Cracking the roster of a Stanley Cup championship team isn’t an easy task. When that team is the Pittsburgh Penguins (a club that is returning nearly the entire compliment of players from its 2015-16 Cup winning squad) it’s even more difficult.
Steve Oleksy knows that first hand, as he was among the players reassigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins by the NHL team this week.
A seventh-year pro, Oleksy was trying to break into a Penguins lineup that features six of its seven top defensemen returning for the 2016-17 season. He was still sporting a black eye – the result of an altercation during the Penguins preseason contest against the Chicago Blackhawks on September 30 – when he met with the media following Tuesday morning’s practice at the Toyota SportsPlex.
He knows that a hard-nosed, physical game could be the key to his Pittsburgh return.
“It’s something I’ve tried to do throughout my career,” Oleksy said of his style of play. “The inner squads and exhibitions were a good time to display that side.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I do, and play the same way down here as I did up there. Just continue to do that. If you continue to do things the right way, over time things are going to pay off.”
One of the more experienced players in Wilkes-Barre’s camp, Oleksy knows that nothing is guaranteed in the world of pro hockey. He doesn’t take his position with the organization for granted.
“It’s a hard business to stay in, especially as you move forward, and the older you get and the longer you go, more and more guys are coming in,” he said when asked about his motivations heading into the season. “It’s our livelihood, so we’ve got to continue. No matter what level or what team, wherever it is, you’ve got to continue to play your game and play the best you can every practice, every game.”
Oleksy was recalled by Pittsburgh three times last season, but didn’t see any game action with the NHL club. He was, however, among the players who skated as members of the ‘Black Aces’ during the playoffs, and even took warm-ups for a Stanley Cup Finals game. This week he’ll head back to Washington D.C. – the city where he plied his trade for parts of three seasons – to be with the Penguins as they are honored at the White House.
“It’s going to be exciting. Obviously that’s something very, very, very few people get to experience,” Oleksy said. “It’s something a lot of people would like to do, and with the circumstances it’s something people dream about. For everybody to make me feel a part of that and to invite me to that, it’s definitely a day I’m looking forward to.”
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take the ice for their first preseason game when they host the Albany Devils at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:05 p.m. The Penguins will also battle the Hershey Bears in exhibition action at home on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:05 p.m. before wrapping up their preseason schedule at Giant Center against the Bears on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5:00 p.m.
Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.
Season ticket packages for the 2016-17 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.