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Derick Brassard building momentum as Penguins wrap up preseason

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Derick Brassard is a 12-year NHL veteran. He’s played in the Stanley Cup Final once and the conference finals three times. His nickname is Big Game Brass, for crying out loud.

There’s no chance he was going to exuberantly celebrate a pair of goals in a preseason game Friday night.

None.

This is as close as he came afterwards.

“It’s fun to score goals,” he said, “but we’re starting next week and that’s when it’s going to count.”

Given the circumstances he finds himself in, however, a little bit of happiness about the way training camp has gone just might be in order for Brassard.

He came into camp feeling like he had something to prove after an underwhelming first impression with the Penguins at the end of last season. He struggled with a lower-body injury and didn’t find chemistry with any particular linemates.

His play in the last two exhibition games has gone a long way toward leaving those concerns in the rearview mirror for good.

“He’s playing with a lot of conviction,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When he plays that way, he’s a terrific player. I think he’s had a great camp. He seems to be getting better with each game. I thought his line again tonight was terrific. They were on the puck. They’re fast. I thought Brass looked really good.”

Brassard scored a pair of breakaway goals on Sergei Bobrovsky, one off a Columbus neutral-zone turnover and another shorthanded. In his previous game Wednesday night against Buffalo, he scored a power-play goal.

Brassard said he think he’s having scoring success because he’s skating well.

He changed up his offseason routine after playing a grand total of 472 games, regular season and playoffs, over the previous five years. He stayed off the ice completely until August, focusing on working in the weight room.

He said he can feel the results.

“I feel good,” Brassard said. “I think my legs are there. When I skate, that’s when I tend to produce more offense and try to create. I think it’s the same thing for my linemates. I feel like (Bryan Rust) has really good jump right now and (Dominik Simon is) making really smart decisions with the puck. We just have to bring it next week.”

More importantly than any preseason goal, Brassard seems to have found a home on the third line with Simon and Rust.

Brassard set up a third-period goal by making a high backhand chip off the glass that Rust ran into for a breakaway up the left wing.

“That’s something we can try to take advantage of,” Brassard said. “He can win a lot of pucks with his feet.”

Add it all up, and Brassard said he feels much more comfortable getting ready for the season opener than he did at the end of last year.

“It’s kind of hard when you come in in the middle of a season, especially on this team when they won the two years before that,” Brassard said. “We have a really deep lineup, four lines that can play, so when you’re a new guy and come in in the middle of the season like that, it just made it a little hard.

“But I’m just looking ahead. I’m not going to look behind. I know I can help this team. Just going to try to go have fun and try to play with my teammates and make plays.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

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


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Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, right, and Columbus Blue Jackets’ Dean Kukan, center, of Switzerland, collide with Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, of Russia, during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.
2804812804811c40f5d17c614d3480c4ac1ceb1bc181
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Phil Kessel, left, congratulates Carl Hagelin, of Sweden, on his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets’ during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.
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