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Insider Only NHL: Does Lovejoy fit into the Penguins plans for No. 6 spot?

Through four preseason games, the battle for the No. 6 and No. 7 defensemen spots will continue into game No. 5 and likely game No. 6.
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy has not established himself above the rest and there have been whispers over the past couple days that he might not fit into what the Penguins are looking for out of their No. 6 defenseman.
If Lovejoy doesn’t win the No. 6 spot, being sent to Wilkes Barre can’t be ruled out. Lovejoy is in the first year of a three year deal but the first year of the deal is a two-way contract. If he’s also unable to win a regular spot, his future with the team beyond this season could be in jeopardy as top prospects Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres and Brian Strait are inching closer to being NHL ready and appear prime candidates to push for a roster spot next season.
Is Lovejoy in trouble?
There has been a lot of positive vibes about Andrew Hutchinson who is coming on of late and Deryk Engelland’s toughness could catapult him into the No. 6 spot.
Head coach Dan Bylsma spoke highly of Engelland on Tuesday and made some very interesting comments on what he’s looking for from his No. 6 defenseman.
“If you look at the top five guys i think you can expect them to play a significant amount more than the 6th guy, whoever the 6th guy is, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
“Probably be a fight for minutes for the first 5 guys because there all good players and can play different situations. I think the 6th guy is going to have to bring some kind of element to the table whether its the penalty kill…..he’s gotta be hasn’t counted on to play defensively, maybe it’s an edge in grit…..think it’s easy to pick out the top 5 guys and that 6th guy is going to have to bring an element.”

“You can talk about all of our defenseman that are vying for a spot. You can talk about Simon, Ben and Deryk all trying to play and make an impression, ” Bylsma said. “They have all shown that they can make an mistake. Their trying to impress out there in preseason…..and mistake can sometimes send a defenseman south. A young one or a guy trying to make an impression and they’ve all kept their heads about it after a mistake or fopout with the puck and rebounded it and played some good games.”
“They’ve all been able to show that and that’s the type of person and player they gotta be. Their only going to play 12-15 minutes on any given night. They have to be ready to jump out there and rebound either from sitting on the bench or going out and making a mistake. They still have to be able to play their game and they all have shown that.”
“Deryk did tonight, Ben did a little bit and had a great defensive game and Simon has shown that as well, ” Bylsma said.
Moving into the direction of Engelland would be a change of philosophy from the Penguins. They tend to play defensemen with capabilities to contribute in the puck-moving game. That’s an area Engelland struggles at mightily.
A note I had on Engelland in the Blackhawks game was in the 1st period with just under 6:00 minutes left when Engelland made a crushing hit behind the net, controlled the puck and had plenty of time, then when pressure turned the puck over along the boards trying to make a breakout pass with his backhand.
That’s what you get out of him. He’s going to bring that physical element the Penguins maybe looking for but is his overall game good enough to be an everyday player?
More Thoughts
The Penguins have intended to open the season with Brooks Orpik – Zbynek Michalek being their top pairing and Paul Martin – Kris Letang rounding out the top-2.
That could change leading up to the opener as Michalek and Orpik have struggled together. The Penguins may look to put Brooks Orpik with Kris Letang.
Martin and Michalek were expected to play together against Chicago but Bylsma wanted to get them with somebody whose played the Penguins system.
“We wanted to keep them {Martin, Michalek} apart because we wanted to give them both a player that has played our system, ” Bylsma said. Bylsma though hinted that Martin and Michalek could see time together when the Penguins return to the ice on Thursday.
*Against Chicago Tuesday night, Alex Goligoski showed good command and poise carrying the puck through the neutral zone. He was very active early on.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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