Chuck Kobasew took care of some family matters, made the drive from Pittsburgh and arrived in Wilkes-Barre this week bringing with him some pretty impressive credentials.
Kobasew, 31, skated in his first practice with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday. He gives the AHL Penguins another proven veteran with an impressive resume.
In 12 pro seasons, Kobasew has played in exactly 600 NHL games with five teams, topped the 20-goal mark three times and played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 with the Calgary Flames.
So what does Kobasew hope to accomplish here?
“I’m excited to help this team get in the playoffs,” he said. “To be honest, I’m not even thinking about what’s going on up there (Pittsburgh). It’s about this locker room. I know some of the guys here and it’s fun to be a part of this group.”
Not that Kobasew wouldn’t like a return trip back to the NHL.
With Pittsburgh he played sparingly over the last month-and-a-half. While Kobasew wants to help the AHL Penguins make the playoffs, on a personal level he plans on logging some big minutes and getting his timing and game shape back in order.
“Fine tune those things and get my game back to where it should be,” Kobasew said.
Kobasew is no stranger to the AHL. He last played in the league during the lockout of 2004-05 with Lowell, scoring 38 goals and 75 points in 79 games on a team deep with future NHL stars such as Eric Staal, Chad Larose, Mike Commodore, Mark Giordano and Cam Ward.
“That was one of the funnest years of my career and a good development opportunity for all of us,” Kobasew said.
The addition of Kobasew gives the Penguins two players with at least 600 NHL games - Tom Kostopoulos has 630.
Head coach John Hynes sees a lot of similarities between the two.
“You look at their professionalism, work habits and how they present themselves both on and off the ice and that’s why those guys have spent so much time in the NHL and worked for everything they’ve gotten,” Hynes said. “(Kobasew) is another great example for our young guys and another guy who’s going to be a real impact for our team.”
- The addition of Kobasew puts the Penguins one over the veteran limit. That means Hynes will have to scratch either Kobasew, Kostopoulos, Nick Drazenovic, Brendan Mikkelson, Andrew Ebbett or Spencer Machacek. “That will be a difficult decision,” he said. “They’ve all been exceptional.”
- Goaltender Eric Hartzell returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from Wheeling and practiced with the team on Wednesday. Along with Peter Mannino and Jeff Deslauriers, the Penguins have three goaltenders. Hynes said the situation isn’t permanent.
“That’s going to change. For the week of practice we felt it was important for Eric to come back here and get all three guys to work with (goaltending coach) Mike Buckley,” Hynes said. “It’s not a situation where we’re using this week of practice to determine who plays. The three goalie thing strictly this week is because of our goalie coach being here.”
- Speaking of Hartzell, he was happy to be back with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and seemed to have put his poor February behind him. “Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way you want it to go, but ultimately it happens to every athlete in every sport. You go through tough times,” Hartzell said. “But that’s what makes you the person you are. I kept my head on straight and I’m feeling pretty good now.”
- Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond didn’t practice on Wednesday. Hynes said it was just a maintenance day for Leblond.
- The Penguins assigned F Tom Kuhnhackl and D Harrison Ruopp to Wheeling on Wednesday.
- The Penguins signed forward Conor Sheary to an amateur tryout agreement (ATO) on Wednesday and agreed to terms on an American Hockey League contract for the 2014-15 season.
Sheary, 21, recently completed his senior season at the University of Massachusetts, where he compiled 28 points (9g-19a) in 34 games. He served as team captain while leading the Minutemen in assists (19), points (28) and shorthanded goals (2).
Hailing from Melrose, Massachusetts, Sheary was a four-year letterman for the Minutemen and totaled 38 goals, 66 assists and 53 PIM in 138 games.