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Smith Isn’t Fazed By Penguins’ Crowded Blue Line

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Ty Smith, Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp 3

CRANBERRY — Ty Smith knows the numbers, understands the situation.

He’s aware that the Pittsburgh Penguins entered training camp Thursday with a surplus of NHL-caliber defensemen. That, by most accounts, no fewer than nine of them are capable of being in the lineup when the regular season opens Oct. 13.

Smith also recognizes that only one of them would not have to clear waivers to be sent to the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre when their major-league roster is being pared.

As he should, since he sees that guy every time he looks in a mirror.

That doesn’t mean Smith dwells on such details, however. Or even spends much time pondering them.

“Honestly, you can look at the rosters and the lines all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s all going to be (about) coming in and playing the best I can play,” he said. “You know they want to win here, so they’re going to try to put forth the best roster to do that. If you’re a good player, they’re going to want you on the ice and on the team.”

Smith, acquired from New Jersey in the John Marino trade, was paired with Chad Ruhwedel during the first scrimmage of training camp Thursday. Those two would seem to have complementary styles, since Smith’s forte is offense and Ruhwedel is responsible defensively.

Regardless, Smith said he doesn’t prefer any particular qualities in a defense partner after working alongside a diverse assortment of those with the Devils.

“In my first couple years of pro, I’ve played with pretty much any kind of player,” he said. “Strictly defensive guys who just stay at home, some guys who do both and some guys who are all offense. For me, honestly, I don’t really think about that too much.”

Smith spent four-plus seasons with Spokane in the Western Hockey League, then his first two years as a professional with New Jersey, which selected him in Round 1 of the 2017 NHL draft.

Consequently, this is the first time he’s been through a trade, has been compelled to get acclimated to new surroundings and teammates. And while he is familiar with the Penguins’ personnel — after all, the Devils do share a division with the Pittsburgh Penguins — Danton Heinen is the only one with whom he had even a passing acquaintance before joining the organization.

They share roots in British Columbia, and Smith said Heinen has helped to ease the transition to his new organization.

“He and his wife had me over for dinner one night,” Smith said. “He’s been great, helping me get to know the guys, get to know everybody out here.”

He added that “it’s been real easy to get used to everything here.”

For all that Smith has experienced since entering the NHL, there are at least two things that he has not.

The most conspicuous is a game in the Stanley Cup playoffs; the Devils haven’t qualified for postseason play since 2018.

The other, less obvious one: A preseason game,

Because of the pandemic, there were no exhibition contests in the NHL before the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, which means the Penguins’ home-and-home series with Columbus Sunday will be his first opportunity to appear in a game at this level that doesn’t count in the standings.

The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t announced their lineup for either game, so it’s not known if Smith will be able to scratch “play in an exhibition game” off his career to-do list.

He did, however, sound as if he’d be happy to dress for as many of the Penguins’ six preseason games as the coaches and management believe would be prudent.

“I want to play every game,” he said. “I love to play. Playing hockey is fun, and I’m a young guy. I can handle it, I think.”

The bottom line, he added, is that he’d like to get into¬†“as many games as they’ll let me play.”

What went unspoken was that how Smith performs in those games might determine which side of the Commonwealth he is working on in a few weeks.

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Jeff Young
Jeff Young
6 days ago

If he earns it, I’d love to see him on the left side.

Katz is Dumb
Katz is Dumb
6 days ago

He can’t be any worse than Pettersson.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
6 days ago
Reply to  Katz is Dumb

He’s a lot better

moe
moe
6 days ago

Of course, Letang/Dumoulin would be etched in stone.
Petry/Ruuta
Smith/Rhuwedel
POJ/Freidman
Odd Man Out: Petterrson

Penguinfan
Penguinfan
6 days ago
Reply to  moe

Well we’d probably need to trade him. I’m not saying I want him gone but I would rather them not give up a 1st to get rid of him.