By: Jeff Hathhorn
The Pens have a decision to make with the suspension to Chris Kunitz, which forward will they bring in to replace him? They need to pick 22 year-old Eric Tangradi to fill that role.
Tangradi is learning to be a net-front presence, has good size, plus he was the first person that came to head coach Dan Bylsma’s mind when asked who should replace the veteran forward. “The game he played in Atlanta (the final regular season game),” Bylsma said, “he did real well with that opportunity. He’s been inactive and not playing games for a fair amount of time, so to see him get in a game and play that well was a big help with determining whether at any point and time he could be a guy to help us. He played well in that game, was a net-front in one of the goals that we had on the power play and was good in the wing position.” You had me at “net-front on the power play.”
Many will think veteran Mike Comrie due to his playoff past and while that may be a decent option, he’s rusty and really hasn’t shown anything to make you believe it’s the Comrie that once scored 33 goals with the Oilers. Comrie has played in 21 games this year with 1 goal and 5 assists.
Head coach Dan Bylsma hinted that Nick Johnson could be the guy for Kunitz, however he hasn’t played since his concussion and while he was productive, he played in only 4 games with the Pens this year and none since mid-February. Tangradi at least has a regular season game under his belt since then and I love Tangradi’s size.
Eric Godard would be the other option, the only time I would want to see Godard is if the Pens are down 3-zip in a series and just want to send a message to another team. Godard has a role, but it’s only in the regular season.
The side benefit of Tangradi playing is a chance to see what he could do in a playoff setting and that could help their decisions with free agents-to-be Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis and others.
Kunitz will be missed, as Dan Bylsma said, “He’s a top line guy on offense and defense and key on the power play, a net-presence guy.” There are hopes when Tangradi came over in the deal with Kunitz that he would be a top 6 forward and have many of the Kunitz attributes, let’s find out Wednesday night in Tampa Bay if he has that ability.