Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Paul Thompson could easily throw his hands in the air in disgust and complain about being a healthy scratch for the last two games.
Entering his third season with the organization and coming off a year where he set career-highs in goals (20) and points (29) in 58 games, one would have thought Thompson was a lock to be a regular in the lineup this season.
But that’s not the way things have turned out, at least not yet. Thompson appeared in the season opener and then was scratched for the last two.
The end of the world? No.
“It’s not the best situation to be in, but in the long run it will be good for me,” Thompson said. “I have to focus on doing certain things better and I’ll get a chance here soon to prove myself.”
That focus was evident on Wednesday, when Thompson worked on his shot after practice and was one of the last players off the ice. He is well aware that this season’s Penguins’ team is deep at forward.
“It’s a tough lineup to crack,” Thompson said. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Even if it does mean being a healthy scratch.
“The competition makes your best forward better and your 15th forward better,” Thompson said.
Head coach John Hynes hopes that Thompson turns being a healthy scratch into a positive, as he does any player who has to sit out a game here and there.
“We want to make sure they know why they’re out of the lineup and what they need to do to get back in,” Hynes said. “(Thompson) has taken charge of that and he’s trying to work his way back in and be a factor for us.”
In addition to staying on the ice after practice, there’s a mental approach to the situation that Thompson is keenly aware of. First, he’s realistic about the situation.
“It is difficult when you work all summer, go through training camp and practices and you want to play,” he said. “That’s tough.”
But Thompson is also drawing on the lessons he learned when he was a healthy scratch in past seasons. He knows it’s important to handle such adversity the right way.
“My first year I went through similar situations and maybe I didn’t handle it the best way,” Thompson said. “It’s something you learn and there’s nothing you can do but work as hard as possible.
“If you do that, they’ll notice. You have to work to the point where they have to play you, and then once you get back in you have to perform so they can’t take you out.”