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Penguins notebook: Hagelin aware of Rangers’ potential

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Carl Hagelin plays against the Flyers Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.

Carl Hagelin can analyze the New York Rangers better than most players.

“They’re a disciplined group,” the Penguins winger said of the team’s first-round playoff opponent after practice Monday.

“They’re not going to give away any goals — no freebies — so you’ve got to play smart against them.”

A year ago, he was one of them.

Then wearing Rangers blue, it was Hagelin who scored the overtime goal that eliminated the Penguins from the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. His shot from the right circle gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory in Game 5 and a 4-1 series win. He also assisted the overtime winner in Game 4 and scored in Game 3.

A year later, he’ll face his former New York teammates in a playoff series that starts Wednesday.

“It’s better to have him on this side than on the other side,” Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist said. “Last year, he ended our season.”

Hagelin downplayed the significance of facing his old team.

“It’s nothing I think about, to be honest,” he said. “I’ll be out there and playing as hard as I can for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that’s my only focus.”

Hagelin has 10 goals and 17 assists in the 37 games since his January trade to the Penguins. They are 3-1 against the Rangers since Hagelin’s speed joined their lineup, and he had two assists against them in that span.

“I think we’ve got to keep the intensity up,” Hagelin said. “When everyone’s skating, that’s when we’re a tough team to play against. … That’s going to be our motto in the playoffs: We’ve got to use our team speed.”

Outdoor screen must wait

The Penguins will not install the outdoor big screen for fans to watch the first-round games, team president David Morehouse said, citing nearby construction as an issue.

“We’re going to wait until we have a little more time to get it done right,” Morehouse said. “We didn’t want to just throw it in there with all the construction, so we’re going to wait for the second round, hopefully.”

In a statement Monday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto offered to discuss alternate locations for future rounds. A year ago, the screen was moved to Market Square and PPG Place.

“It was tough (decision to wait) because I love to have it out there,” Morehouse said. “We’ll have it. But when we have it, we’ll have it in a way the fans are used to, with a lot of space, with the food trucks out there, with music.”

Switch to ‘Pittsburgh gold’

For home playoff games, the Penguins will ditch their black-and-Vegas-gold uniforms for the classic black-and-gold jerseys they’ve worn at times over the past two seasons. The alternate jerseys, which Morehouse called “Pittsburgh gold,” resemble the uniforms worn by the team during its Stanley Cup seasons in the 1990s.

“The team did really well with it (and) the fans love it, so we thought we’d change things up a little bit this year and go with the ‘Pittsburgh gold,’ ” Morehouse said.

Compliments for all

Speaking after practice, Morehouse praised general manager Jim Rutherford, coach Mike Sullivan and especially the players for the team’s late-season surge into the playoffs. Morehouse credited Rutherford for a “tremendous job” reworking the Penguins’ roster.

“I think Jimmy Rutherford said at the beginning of the year he wanted the team to be faster, he wanted the team to be younger,” Morehouse said. “He made it faster and younger. Tremendous job. The players we brought in were brought in for a reason.”

The Penguins are 33-21 since Sullivan debuted as coach Dec. 14, and the team finished the season winning 14 of the final 16 games.

“I think (Sullivan) had a lot to do with it,” Morehouse said. “I think the players had the most to do with it. The players are just playing really good hockey. I think you can see it by the winning streak we had. You can see it how we’re winning games. You can see it how we’re coming back from deficits. The team is playing really well.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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