A week ago today Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Brian Strait found himself in a position he hadn't been in for quite some time.
While his teammates took on the Springfield Falcons at home, Strait wasn't on the ice. Instead, the fourth year pro was a healthy scratch after playing in 12 straight games.
It's a spot Strait doesn't want to be in again.
You never like to sit out, but sometimes you have to take a step back if that's what it takes, he said after Tuesday's practice at Coal Street. That's the coach's call obviously, and there's nothing I can do but learn from it and play better.
Head coach John Hynes said no one is exempt from being a healthy scratch if he feels the situation warrants such a move. The end result, Hynes said, is getting all his players to play up to the level that makes the team successful.
Strait, who has appeared in 12 NHL games with Pittsburgh, admitted he isn't happy with the way he's been playing this season. In 13 games, he has yet to register a point, is a plus-1 and has 26 penalty minutes – a figure that at one time led the team.
Last season Strait totaled 26 penalty minutes in 41 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Cutting back on penalties is one of Strait's immediate concerns.
That's frustrating. I feel like some of the calls, you might have been able to get away with a year ago but you're not getting now, he said. They're obviously calling it a little tighter at the beginning of the year and I have to be more careful out there.
Another possible reason behind Strait's slow start centers on the fact that he is only one of a few veterans among a defensive unit stocked with rookies.
As a result, Strait said, he may have been trying to do too much.
At times you think because you're a veteran guy and played in the NHL that you need to do more. Once I get back to the ‘less is more' kind of thing, that's where my game should be, he said. Sometimes you forget that and get out of your rhythm. That's part of what's been happening with me.
Strait missed Saturday's game against Hershey due to an injury that Hynes said is minor. It's possible that Strait will get back into the lineup tonight, Hynes said, and that's what the veteran defenseman said he needs.
There's always things you feel you can improve on. Things that are simple to correct but it takes work, he said.
NOTES: On the injury front, Jayson Megna practiced in full on Tuesday and is ready to go, Hynes said. Zach Sill practiced with the red jersey and is considered week-to-week.
Jeff Zatkoff will get the start in net tonight in Hershey. The Penguins have lost all three meetings against the Bears this season, and Zatkoff will be looked upon to put an end to the streak.
After last Saturday's meeting featured three fights and a handful of penalties at the end of the game, the Penguins may look to dress tough guy Steve MacIntyre. It's always a possibility, Hynes said. We've dressed him for more than 50 percent of our games. If we feel that will give us the best chance to win, then we'll dress him, Hynes said.
WBS Penguins at Hershey Bears
WHERE: 7 p.m., Giant Center, Hershey, Pa.