Penguins' Tangradi striving to make his mark
Eric Tangradi has come to the Penguins roster with a day-to-day mentality that has helped him handle his most recent promotion to the NHL roster.
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Eric Tangradi brought only enough clothes for three or four days when the Penguins' recalled him from their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre Thursday, and not because he didn't have time to pack.
It wasn't a reflection of a limited wardrobe, either. And certainly not of Tangradi conceding that his trip to the NHL wouldn't last long.
Rather, it reflected the urgency he feels he must show every day in order to claim a long-term spot at this level.
"I just wanted to make sure I take it with a day-to-day mentality," Tangradi said. "If I stick around, I'll be more than happy to go out and buy some more stuff."
Tangradi's approach served him well though the first month or so of this season, and is a big part of the reason he was summoned when the Penguins needed a forward for weekend games against Dallas and Carolina.
Tangradi sputtered through the early part of training camp in September, and that effectively removed him from contention for a spot on the NHL roster at the start of the regular season.
"Richard Park came in and had a really good camp, Joe Vitale came in and had a really good camp, and we found spots where we could use those guys to help us," said assistant coach Tony Granato, who oversees the forwards. "[Tangradi] kind of got squeezed out of the mix."
Being sent to the Baby Penguins could have given Tangradi reason to mope. Instead, he turned it into motivation.
"This year, I've got that ultimate fire, that hunger to do well and succeed," he said. "With that fire burning inside me, I kind of had the mentality that I'm going to try to have fun and, at the same time, that I'm going to try to dominate [in the American Hockey League].
"I treated practices like games and workouts like games. I've done everything in my lifestyle at the rink and away from the rink to prepare to go to the rink every night and dominate.
"Having that mindset, and not worrying about the stat sheet and those things helped the points to come, because when I play a physical, powerful game out there, getting opportunities comes with it."
The points came -- Tangradi had seven goals and five assists in 12 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton -- and, as a result, so did the opportunity he got late last week.
It probably isn't the best one he'll ever receive, however. Tangradi has been working on the fourth line and getting limited ice time; he played seven minutes against the Stars and a little more than 10 at Carolina.
Not that he's complaining about the duties he has been assigned.
"You just have to try to thrive with the opportunity you're given," Tangradi said. "The role I'm in right now is just to play a physical game, get the puck deep and possess it. That will give me the best opportunity.
"As far as where I play and all that, I'm just happy to be here and will do whatever I can to stick."
Tangradi is 6 feet 4, 221 pounds, and complements that size with skills that should allow him to develop into a good power forward at this level.
He also has less experience than it might seem to some and is very much a work-in-progress at this stage of his career.
"Sometimes you forget, because he's been around for a few years now, that he's 22 years old," Granato said. "That's a young player. ... He's on his way. He's a kid, a good kid who has a lot of upside."
Tangradi has been one of the Penguins' top prospects since being acquired from Anaheim with Chris Kunitz in the Ryan Whitney trade in 2009. The Penguins were understandably excited to add a player with Tangradi's potential, even though he didn't step directly into a prominent role in the NHL.
"If Eric Tangradi was in another organization, he probably would be a guy who's playing regular minutes in the NHL," Granato said. "We have a lot of depth, we have a lot of players who have contributed to our success who deserve to be on the ice.
"From that standpoint, it's maybe a little unfortunate for him, but I think that from a development standpoint, as a long-term thing for his career, it's best for his career."
So Tangradi is still developing and learning, and sometimes the lessons can be painful. Like last Friday night, when he went to the net against Dallas and got a stick in the face for his trouble.
"Bloodied my nose a little bit," he said, smiling. "That's the price you pay sometimes for taking the puck to the net."
That's the kind of thing the Penguins want to see from Tangradi. If they do, he'll solidify his place in their plans, even if this promotion is temporary.
"It's important that when he is here, he plays well," Granato said. "So that if he does have to go down because of numbers, when we do need him, we call for him again."
First Published November 14, 2011 12:00 am