Penguins notebook: Derick Brassard open to try any position that might help team |
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Jonathan Bombulie
The PenguinsÕ Derick Brassard celebrates after a goal is scored against the Flyers during their first game of the Stanley Cup Playoff inside of PPG Paints Arena on April 11, 2018.

When a group of Penguins players split into teams for three-on-three Wednesday morning in Cranberry, Derick Brassard lined up alongside winger Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby.

Was it a preview of the Great Brassard To The Wing Experiment of 2018?

Of course not.

Wednesday’s skate was as informal as they come. Patric Hornqvist played the role of coach, drawing up drills on a wipe board. The official start of training camp is more than a week away.

Still, the idea the Penguins might shift Brassard into a top-six wing spot instead of his customary position at third-line center has been a popular topic of conversation in the offseason.

Here’s a summary of Brassard’s thoughts on the matter:

Yes, he gladly will give playing on the wing a try. Yes, he has thought about it from time to time over the summer. No, he hasn’t talked about it with Mike Sullivan or anyone on the coaching staff.

“I’m open for anything,” Brassard said. “We have a lot of good centers, which is really good to have on a team, a lot of depth. We’ve got Matt (Cullen), really good on faceoffs, really good on the penalty kill. I think that’s going to help a lot. Whatever’s going to help the team, I’m going to do whatever. I’m just going to have to play well and earn some minutes.”

Brassard is one of the players on the roster who could benefit most from a longer offseason.

In addition to the late-season lower-body injury that slowed him in April and May, Brassard played a grueling total of 472 regular-season and playoff games over the past five years.

“It was a really good summer,” Brassard said. “It felt like a short one, but I’m really excited to be here and start from scratch.”

Not bitter

Zach Aston-Reese spent the first month of his offseason drinking meals through a straw.

He did not spend that month angry or bitter about how he ended up in that predicament in the first place.

Aston-Reese, who suffered a broken jaw and a concussion when he was leveled by a Tom Wilson headshot during Game 3 of a second-round playoff series with the Washington Capitals, was back on the ice in Cranberry, none the worse for wear.

In June, his first meal after being cleared to eat solid foods came from Five Guys.

“I had to cut it up into the pieces, though,” he said.

Aston-Reese said any anger he had about the brutal hit he absorbed was gone within a week or two.

“That’s something you sign up for when you play hockey,” Aston-Reese said. “When you start, pee wee, bantam, you’re going to get hurt. You can’t really be too mad about it because that’s something you sign up for.”

First Pen s captain dies

Ab McDonald, the first captain in Penguins history, died Tuesday night at age 82.

McDonald was a four-time Stanley Cup champion , winning three times with the Montreal Canadiens from 1958-60 and once with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1961, by the time the Detroit Red Wings assigned him to the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets in 1966.

McDonald had a 25-goal season, leading the Hornets to the Calder Cup championship and prompting the Penguins to select him with their sixth choice in the 1967 expansion draft.

McDonald scored 22 goals during the franchise’s inaugural season, finishing second to Andy Bathgate on the team scoring list. He was traded to St. Louis the following offseason.

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

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