For those of you who missed Tuesday’s game or didn’t see enough of defender Mark Friedman to form an opinion, trust this: Pittsburgh Penguins fans are going to like this guy.
Sure, it came from arch rival Philadelphia Flyers (the Penguins claimed the 25-year-old had no exemptions on Feb. 24), but find out how he described playing against his old and original team when he made his Penguins debut on Tuesday.
“Obviously it’s the Battle of Pennsylvania here. These teams go back a long way. It’s good to be on this side of the rivalry instead of the other, ”Friedman said, comments that could go straight to the hearts of Flyers-hating Penguins fans.
“The guys kept telling me there were no friends on the ice. This is definitely how I played. It’s a lot of fun giving it to some of them. “
Is that a good way to ingratiate yourself with the fans of your new team, or what? It could even be some bulletin board material for the Flyers, who play another two consecutive games at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday and Saturday.
Penguins are getting healthier. Defender Brian Dumoulin has returned to fully participate in practice. So there could be competition for Friedman to stay in the lineup.
On Tuesday, he played in the third pair with Cody Ceci.
But he’s doing all he can to win over the coaches, his teammates, and perhaps by extension, the fans, and make a name for himself in the lineup.
See how Friedman spent the six days between the time Penguins general manager (and not coincidentally former Flyers executive) Ron Hextall filed the exemption claim for him and on Tuesday, when he was 11 years old.th In the NHL game he had an assist, went plus 2 and dished out two hits at 10:25 on ice time in a 5-2 victory.
“The coaches have been on my butt,” he said. “I downloaded a couple of applications that have the systems in them. I’ve been studying them like the SATs or the ACTs. I’m still not 100 percent with all the systems, but I’m learning every day here. There are no better coaches to learn from than we have here in Pittsburgh. “
When it came time for his Penguins debut, Friedman had to operate without his immediate coach. Assistant Todd Reirden, who oversees the defense, was listed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list early Tuesday.
He didn’t seem to slow Friedman down, even though as a right-handed defender he played on the left side.
“I thought Mark had a strong game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He is a good skater. He’s a mobile guy. You can move the disc. It has a bit of an advantage to him. I think it’s going to be a good fit. “
Sullivan noted that Friedman playing off his side “is not ideal. But he’s certainly a young guy that we think can be part of this mix of young defenders that we have. “
When asked to provide a self-exploration report, Friedman was candid and confident, but not arrogant.
“I think my greatest strength is my ability to skate, to go up and down the ice,” he said. “I am a fighter type. I’m not the biggest, but I like to mix it up a bit. Not necessarily fighting, but I give 110 percent every time I go out. Regardless: block a shot, take a hit to make a play. I also have some offensive ability and I think I’m a good two-way defender. “
It was Reirden who called Friedman on Monday night “and asked if it would be great to play against my old team. Obviously, I said yes.
“I thought my game was the best I’ve had in a while,” Friedman said, then added a bit wryly. “The last game was (in) forward in the Bruins game. It was good to play defense. I thought I contributed to offense and played well defensively, and I’m glad I got the two points. “
He was referring to a February 20 game when various circumstances led Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault to dress Friedman as a fourth-row winger and near-seventh defender.
That was his last game with the Flyers.
Friedman, after Wednesday’s practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, could have hinted without mentioning to the Flyers that he already prefers the locker room environment with the Penguins when asked about fitting in.
“They like to keep it light. They have a lot of fun with everything they do, ”he said of the penguins. “It’s nice to come to the track and everyone is smiling and having fun. They seem like a really good bunch of guys. “
Watch? Penguin fans are going to like this guy.