Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oleksy Hopes to Carve a Niche as Defenseman

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Oleksy Hopes to Carve a Niche as Defenseman

Article excerpt

Steve Oleksy fits a slightly different mold than most of the Penguins defensemen. Reid Gardiner and James McEwan found that out the hard way.

Oleksy (6 feet, 190 pounds) laid a couple of big hits on the two young prospects in an otherwise ho-hum scrimmage Saturday at Penguins training camp. While the Penguins, and NHL in general, are trending toward more skillful, puck-moving defensemen, Oleksy is confident there's still a place for his physical style.

"Obviously there's an incredible amount of talent on the back end here," Oleksy said. "The grit is something I have to do to kind of stand out. Although it's a scrimmage, that's what I'm trying to do out there."

Oleksy, 30, spent most of last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL, where he played 63 games. He was called up by the Penguins toward the end of their Stanley Cup run in the spring, after the injury to Trevor Daley in the Eastern Conference final, but did not play a game in the playoffs. With virtually the entire roster returning, Oleksy is almost certain to start this season in Wilkes-Barre. But if the Penguins find themselves in need of a more physical defenseman at some point next season, Oleksy could fill a role few other players in their organization can. He also has spent this training camp, even in 5-on-5 situations, trying to show his value on the penalty-kill.

"Coaches and evaluators can see that whether it's 5-on-5 or 5-on-4," Oleksy said. "That's another thing I've tried to focus on the last couple of days and tried to carry that with me throughout the rest of preseason."

And if, for now, that means laying into some of his teammates, well, Oleksy's OK with that.

"The way I look at it, I'm here, I'm trying to make a hockey team," Oleksy said. "My kind of attitude is I'll make friends after camp. I try to carry that with me when I'm out there playing.

"Obviously I think the guys have a good sense of respect for what I do. They understand the position I'm in, I'm trying to do that whether it's a scrimmage or regular game or whatnot to show everybody that I can do that at this level."

FILLING IN FOR LOVEJOY

While much has been made about how few players the Penguins lost this offseason, it's worth noting that one of the players that isn't returning - defenseman Ben Lovejoy - played a pretty specific and important role for them. …

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