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Pens look to Reading’s Blight for stability

Recent call-ups to NHL give forward an opportunity to prove himself in AHL.

JENKINS TWP. -- For the second time in less than a week the Penguins have bypassed the Wheeling Nailers when summoning help from the ECHL.

With Tim Brent, Jonathan Filewich, Chris Minard, Jeff Taffe and Ty Conklin on recall to Pittsburgh, the AHL Pens went out and signed Reading forward Chris Blight to a 25-game PTO.

Last week, the Penguins added Cincinnati’s Jean-Michel Daoust.

In the case of Blight, Wilkes-Barre needed a warm body, fast. Blight comes with AHL experience.

The third-year pro out of Clarkson had just finished an 11-game stint with the Manitoba Moose and came highly recommended by Manitoba head coach Scott Arniel.

“I’ve heard good things about him from Reading,” said Penguins head coach Todd Richards. “He played 11 games in Manitoba. I called Scott Arniel there and Scott Arniel had nothing but good things to say about him.”

Blight grew up in the same Ontario town (Cambridge) as Brent and the two are good friends. After graduating from Clarkson in 2005, he spent two years with the Toledo Blades, where he came close to 30 goals both seasons. When the Blades suspended operations at the end of last season, Blight hooked on with Reading.

He’d been almost a point per game-player for the Royals before getting a shot with Manitoba.

After practicing with the Penguins on Tuesday morning at the Ice Box, Blight said he’d been planning what to do during the ECHL’s All-Star break when Reading coach Karl Taylor told him he’d been called up to Wilkes-Barre.

“I’d been thinking about going to Atlantic City with a couple of the guys and he told me, ‘You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to Wilkes-Barre.’”

Blight, who’s 6-foot and 190 pounds said he’ll do whatever the Penguins need him to.

“I’m pretty fast and I have a good shot,” he said. “Whatever situation they want to use me in I think I can adapt to it. If they want me to be a fourth-liner and grind it out I can do that. If they want me to go out and score goals, I’ll do that too.”

Under normal circumstances, ECHL call-ups aren’t expected to go out and score goals.

But the situation the Penguins find themselves in this week as they head to New England is far from the norm.

On Sunday, Wilkes-Barre lost two-thirds of its top line to Pittsburgh. They also lost Jonathan Filewich. No. 1 center Jeff Taffe was already on recall for more than a month and it’s hard to imagine under what circumstances No. 1 goalie Ty Conklin would be back after going unbeaten in regulation in his first 10 games.

“This is a great challenge,” said Richards, who used Daoust in the same way he would have been used in Cincinnati during the Pens’ 3-1 loss to the Bears on Sunday. “This is a great opportunity for players. They’ve got injuries up in Pittsburgh and guys are sick. It’s an opportunity for Jonathan Filewich, Tim Brent and Chris Minard to go up, get a taste of the NHL and hopefully stay there.

“And what it is down here is an opportunity for guys we bring in from Wheeling, or a guy like Chris Blight, that we brought in from Reading. It’s an opportunity for those guys as well.”

D’Aversa down

Defenseman Jonathan D’Aversa has been returned to Wheeling.

D’Aversa, who was chosen to replace Paul Bissonnette in the ECHL’s All-Star Game, is on his way to Stockton, Calif., to take part in Tuesday’s skills competition and today’s game.

Up next

Penguins (24-15-0-2) at Lowell (13-22-4-4)

When: 7:05 p.m., today

Where: Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.

On the air: Radio -- 92.1 QFM (pregame starts at 6:40 p.m.)

On the Web: www.b2now.com

Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the Lowell Devils and Penguins since Lowell became a New Jersey affiliate.

Scouting the Devils: The Devils are winless in five games (0-3-1-1), have just two wins in their last 10 (2-5-1-2) and are mired in last place in the Atlantic, eight points behind the Worcester Sharks. The team features three former NHL regulars in Erik Rasmussen, Grant Marshall and Richard Matvichuk.

Keep an eye on: For the Penguins -- F Jean-Michel Daoust looked great on Sunday in Hershey. Can he keep up the pace now that the adrenaline rush of being back in the AHL has worn off? For the Devils -- Czech center Petr Vrana is headed to the All-Star Game later this week.

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