Penguins call-up Teddy Blueger ‘deserving of an opportunity,’ coach Mike Sullivan says |

Penguins call-up Teddy Blueger ‘deserving of an opportunity,’ coach Mike Sullivan says

Jonathan Bombulie
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Teddy Blueger looks on as the puck hits off the cross bar behind Red Wings goaltender Harri Sateri in the first period Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

As he’s developed into one of the top two-way forwards in the AHL over the past year or so, the thought of making his NHL debut has frequently crossed Teddy Blueger’s mind.

Just when he made a concerted effort to stop thinking about it, the call to Pittsburgh came.

Blueger was visiting his girlfriend in Minnesota during the AHL’s all-star break when he received word he had been promoted Tuesday afternoon.

He cut short the visit by a day to fly to Pittsburgh and was on the ice for morning skate as the Penguins prepared to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

“She wasn’t mad, no,” Blueger said with a laugh.

The Penguins held an optional morning skate, so it wasn’t immediately clear whether Blueger would slot right into the lineup against the Lightning.

Derick Brassard and Olli Maatta, players who have seen their names pop up in trade rumors this season, were among the players electing not to skate, but coach Mike Sullivan said both were available for the game.

He wouldn’t commit to a lineup spot for Blueger just yet.

“Teddy’s a guy that’s played extremely well in Wilkes-Barre this year on both sides of the puck,” Sullivan said. “He’s a real good two-way center iceman, he’s a real good penalty killer and I know he’s hungry to play as well. He’s deserving of an opportunity. The coaching staff will sit on a game-by-game basis and we’ll decide what the best lineup is on a given night and whether or not Teddy’s a part of it, but he’s certainly deserving of being here.”

Blueger put himself in position to earn an NHL job by steadily improving over two-plus seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

A 24-year-old second-round pick from the 2012 draft, the 6-foot- Blueger was considered a defensive centerman when he first came out of Minnesota-Mankato.

This season, he has scored 21 goals in 45 games, matching his total from last season and ranking fourth in the AHL.

“I think when I first got there, I was kind of put in a defensive role and kind of told that defense was my primary responsibility,” Blueger said. “As time went on, I think I showed I could produce a little bit more and was given more and more freedom on offense and stuff. I think a lot of it had to do with confidence and my mindset, I guess believing in myself and realizing that I had more to give and expecting more out of myself.”

Blueger isn’t necessarily known for his straight-line speed, but he’s quick, smart, responsible and competitive.

“There’s always a lot of things you can improve,” Blueger said. “I think defensively, I’ve been good and that’s kind of the base of my game (since) I got to Wilkes. Offensively, it’s coming. My shot’s coming. It’s gotten a lot better over the last couple years. Skating is another thing that’s kind of a work in progress, but it’s coming along.”

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Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.