Penguins' Goligoski now comfortable and confident
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During his first two seasons of pro hockey, Alex Goligoski looked like a guy who genuinely believed he could contribute in the NHL.
These days, Goligoski looks as if he knows he can do it. Even expects to.
With good reason.
"He's confident he can play at a high level," coach Dan Bylsma said yesterday. "He's confident about what he can bring to the table."
It is not known if Goligoski will get an opportunity to demonstrate that when the Penguins, 1-2-1 in preseason play, visit Columbus for an exhibition game at 7:38 p.m. today at Nationwide Arena, but if he is, Bylsma would like to see a repeat of his work during the Penguins' 3-2 shootout loss Tuesday in Toronto.
Goligoski had an impact at both ends of the ice, earning an assist and a plus-minus rating of plus-2 while logging a game-high 30 minutes, 15 seconds of ice time.
"That was a pretty impressive game, in a lot of ways," Bylsma said.
Goligoski is hard to miss on the ice these days, and it's not because, at 5 feet 11, 180 pounds, he's physically imposing. Rather, he's conspicuous because he has become assertive, a byproduct of being confident in his abilities and at ease in his surroundings.
"The more comfortable a situation is for you, the easier it is to concentrate on things," he said. "Just go out there and play. ... There's a lot of reacting now and not so much thinking [before acting] out there. Before, maybe I was walking on egg shells a little bit."
Goligoski had six goals and 14 assists in 45 regular-season games with the Penguins last season, along with two goals and 16 assists in 26 games with their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre.
His skating and offensive skills are what convinced the Penguins to invest the 61st choice in the 2004 entry draft in him and are the primary reason he'll be taking a regular shift in the NHL at age 24.
They also are what prompted Bylsma to use him with Jay McKee, who specializes in working in his own zone. All three of Bylsma's pairings -- the others are Brooks Orpik-Sergei Gonchar and Mark Eaton-Kris Letang -- feature one guy who can be a force offensively and another who emphasizes defensive play.
That deployment does not absolve Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski of their defensive responsibilities. And that can be a particular challenge for Goligoski because he can be physically overmatched against some opponents.
Adding muscle has helped, but his greatest assets in the defensive zone probably are his anticipation and his mobility.
"You just can't get caught out of position," Goligoski said. "If a bigger guy has a step on you and has body position on you, he's going to beat me.
"[The key is] using my quickness and staying in good position. If you're in good position, you can outmuscle bigger guys."
Having a lot of practice at it doesn't hurt, either.
"Most of them are bigger than me, so I'm used to it," Goligoski said. "It's always been that way."
One thing that has changed is how comfortable Goligoski appears to be.
He is secure in the knowledge that he's in line for a regular shift and steady work on the power play. And he has established himself as someone his teammates know they can count on.
"I don't think he's nervous about making the team or where he's going to end up," Bylsma said. "He's here to prove and show what he can do."
NOTES -- Bylsma said goalie Brent Johnson, who injured his right knee in Toronto, should practice today. The outlook isn't as good for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who hurt his shoulder against the Maple Leafs and will be out for an undetermined period. With Lovejoy out of the mix, the fight for the job of No. 7 defenseman is down to Nate Guenin and Deryk Engelland, with Guenin the apparent front-runner. ... The Penguins cut their camp roster to 29 by assigning forwards Wade Brookbank, Luca Caputi, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Konstantin Pushkarev, Wyatt Smith, Eric Tangradi, Joe Vitale and Tim Wallace, defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Jonathan D'Aversa and Chris Lee and goaltender Brad Thiessen to Wilkes-Barre, and returning defenseman Simon Despres to his junior team. Pushkarev, who does not have a contract, will have to accept a tryout with the Baby Penguins.
First Published September 24, 2009 12:00 am