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2014-04-09 at 13:43

Physical force

By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
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The New York Rangers loss is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ gain.

At least in Dan Bylsma’s opinion.

The Penguins’ coach said he didn’t hesitate when Thunder Bay’s Taylor Pyatt was cast aside by the New York Rangers mid-season, grabbing the 32-year-old off waivers and inserting him in an injury-depleted Pittsburgh line-up.

Pyatt, a former eighth-overall draft pick, hadn’t exactly lit the hockey world on fire with the Rangers, collecting a single assist in 22 games. In 32 games with the Penguins, he’s only managed four goals, the combined five points by far the worst offensive output of his 13-year NHL career.

But that’s not necessarily what Bylsma was looking for when he made the waiver claim.

“When we had the opportunity to add Taylor we were adding a guy with NHL experience and size for a third-line role with the team, and playing as a big body, playing as a guy who can play physical, but more hold onto the puck in the offensive zone,” Bylsma said.

“You look at his play in the playoffs for the Rangers last year and previous playoff experience with Phoenix, he’s been a playoff scorer, in that type of role.”

Two years ago Pyatt scored four times, helping lead the upstart Phoenix Coyotes to the Western Conference final.

The 6-foot-4 left-winger has totaled 69 games of playoff experience over his 13-year career, scoring 10 times, including a pair of game-winners.

Leaving the Rangers wasn’t easy, but it was inevitable, Pyatt said.

“I was scratched for 10 games or so in a row. I had an injury and I had a tough time getting back into the line-up after that. They had a pretty deep team there and it was time for a change. They put me on waivers and I was pretty happy to end up here,” he said.

“It was a choice of either playing in the minors for the rest of the year or coming to Pittsburgh and competing for a Stanley Cup.”

At 32, Pyatt knows there aren’t many chances left for him to capture a coveted championship ring, something that’s eluded him in two stints in New York and stops in Buffalo, Vancouver and Phoenix.

He likes his chances in Pittsburgh, a team loaded with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury, who last led the Penguins to hockey’s Holy Grail five years ago.

“I’m pretty fortunate to end up here,” he said.

“With Crosby, Malkin, those sort of guys in the locker room, it’s just fun to watch those guys, the way they prepare and how hard they work every day. It’s been fun so far and I’m really looking forward to getting the playoffs started.”

The Penguins are locked into second place in the Eastern Conference and appear to be headed for a possible date with the Detroit Red Wings – ironically the team they met in consecutive Stanley Cup final match-ups in 2008 and 2009.

The second round could prove interesting too.

Pyatt’s younger brother Tom is a forward with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the two teams could pair up to play for a trip to the conference final.

That would be cool, said Pyatt, whose father Nelson spent several seasons in the NHL during the 1970s, never once tasting the post-season.

“We’ve played against each other a few times already, and yeah, it definitely would be fun to face him in the playoffs.”

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