Penguins Notebook: Eaton searches for another opportunity with Penguins
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On the night the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Mark Eaton climbed up high in one corner of the visiting locker room in Detroit and soaked in the atmosphere for a while.
That was June 2009.
Several of Eaton's teammates from then remain with the Penguins, and the veteran defenseman hopes to once again be a member of the team -- in any role management sees fit.
"I've expressed some interest, and there's some interest on the other side as well," Eaton said after participating in the Penguins' morning skate Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Eaton did not dress for the game a few hours later against Philadelphia. For now, at least, he is scheduled to practice with the team on something of an informal tryout. He is not signed or on the 23-man roster.
Eaton, 35, became a free agent in the summer after playing two seasons with the New York Islanders. He signed a pro tryout agreement Jan. 23 with the Penguins' American Hockey League club in Wilkes-Barre. He played in six games before being released Wednesday morning so he could practice with the NHL club.
It's believed the Penguins have genuine interest in giving Eaton a look.
"Mark is a veteran player that we know," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Eaton, a stay-at-home defenseman, has had trouble with injuries over the years, but he said he is healthy and eager to try to convince the Penguins to sign him.
"You can never have too many NHL defensemen," Eaton said. "If I can fit in depth-wise, find a spot there, I'm at the point in my career where I'm not going to worry about ice time.
"I just want to help any way that I can to help this team win. If that's being an eighth guy, a sixth guy, whatever it is, I'm just going to work and try and do what I can."
Eaton isn't the first player to try this route.
Mathieu Darche went to New Jersey's training camp and practiced with the Devils for a while before announcing his retirement. Jay Pandolfo practiced with Boston for a time. He signed with the Bruins last week and made his season debut this past weekend.
"Other teams in the league and guys who are unsigned have been doing it, skating with a team to have them get a look at them," Eaton said. "Hopefully, I can impress a little bit and end up here. That's the long-term goal."
Friendly rival coaches
Bylsma admitted that, in general, he likes and admires Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette.
"I've always looked at Peter regardless of where he's been at -- the Islanders, Carolina or now in Philadelphia -- as an American coach," Bylsma said. "I've seen the success that he's had. I've talked with him at various drafts or whatever functions we bump into each other at. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach."
It's different when Bylsma and Laviolette coach against each other.
"I'm not going to say that there's not a rivalry there when he's the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers," Bylsma said. "But we talk in the summer."
Laviolette used to be close with Penguins assistant Tony Granato, notwithstanding the shouting match between the benches -- with Granato standing on the top of the boards -- when the Penguins and Flyers met in the final regular-season game of 2012.
"He was at Tony Granato's wedding," Bylsma said of Laviolette. "There's that picture of Tony [screaming on the bench]. There's also a picture at Tony's house of Peter at Tony's wedding.
"At a staff dinner at Tony's house, I found that picture and turned it around."
Laviolette acknowledged the friendship, but stopped there.
"Tony and I have played together through USA Hockey, through the [New York] Rangers organization," he said. "So I know Tony from way back. I'm going to pass on the sentiment."
The game marked the end of a string of six consecutive road games for the Flyers, who snuck home for one day in that span. They were 2-3 in the first five games.
"A lot of travel," Flyers winger and former Penguins Stanley Cup hero Max Talbot said. "It's been good, though, to get them out of the way.
"We haven't been as good as we want on the road, but it's coming along."
The Flyers headed home Wednesday night after the game, but not for a rest. They play host to Florida tonight.
First Published February 21, 2013 12:00 am