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Pens send P.O Joseph and Drew O’Connor to AHL, Dumoulin practices with Letang

Youngsters with bright futures sent for playing in time back in Wilkes-Barre

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Penguins announced some roster moves on Friday, most notably electing to send youngsters in Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Drew O’Connor to the American Hockey League. From the team:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-assigned defenseman P.O Joseph and forward Drew O’Connor to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.

Forwards Anthony Angello and Josh Currie have been re-assigned to the taxi squad.

Joseph, 21, has played 16 games for Pittsburgh in his first NHL season, tallying one goal, four assists and five points. Joseph notched a point (assist) in his NHL debut on January 22 against the New York Rangers and later registered a three-point mark (3A) against the Rangers on January 30. On February 6 at the New York Islanders, Joseph found the back of the net for the first time in his career.

O’Connor, 22, has skated in nine games for the Penguins this season, registering an assist in his NHL debut on January 26 at Boston.

The moves make sense in the scope that young players can draw more out of playing professional hockey games than sitting around on the taxi squad, where both had recently been.

There’s also health to consider, with Brian Dumoulin’s eventual impending return pushing Joseph further down the depth chart and winger Evan Rodrigues doing the same to an extent for O’Connor.

Joseph’s star shined really bright near the time of his NHL debut in January, including a pair of games where he played 25+ minutes and was one of the team’s best players on the ice. Unfortunately though, he wasn’t able to maintain that level of play, which is only natural and expected since 21-year olds playing defense can experience bumps in the road as the road to progress doesn’t typically go in a smooth steady upward line.

O’Connor was in a similar vein, getting a few looks but just on the fourth line and failing to stand out all that much.

The Pens also moved forwards Josh Currie and Anthony Angello to the taxi squad today. This opens up roster space if they want to activate Dumoulin and/or Rodrigues from the injured reserve, if they are ready for that step. However, the team has been moving several of their depth players to the taxi squad on non-game days in order to manage their salary cap and avoid being in the LTIR area so that they can actually bank space. Angello, for instance, played on Tuesday, was on the taxi squad on Wednesday, played on Thursday and now is back on the taxi squad officially for Friday.

The busy month and season continues for the Pens with an afternoon game tomorrow against the Flyers to finish out a crucial three game set. Both teams have won one game a piece and Pittsburgh will be looking to protect their home ice and bounce back from a poor finish last night.

Update: odds could be looking better that Brian Dumoulin will be back tomorrow. He was practicing on the top pair with Kris Letang at Friday’s practice. Perhaps the even better news is the domino effect for that could help both John Marino and Mike Matheson, who struggled mightily last game.

Marino gets a more steady partner in Marcus Pettersson and Matheson gets a smaller and more protected role. Both of these developments look like very positive ones for the Penguins moving forward.