past," he said. "Being an offensive defenseman, it's something I have to keep work on and keep getting better at. I'm glad [Bylsma] noticed."

Orpik back; others close

The Penguins not only got defenseman Brooks Orpik back after he missed six games because of a groin strain, but they also are steadily getting closer to having a full complement of players who were projected to be regulars.

After skating on his own recently, defenseman Zbynek Michalek joined his teammates toward the end of the morning skate. He participated in a few drills and did some light shooting, then remained on the ice to work out more.

On Oct. 14, he was listed as being out two to four weeks because of a right shoulder injury. He has missed six games.

Winger Arron Asham (shoulder) is expected to be ready to play Wednesday at Tampa after getting hurt late in the preseason, and center Jordan Staal (foot infection) continues to look strong in practice, although he is still out.

"We're getting more healthy as we go," Bylsma said.

"Arron Asham hasn't played a regular-season game for us yet, and Jordan Staal has not, and Zbynek hasn't played but a couple.

"We're getting close to [being healthy]. It is nice to see those guys on the ice and working toward being 100 percent."

Tip-ins

The Penguins' healthy scratches were winger Eric Godard and defenseman Andrew Hutchinson. ... St. Louis scratched defenseman Tyson Strachan. ... Coming into the game, the Penguins ranked second in the NHL with 210 hits. Matt Cooke led the league with 31, and Chris Kunitz was fourth with 26. ... For the third game in a row, the Penguins played in a game with an anti-cancer initiative. The Blues were holding Breast Cancer Awareness Night.


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


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