For most Penguins fans, the lasting image of Chris Conner's first stint with the Penguins was his missed penalty shot in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series. As he approached Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson, Conner lost control of the puck and swatted a pedestrian shot on net which was rejected.
That flub overshadowed what was a mostly productive 2010-11 season for Conner who established career best in games played (60) as well as points (17) while primarily playing on a third line with Mark Letestu and Tyler Kennedy.
Having spent the past two seasons in the Red Wings and Coyotes organizations, Conner returned to the Penguins by signing a one-year, two-way contract this past offseason.
Last night, Conner made a case to reclaim a spot on the Penguins' NHL roster. Using a wall play from in front of the Penguins' bench, he was able to set up Brandon Sutter for the team's lone goal in a 4-1 preseason loss to the Red Wings. After the game, head coach Dan Bylsma cited Conner as one of the team's better forwards in the game and said Conner had earned another appearance in a preseason game.
Conner, 29, spoke recently about his return to the Penguins:
What brought you back to Pittsburgh?
"When I was here before, I really loved the organization, all the guys, all the systems. It was a pretty easy decision to come back. I was just happy there was an opportunity to come back."
Is it fair to say your greatest success in the NHL came in Pittsburgh?
"Yeah. Definitely. That was the most games I’ve played in a season. Yeah … It was."
What worked for you that season?
"I think when we had [that third line], we were just fast guys. We got the puck in, worked hard and spent a lot of [offensive] zone time. It was really good. The system… they like playing fast, getting the puck up and getting in there. I think it suits me pretty well."
What were the past two seasons like for you with the Red Wings then the Coyotes?
"They were good. I really liked in Detroit. It was my hometown. I was playing pretty well then I got an injury and broke my hand. Phoenix was a good place but with the lockout, it was hard."
Has anything changed with your game the past two seasons?
"I’m always trying to work on stuff, especially my shot. I feel like I can get some more opportunities shooting the puck. I worked a lot on that. Just small, little details in the game."
(Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)