When he was recalled in late December from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after a Mumps outbreak sidelined a few of the Penguins' players, Taylor Chorney, a defenseman, played road games against the Panthers and Lightning as a forward.
Having spent most of his professional career in the minor leagues, Chorney didn't mind moving up in terms of his professional status or his location on the ice.
“I think even when I was here before and I played forward, you're happy to be in the NHL when you're someone in my position,” said Chorney.
Nearly four months later, Chorney is back in the NHL and back at his position.
“I think just for my [comfort] it's nice to be playing defense,” Chorney said. “I've been doing that my whole life. When you're playing in the highest league in the whole world, you want to be doing it where you're most comfortable.”
With defenseman Derrick Pouliot considered day to day due to an “upper-body” injury and Kris Letang (concussion) as well as Christian Ehrhoff (suspected concussion) each sidelined indefinitely, Chorney appears to be in line to take on a larger role in the Penguins' final two games of the regular season.
“Yes, he's going to take more minutes for sure,” said coach Mike Johnston. “He's shown he deserves more minutes. He's shown he's capable of taking them.”
Since his most recent recall April 3, Chorney has played three games and has averaged 21.3 shifts per game and 13:57 of ice time.
In Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Senators, Chorney logged 13:34 of ice time, the least among the team's defensemen aside from Pouliot (10:03) who left the game late in the second period due to his injury.
“There's some guys that are going to be playing big minutes," said Chorney. "Then there's guys like me who are going to be playing a little bit less. I think if I can show I can be reliable out there in all those situations and contribute in little ways. Just getting the puck out of my end, keeping it simple and just being reliable and playing some simple minutes.”
Some of those minutes Tuesday came on the team's second power play unit as he had 2:59 of power-play time. With the benefit of little more practice, Johnston sees room for Chorney to take on an expanded role with the power play.
“A lot of poise on the power play when we've put him into the power play,” Johnston said. “He's working with the power play for five days maybe? Four or five days. Maybe two practices. I thought he did a good job there.”
One of the reasons Chorney could see an increase in power-play time is skating ability.
“If there's a chance for me to skate - that's probably my best asset - I've got to skate, he said. “That doesn't necessarily mean taking a chance I don't think. Pinching on a 50/50 puck or something. Just making those right reads but at the same time, being aggressive.”
While his NHL resume is limited to 66 games, Chorney has accumulated 400 AHL games in eight professional season.
“He's a veteran player,” Johnston said. “I think he's had 60-something NHL games but he's had a lot of minor-league experience. He's been through it before. The one thing I've liked about [Chorney] coming up is he didn't look like the situation would overwhelm him in any way.”
Regardless of his role or minutes, Chorney realizes the key to the team's success rests with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin having the puck.
“We have super-skilled forwards,” said Chorney. "I think a lot of things they can make your job easier. For a guy like me, I can just hurry back, get the puck, make a simple play and let them do their thing. That's something I've got to focus on. Use my skating, go back, get the puck, make a simple thing and let those guys do their thing.”
Chorney will get to do his thing on defense more often starting with Friday's crucial home game against the Islanders.
“He will,” said Johnston, “like the other guys, be expected to move up in minutes and responsibility for sure.”
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