Tough Engelland keeps job simple for Penguins
The Penguins practiced on Tuesday with eight defensemen, and they could be divided into categories.
Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin make up what coach Dan Bylsma has dubbed his shutdown pair.
Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen, who were paired when they were healthy, are injured, although one or both could return tonight for a game at Consol Energy Center against the Ottawa Senators.
Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Dylan Reese are the least experienced. They have worked their way into the lineup, with Reese having been summoned from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League last week because of injuries.
Then, there is Deryk Engelland.
He doesn't fit into any of those categories. He is just a guy who paid a lot of dues in the minor leagues -- a few ECHL clubs, a couple of AHL teams -- and now, at 30, is in his third NHL season since sticking for 2010-11.
"My game -- keep it simple and just do my job," said Engelland, who is soft-spoken off the ice. In games, he combines a steady presence with a streak of enforcer.
"I want to try to be good every night, be physical, make them know I'm out there and just be solid defensively," he said.
Through 13 games, Engelland has 1 assist, 19 hits, 18 blocked shots, a plus-minus rating of plus-5 and 2 fights. That includes an exchange with Toronto heavyweight Colton Orr that lasted so long it left both players spent.
"I think we've fought six times going back to junior, and I don't think we've had a short fight," Engelland said. "It's good to get the crowd going and the boys going."
Fighting might be what makes Engelland stand out, but it's not the reason he has been playing.
He can keep up with the Penguins playing style, which means he gets the puck quickly and cleanly up to the forwards to get things started on offensive attacks.
"That's a big part of my game -- get the puck up to our forwards," Engelland said. "We've got a lot of skilled guys who want the puck. The quicker I can get it out of my hands and into theirs, the better the team can do."
Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
- TV, Radio:
Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders:
Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins; Craig Anderson for Senators.
Beat Senators, 2-1, Jan. 27 in shootout. ... Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each have five multiple-point games. ... Crosby is two assists shy of 400 for career.
Were on 1-3-1 stretch before playing at home Tuesday against Buffalo. ... Are 1-1 in second of back-to-back games. ... Milan Michalek had just one assist in his previous six games.
- Hidden stat:
In the Penguins' earlier win vs. Senators, defenseman Paul Martin logged season-high 31:06 of ice time.
Because of injuries and some changes -- defenseman Ben Lovejoy was dealt to Anaheim; Despres played with Letang when Niskanen got hurt and then paired with Reese while Letang has been out -- Engelland lately has been paired with Bortuzzo, a rookie.
"Deryk's very good at what he does," said Bortuzzo, whose style is close to Engelland's. "I enjoy playing with him. I enjoy playing with that edge, just like he does, standing up for your teammates and playing that solid defensive game where you can move pucks up to your teammates.
"There are some similarities there."
And not by accident. Bortuzzo and Engelland were with Wilkes-Barre in 2009-10, and Engelland made an impression.
"I remember my first year in Wilkes-Barre, he was there, too," Bortuzzo said. "Watching this guy play, I figured, why couldn't I get some of those attributes and some of the skills he had into my game?"
Bortuzzo is seven years younger than Engelland and 2 inches taller at 6 feet 4.
"He's going to be someone who protects a lot of guys on the team," Engelland said. "He plays a lot like me."
And, at some point, could be in line to take Engelland's job.
Engelland acknowledges that challenge without a drop of animosity.
"It's every day, and it's not just him," Engelland said. "There are guys trying to take your spot every day. You can't let off."
That was Engelland's thinking the summer before his first full NHL season.
He and his wife, Melissa, were living in Las Vegas, where Deryk had played in the ECHL. She worked three jobs as a cocktail waitress so he could afford to hire a personal trainer, one whose wife was a dietician.
"It definitely helped my career," Engelland said.
With his workouts and diet refined, Engelland came into Penguins training camp in 2010 with nine NHL games on his resume but more ready than ever to earn a full-time job in the league. He eventually beat out Lovejoy to become a regular.
Melissa now has a new job -- full-time mom to the couple's son, Cash, who was born nearly a year ago.
"I think that's probably harder than working three jobs sometimes," Engelland said.
He's trying to match that effort.
"I learned a lot playing through the ECHL, the AHL," Engelland said. "I'm a lot more confident now.
"Now that I'm here, I don't want to leave. It makes me work harder every day."
First Published February 13, 2013 12:00 am