Michalek: 'Hockey is a business and I had to move on' - 03-25-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

He was part of the other trade Ray Shero made the night of the first round in the 2012 entry draft held on the floor at Consol Energy Center.

A few hours after center Jordan Staal was dealt away, defenseman Zbynek Michalek was moved to the Coyotes in exchange for a few prospects and a draft pick.

For the Penguins, the primary reason for the trade was to clear some salary cap space in the form of a player who never quite fit in after being a free agent signing the summer of 2010.

For Michalek, it was a return to a place and situation where he experienced his greatest success as a professional.

Tonight, he will play in Consol Energy Center for the first time since that trade. Earlier today, he talked to Pittsburgh reporters about his return. While hesitant to go into details about his career with the Penguins, he was complimentary and honest about his two seasons in Pittsburgh:

Does this game carry any extra weight for you tonight?

"The schedule has been so busy and so hectic. It’s been crazy. I’m maybe still realizing I’m back but I’m sure it’s going to hit me tonight when I step on the ice. It brings back some memories. That’s part of being a hockey player. You move around. I look at it like it’s going to be a tough game and a big challenge for us."

How do you assess your time in Pittsburgh?

"I look at it like a good experience for myself as a player and as a person. Playing for a club that’s being watched by every angle by media, fans and everybody. It was a great experience in that regard. It didn’t work out for the team or myself when I was here. I look at it as a great experience. I think it helped me become a better player and a better person. I look at it and I’m happy the way the team treated me and my family. I enjoyed my time here. Met a lot of nice people. Hockey is a business and I had to move on."

You had success with Paul Martin as a shutdown defensive pairing in 2010-11 but struggled to he point you were broken up as a duo in 2011-12. What worked for you that first season and didn't work that second season?

"I don’t know. It’s hard to say. It’s way in the past. I don’t really remember what worked or did not. Here in Pittsburgh, everything goes by where you go in the playoffs and we lost in the first round both years. Everybody was disappointed. Changes had to happen. It’s behind me. I don’t really look at the past. I look at what’s now and what’s ahead of me. I’m happy where I am right now."

Why have you had your greatest success under Coyotes coach Dave Tippett?

"He’s a great coach. He’s a demanding coach. Every player has a role on the team and you rely on every single guy in the room to contribute. You really feel like you’re part of the team and that you can make a difference. If we don’t do that, you’re not a good enough team. We need every single guy to show up every night and he demands that from everybody. He’s a player’s coach. He played the game. He gives us a day off and how to practice and stuff. I have a good relationship with him. I feel like he trusts me and that’s really important for a player. That gives me a lot of confidence on the ice."

The Penguins have a unique system for puck retrieval which is demanding on defensemen. Was it a challenge to learn it?

"It’s a little different than any other system I played in. It takes sometime to get used to but it’s nothing you couldn’t get used to. It just takes a little bit of time. I think the coaching staff in Pittsburgh [does] a great job. They makes sure the new players that come in, they learn the system fast. We’re all professionals here at the highest level. We shouldn’t have any excuses or problems adjusting to any system."

Your daughter was born was in Pittsburgh. Is this trip back important for that?

"Definitely. Yeah. I’ll always have the memory that my daughter was born here. That’s a great memory that will stay with me the rest of my life. It will always remind me this was the place she was she was born. It’s always going to stay with me. That’s something we will never forget."

(Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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