Ever had that old sweatshirt that you just can’t part with? Maybe it’s got a hole in a sleeve or a stain in the middle. Or that old pair of trusty tennis shoes that don’t really provide the same level of comfort but always seem to end up at the front of the closet?
For Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, defensemen Deryk Engelland is that old go-to.
Or should that be forward Deryk Engelland? Because that’s where he’s playing tonight. From nhl.com:
The Penguins, who have won two in a row and are 5-1-0 this season, say they are ready to match that desperation. Bylsma is prepared to match the intensity and toughness he's expecting from Philadelphia on Thursday, one reason Deryk Engelland, normally a defenseman, will play as a fourth-line right wing in place of Dustin Jeffrey. Engelland isn't moving up to play forward because of his skill; he has seven goals in 189 NHL games. "I like having that grit and that guy in our lineup," Bylsma said. "Having that grit, having that person there, having that physicality, what he can bring, for this game for sure." Engelland has played forward before, at least once in his NHL career and a few times when he played for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL. "We know he has the understanding of what the position implies and what he needs to do," Bylsma said. "He's shown he has an aptitude to have success there and do it."
As Baby Pens beat writer, Jonathan Bombulie pointed out, this isn’t entirely new territory for Engelland who also played a little bit of forward in 2005-07 with the Hershey Bears of the AHL It’s not totally uncommon in the big scheme of things either, Paul Bissonnette and Eric Godard are two players started out as defensemen too before getting switched up to forward, mainly for fighting skills at the sacrifice of playing time.
But does it make sense for the Penguins to scratch Dustin Jeffrey- a natural forward and modestly useful hockey player- in order to skate Engelland for about 5 minutes a night (surely with a fight against Zac Rinaldo or Kris Newbury)?
Byslma has had Engelland as a player since both were with Wilkes-Barre back in the fall of 2008. This is their sixth season together. Bylsma knows Engelland, and trusts what he can bring to the table. And hey, at least using Engo as a F opens up a regular defensemen spot in the lineup for Robert Bortuzzo- a hockey player known for actually playing hockey- to jump back into the lineup.
Teams like the Penguins used to benefit when opponents would play a fighter, limiting the amount of useful players on the bench by one. Now, for at least one game against Philadelphia, it looks like they’ve fallen into that same trap, if only because Dan Bylsma favors that old warhorse like you and I can’t bring ourselves to get rid of that old pair of shoes either.