Pens' Leblond ready for preseason opportunity
September 24. 2013 11:44PM
Considering that Adam Payerl, Patrick McGrath and Chaz Johnson were teammates with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond during Tuesday's scrimmage, it wasn't likely that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins new tough guy would have an opportunity to drop the gloves.
And one might assume that Leblond is licking his chops to get into an exhibition game - perhaps tonight against Rochester, to put his fistwork on display for his new team.
But that's not entirely accurate either.
Sure, Leblond wants to play, but he has more to show than just his penchant for fighting.
“For a guy like myself, I'm labeled a tough guy,” he said. “But maybe I can get some penalty kill time in the preseason and that will lead to doing it in the regular season. Every shift matters and I'm going to show them what I got.”
Leblond was signed to an AHL contract in the offseason after posting 98 penalty minutes in 33 games with Norfolk last year. After an extended stay in Pittsburgh's training camp, Leblond was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday and practiced with his new team for the first time on Tuesday.
When he signed, it appeared that Leblond would split the enforcer duties with Steve MacIntyre. That changed on Monday when MacIntyre was claimed off waivers by Edmonton. Despite losing his potential enforcer partner, Leblond said nothing has changed with his approach.
“Mac's a great guy and I'm happy for him, but it's still the same here,” he said. “I'm here to do my job and we have to win games and have team toughness. With or without Mac, we're going to have that. I know what I have to do.”
While he may be the only proven AHL heavyweight on the Penguins roster, Leblond certainly isn't the only player on the team capable of dropping the gloves. In addition to Payerl, McGrath and Johnson, last year's team penalty minute leader Bobby Farnham also returned from Pittsburgh and skated on Tuesday.
Leblond is happy that he's not the only guy who can provide toughness.
“If it's only one guy, what if I'm not in the lineup or I'm on the bench?” he said. “And it's not about fighting, it's about going into the corners and being stronger than the other guy. Winning battles and winning games, it's good to have a team like that.”
- The Penguins open the exhibition season tonight in Rochester against the Americans. They then play three more times in the preseason over the weekend for a total of four games in five days. Head coach John Hynes is happy to have so many games clustered together. “It's nice because you can look at different players and see them in game action. It also gives you a better look at your depth pool,” he said. “For your main core guys, it's about getting good reps and having a good idea how you want to start the season with your lineup.”
- With Jeff Zatkoff in Pittsburgh and Peter Mannino still injured, the Penguins signed goaltender Jeff Deslauriers to a professional tryout agreement on Tuesday. The 29-year-old played for the Penguins in the 2006-2007 season, registering a 22-12-3 record and a .908 save percentage, along with career bests in shutouts (4) and goals against average (2.47). Deslauriers spent the majority of last season with the Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL), going 6-8-1 in 15 games with 3.25 GAA and a .902 save percentage.
“He's a big goalie, has good experience and he stops the puck,” Hynes said. “He stops the first shot and is hard to beat laterally.”
- The Penguins now have three goaltenders in camp with Deslauriers, Andy Chiodo and Eric Hartzell. Hynes admitted on Tuesday that there is a goaltending competition between the three. “We feel good about the group of goaltenders we have. We have depth,” Hynes said. “If Jeff (Zatkoff) was here you had your proven guy from last season. We don't have to be too concerned about the situation in Pittsburgh because we have three guys here who we feel can play. They're fighting for their careers and to be able to get into a starting job.”
- Hynes said Hartzell and Chiodo will split time in net for tonight's contest.
- Pittsburgh reassigned forward Tom Kuhnhackl and defenseman Harrison Ruopp to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday.