Lindberg Makes Debut
WILKES-BARRE — Sam Lafferty and Will O’Neill were first to step onto the freshly resurfaced ice for practice Tuesday afternoon. Moments later, Tobias Lindberg emerged from the back hallway to join them for warmups.
But, really, it took about seven months for Lindberg just to get to the Toyota SportsPlex.
The 23-year-old finally made his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins debut after what he called an “unusual” trade at last season’s Feb. 26 deadline. Lindberg, then under contract with Vegas and playing for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, was part of the three-team deal that sent Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh — essentially a toss-in to ensure the transaction would be approved by the NHL.
Rather than force him to report to an already-crowded Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team late in the season, Pittsburgh and Vegas agreed to let Lindberg finish the year with the Wolves.
“(The trade was) unusual,” Lindberg said Tuesday. “It’s not something I can focus on a lot. I just try to focus on the positives and what I learned last year.”
Pittsburgh didn’t let him get away again this summer, signing the Swede to a one-year contract and bringing him to both development and training camp.
Lindberg has solid, but not eye-popping, numbers in the AHL with 27 goals and 73 points over three seasons. He’s pretty big at 6-foot-3, which factors into the physical style of hockey he likes to play.
“I don’t like to lose,” Lindberg said. “I’m not a fighter or anything like that, but I like to battle and win my share of the pucks and battles.”
Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said Lindberg has good speed and hands and is in great shape to begin camp, making him a good fit for their system.
“His testing was really, really strong up in (Pittsburgh),” Donatelli added. “He’s got a lot of skill; he’s got a lot of upside.”
He’s also versatile. Lindberg said he grew up playing at center and prefers it — because he can handle the puck a lot more — but only moved there as a pro last season. Therefore, he’s comfortable slotting in at any forward spot.
As a member of the Toronto Marlies, Lindberg said he always knew he would have to compete hard to have any chance of success playing against the Penguins. He hopes he can bring that same competitive fire now that he has completed his atypical path to joining the team.
“You really just want to get the games going and get the season started,” he said. “Camp and stuff ... it’s all fun, but I just look forward to the games. (I’m) really just trying to focus on getting myself ready this week.”
A big deal
One player not on the ice was forward Ryan Haggerty. But, the 25-year-old had a very good excuse.
After a standout performance at Pittsburgh’s camp, including a pair of exhibition goals, Haggerty was rewarded with a two-year, two-way contract Tuesday with an average value of $675,000 at the NHL level. As a result, Haggerty is required to clear waivers before officially joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He was reassigned by Pittsburgh earlier in the week.
The Stamford, Connecticut, native began last season as a healthy scratch before going on a tear with nine goals in an eight-game stretch from Oct. 28 through Nov. 22. However, that pace slowed and he entered the postseason mired in a 22-game scoring drought.
He also had to overcome an injury, suffered in early February, that sidelined him for about six weeks.
“I think it’s great,” Donatelli said of the contract. “He’s worked so hard. Last year was a tough year for him. He got hurt, and then to come back after the injury and play in the playoffs, (the contract) is just well-deserved.
“He’s just an extension of that same philosophy that if you come here and you work hard and you do your job and things start happening, you’ll get rewarded for your play.”
Defenseman Ethan Prow cleared waivers and skated with the rest of the main group. ... Fellow blueliner Kevin Czuczman was also part of the session, but wore a red non-contact sweater. Earlier in the month, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Czuczman will likely be unavailable into December as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
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