O'Reilly will add needed center depth
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TORONTO -- Center is, on paper, the Penguins' deepest position.
Fact is, they have the finest collection of centers in the NHL.
When it is intact, anyway.
It has not been very often over the past two seasons, however, which is why the Penguins claimed Cal O'Reilly from Phoenix on re-entry waivers Wednesday.
He is not a threat to knock Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby or Jordan Staal out of a job, but, with the latter two still recovering from long-term injuries, the Penguins hope O'Reilly will provide an infusion of talent and finesse down the middle.
"He's got skill, playmaking ability at, really, a high level," coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday evening. "He can make plays, make great passes, sees the ice really well. That's some of the attraction of getting a guy through the middle, where we're not very strong or deep right now."
Bylsma said O'Reilly is "going to be joining us here shortly."
Asked when he expects to get O'Reilly into a game, Bylsma responded, "I think sooner than later."
The Penguins, who played Toronto at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night, will be off until they visit Boston Saturday.
O'Reilly had two goals and four assists in 27 games this season with Nashville and Phoenix, which acquired him from the Predators for a fourth-round draft choice Oct. 28.
He was Nashville's fifth-round draft choice in 2005, when Penguins general manager Ray Shero was assistant general manager there, and has a salary (and salary-cap hit) of $1,050,000 this season. Because O'Reilly was picked up on re-entry waivers, the Penguins will be responsible for just 50 percent of what is left on his contract.
O'Reilly, 25, is 5 feet 11, 188 pounds and is scheduled to be a restricted free agent after this season.
Nearly four years have passed since the Penguins traded Colby Armstrong to Atlanta as part of the package that brought back Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
He has changed teams again since, going from the Thrashers to Toronto as a free agent in '10, and many of the guys he played with on the Penguins have moved on as well.
But, even though Armstrong's ties to the team that drafted him in the first round in '01 are not as strong as they were, they are not gone altogether, either.
"There's just a handful of guys [remaining] that I spent some time with, especially in the minors, like [Brooks Orpik] and [Marc-Andre Fleury]," Armstrong said Wednesday. "And then guys I broke in with, Sid and [Staal] and [Tyler] Kennedy."
Laughing, he added, "I've gotten to meet a lot of guys in hockey on the few teams I've been on. I've got friends I've made around the league."
Armstrong rejoined Toronto's lineup Wednesday night after missing 18 games because of a concussion.
"I couldn't wait to get back in for a while now," he said. "So I'm excited."
Armstrong missed 23 games earlier in the season because of an ankle injury, which means he was not available for 41 of Toronto's first 50 games.
"Watching the guys playing games, it's tough not to be there and be alongside them," he said.
Armstrong said the concussion was the first of his career -- and was adamant that it was not just the first documented one -- even though his game is based on playing the body hard and often.
Indeed, he got concussion No. 1 while trying to check Vancouver center Ryan Kesler.
"I went to hit a guy and I got stood up really, really hard," Armstrong said. "I don't know if he got me on the button [chin] or not. I don't know exactly what happened. It really jarred me."
That experience aside, Armstrong said, "I never thought for a second about changing the way I play or anything like that."
Malkin was named the NHL's No. 2 star for January. He had a league-high 12 goals and four assists in 12 games. New York Islanders center John Tavares was the No. 1 star, while Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne was No. 3. ... Toronto demoted forward Nazem Kadri and defenseman Keith Aulie to its American Hockey League affiliate.
First Published February 2, 2012 12:00 am