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Bjugstad Adjusting to Penguins…and Driving in Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH — He played center with Phil Kessel. He played right wing with Sidney Crosby. Then he played right wing with Evgeni Malkin. New Pittsburgh Penguins forward Nick Bjugstad is having quite the adventure in Pittsburgh.

That also includes driving in the snow.

Bjugstad comes from a hockey family in Minnesota, but it’s been a long time since the 6-foot-6 with a yet-to-be-determined position has been behind the wheel driving through snow. After all, he was drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2012 and remained with Florida until his Feb. 1 Penguins acquisition.

“Oh, that’s what I was telling Cullen this morning. (Wednesday) was my first time since…high school maybe? Having to drive on a highway with snow, I don’t know–I got a rental truck,” Bjugstad laughed.

But then Bjugstad committed his media first faux pas as a Penguin.

“Sounds like it doesn’t get too nasty here as far as snow,” he said. “Nothing’s compared to (Minnesota).”

Apparently, he’s never been part of a Giant Eagle stampede for milk, bread, and toilet paper. Doesn’t he know that two inches of snow could make you homebound for weeks? Or at least trapped long enough to complain on Twitter the road isn’t freshly salted.

On the ice, Bjugstad replaced a rental, Derick Brassard. Though he struggled to define the difference of playing with Crosby and playing with Malkin.

“I don’t know. They’re both elite, hard-working players. Get yourself open and be ready at all times,” Bjugstad said. “For me, just try to come up with pucks and let them do their work.”

“Get them the puck, they have a lot of skill. You can’t over think it.”

Wednesday night in the absence of Evgeni Malkin, Bjugstad again centered the Penguins second line. It would be fair to say the line with Phil Kessel and Tanner Pearson did not have a good night. They generated precious few offensive chances. However, Bjugstad’s early work with Kessel showed promise.

Last night, Bjugstad had the only scoring chance and dished three hits below the goal line.

So, perhaps one game isn’t a make or break moment. Especially because Malkin will return for Saturday night and Bjugstad will likely be back on the wing. Or not.

Bjugstad’s adventure will continue until the Penguins settle their lineup and based on head coach Mike Sullivan’s recent tinkering, that could be a while. In the meantime, it doesn’t appear Bjugstad will overthink it.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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