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Roster hopefuls excited as training camp opens


February 17. 2013 4:33AM


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WILKES-BARRE -- In a normal year, defenseman Brian Strait would've been in the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp as a viable contender to land an NHL job to start the season.


Instead, Strait found himself with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as they opened training camp on Friday at the Ice Rink at Coal Street.


So is Strait upset that the NHL lockout has, for now, denied him a chance to make the big club?


Not at all. In fact, the fourth-year pro feels fortunate.


"You look around right now and there's a lot of guys looking for jobs. I have a lot of buddies – third-, fourth-line guys in the NHL, who are struggling to find anything," Strait said. "I'm just glad I was eligible to play here and that I have a job."


Strait was one of five players in the Pittsburgh organization who signed an AHL deal earlier this week, taking advantage of their eligibility to play here while the NHL lockout endures.


Eric Tangradi ended last season with Pittsburgh and was a favorite to make its roster to start this season. The lockout prevented that so, like Strait, he inked a deal to play in Wilkes-Barre.


Tangradi admitted that a Pittsburgh training camp would've been a huge opportunity, but he isn't dwelling on what could've been.


"I was looking forward to an NHL training camp, but it's just the cards that have been dealt," Tangradi said. "I'm convinced that work will resume up there at some point and I'll get an opportunity. Until then, I just have to be a professional and work hard here."


While Strait and Tangradi had chances last season to play in Pittsburgh and showcase their talents for the big club, the lockout has taken away that opportunity from some of the newcomers who signed with the organization this summer.


Warren Peters appeared in 58 games with the Minnesota Wild last season – the longest NHL stint of his nine-year pro career.


He was looking forward to building off last season and getting another NHL crack with Pittsburgh, especially after the organization showed interest in him over the summer.


"The fact that (Pittsburgh assistant general manager) Jason Botterill called me at 12:30 on July 1, and they showed that much interest in me during the chaos of the situation we were in, I was ecstatic," Peters said.


But for now, Peters' chance to play in Pittsburgh is on hold, thanks to the lockout.


He admits it's frustrating, but it could be worse.


"There are a lot of guys that aren't playing right now," Peters said. "I feel fortunate to be in a training camp with a great organization."


Trevor Smith was signed by Pittsburgh over the summer after leading the Norfolk Admirals to a Calder Cup last season. The six-year pro also logged 16 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season.


Coming to a new organization, it would've been nice to start off in an NHL camp, Smith admitted. But he added that Pittsburgh does have a presence at Wilkes-Barre's camp – head coach Dan Bylsma helped out with Friday's practice, so there is still a chance to make an impression.


"You're still on the radar here," Smith said.


But it's bittersweet, he added, because the lockout has put hockey jobs at a premium and players are getting bumped down a level.


"Everyone's getting bumped and at the end of the day hockey players will be out of jobs. It sucks taking a guy's spot and it's not a good situation for anybody," Smith said. "I'm just grateful to be able to play."




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