Penguins’ Derick Brassard sets sights on goals after training camp illness |
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Jonathan Bombulie
The Penguins’ Derick Brassard celebrates his goal against the Flyers in the first period Sunday, March 25, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena.

Derick Brassard came into training camp with some goals.

He wanted to develop more chemistry with his still relatively new teammates. He wanted to show off the high-end skill he possesses, too.

A lung infection didn’t care about Brassard’s goals.

Laid up for almost a week with a fever and chills, Brassard essentially missed the first five days of training camp.

He participated in a full team practice for the first time Wednesday morning, saying he got fatigued a little more quickly than he normally would but otherwise reporting no physical problems.

“I worked all summer and the last couple of weeks before training camp to get ready for the first day and to get sick like that for four, five, days, I was a little frustrated, but it is what it is,” Brassard said. “It was good to have a full practice with the entire team.”

Now it’s time to get back to reaching his goals.

He still has two full weeks to work on them before the Oct. 4 season opener against Washington.

“I don’t think it’s a setback, to be honest,” assistant coach Mark Recchi said. “He’s in good shape. Good to see him out there today. The nice thing about it is we’ve got a good stretch before (the opener).

“I would assume he’d get probably at least two or three (preseason) games before the regular season, so he’ll be ready to roll. The pace, even the pace in practice today, you could tell it was good. He was skating really well. I expect him to be in full gear here pretty quick.”

The exhibition games Brassard is scheduled to play — he said he expects to make his season debut in one of two home games this weekend — should go a long way toward helping him reach his chemistry goal.

He didn’t feel he achieved it last season after joining the Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of February and missing some of his short time with the team with a lower-body injury.

“I wish I could have played some of those scrimmage games, but it is what it is,” Brassard said. “I’m going to have to try to figure it out the first preseason game.”

Brassard also is aiming to alter his style of play a bit.

When he joined the Penguins last season, he experienced a major culture shock, going from a team that prizes defensive responsibility above all else in Ottawa to a team that is built on speed and skill in Pittsburgh.

He has reached career highs of 27 goals and 60 points. He was a 21-goal scorer last year. Brassard knows he can be a part of the Penguins’ highlight-reel offense if he sets his mind to it.

“When I got to Ottawa, I think it was a little bit more of a passive style. I think you can be a little bit more free offensively here and express yourself,” Brassard said. “Sometimes last year, I was more on my heels. I was more passive in the offensive zone. I think I’m going to try to have a different mindset this year, trying to turn some pucks over and playing more in the offensive zone and kind of let myself loose out there.”

Much of offseason conversation surrounding Brassard involved a potential switch from third-line center to top-six winger. Between Brassard’s illness and Mike Sullivan’s absence because of the death of his father, a talk on that topic between the coach and player has not been possible.

Brassard will cross that bridge when he gets to it. For now, he has goals to achieve.

“Now I know the style of play,” Brassard said. “It’s just a matter of getting comfortable, just to be around the guys in training camp and getting a few preseason games.”

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

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