Penguins notebook: Ducks defenseman Despres faces former team
February 8, 2016 12:00 AM
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
The Penguins traded Simon Despres to the Anaheim Ducks, where he has recently found stability after signing a five-year contract.
By Seth Rorabaugh and Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres will play his first game at Consol Energy Center tonight since the Penguins dealt him a year ago at the trade deadline.
“I guarantee that I’ll be a little bit emotional for the game [tonight],” Despres said. “Spent a lot of years here. A lot of memories and good friends. A lot of friends in Pittsburgh.”
A first-round pick in 2009, Despres never quite gained the trust of former coach Dan Bylsma and didn’t secure a full-time role in the NHL until in the 2014-15 season under former coach Mike Johnston. After the Penguins traded him for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, Despres played well enough for the Ducks to sign him to a five-year, $18.5 million contract extension prior to the start of this season.
“That’s definitely fun to have some security, some stability,” said Despres who was frequently shuffled between the NHL and American Hockey League in his Penguins career. “Not to have your mind wondering what’s going to happen the next game, definitely happy about that.”
Despres has been working his way back into the lineup after suffering a concussion in the fourth game of the season. Out for 42 games, he recently completed a rehabilitation assignment with Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego.
“He hasn’t gotten any points but we haven’t lost since he’s been back,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We missed him for sure. In the playoffs last year, he was as good of a defenseman as we had. Big and strong and played against big opposition and he didn’t tire. The more games he gets, the better he’s going to get.”
A physical and aggressive defenseman, Despres doesn’t feel his game has changed that much since leaving the Penguins.
“I got older,” he said. “One more year of experience. Got a lot of good playoff experience last year. I mean I’m not that much more of a different player. Maybe older, more mature.”
Crosby reaches 900 points
Sidney Crosby became the 13th active player to record 900 career points when he recorded the first of his two assists in the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime victory Saturday at Florida.
He got to that milestone in 677 games, fewer than all but 10 players in NHL history needed.
Those who did it faster are Wayne Gretzky (385), Mario Lemieux (463), Mike Bossy (582), Peter Stastny (599), Jari Kurri (632), Bobby Orr (638), Denis Savard (647), Guy Lafleur (649), Bryan Trottier (651) and Steve Yzerman (673).
All 10 are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A minor bunch
The Penguins lineup is laced with players who have spent time in the AHL this season.
Of the 23 on their active roster, no fewer than seven have played for the Baby Penguins in 2015-16.
Oskar Sundqvist is the most recent addition to a list that includes Kevin Porter, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary and Derrick Pouliot.
Many, including Sundqvist, got their opportunity to play in the NHL because someone was injured. All have been given a chance to prove they belong at this level.
“This is how young players break into the league and have an opportunity to establish themselves and make an imprint,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We have some good young players here who have had lots of success at the American League level.”
Seth Rorabaugh: email@example.com or Twitter: @emptynetters. Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @MolinariPG.
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