Tangradi hopes he won't be trade bait
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Social media kicked into high gear Feb. 3 when prospect Eric Tangradi was a late scratch for the Penguins Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team. Was he traded?
In fact, it was back spasms.
"It was an interesting day. I had my dad even calling me, asking me what was going on, family members and such," the left winger recalled Tuesday after being summoned again by the Penguins.
"It's just a part of the game, a part of the business that whenever something is out of the ordinary, speculation always rises. It's something I've just learned to deal with."
Tangradi entered the game Tuesday night against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center with no points in 12 NHL games over three previous promotions this season. In 16 games over the previous two seasons, he had one goal, three assists. He has 15 goals, 31 points in 37 games for Wilkes-Barre this season.
There seems to be some sentiment that the left winger could be trade bait because he hasn't developed into the full-time NHL power forward envisioned by the club when it acquired him in a February 2009 trade with Anaheim or that he might interest a team that can fit him into its top two lines.
Tangradi made it clear he isn't hoping for a deal.
"Pittsburgh's a great organization," he said. "If you want to win, reach the highest level and win the Stanley Cup, this is a great place to be a part of."
Tangradi turned 23 earlier this month -- "I feel like I'm getting old a little bit," he joked -- and has traveled between the AHL and NHL enough to adjust to moving to the third or fourth line while with the Penguins.
"In the past, I felt like there were differences, but now I think you have to take the most out of the opportunity you're given," he said.
"What I've learned from the past is with a role being in the bottom six [forwards], you just have to make an impact in the game and be an energy guy right off the bat. If you don't play up to that standard, you won't play anymore."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said the Penguins expect Tangradi, 6 feet 4 and 221 pounds, to add "a physical element" to the third or fourth lines. Tangradi is ready for that and anything else.
"I definitely think I've matured a lot since I was 20 years old," he said. "I think I've learned a lot and just tried to use that experience."
Defenseman Brooks Orpik missed the game because of an undisclosed injury that Bylsma said likely isn't serious. Orpik did not practice Monday or participate in the game-day skate Tuesday. He was replaced by Ben Lovejoy.
Goaltender Brad Thiessen was recalled from Wilkes-Barre on an emergency basis to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup because Brent Johnson was "not feeling well," Bylsma said. The healthy scratches were forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Cal O'Reilly.
Center Joe Vitale played with Thiessen two seasons at Northeastern and again in Wilkes-Barre in 2010-11, when Thiessen had one of the best seasons for a goalie in AHL history -- 35-8-1 with seven shutouts, a 1.94 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Thiessen's numbers have dropped off some this season, 20-14-2, 2.88 and .885.
But Vitale was effusive in his praise of Thiessen.
"I think he's well-versed in every area of the game," Vitale said. "Definitely, his play with the puck -- you kind of compare it to having a third defenseman back there. He's really good with the breakouts. And then just coming up with the big saves. He reminds me a lot of [Fleury] where someone will have an empty net or there will be a backdoor [play], and all of a sudden you'll see a pad come out of nowhere."
Vitale said Thiessen, 25, is just as strong between the ears.
"Off the ice he's a great presence, a great guy to have in the locker room, great kid, quiet, business-like," Vitale said.
First Published February 22, 2012 12:00 am