Pens on Caputi's mind

LANCE HORNBY, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

Not many Maple Leafs list a date with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins as an ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but Luca Caputi can’t wait.

The rookie winger isn’t looking past Saturday’s first part of a back-to-back in the Atlantic Division against the New York Rangers, but it’s clear which of the two will have more meaning.

Caputi was traded by the Pens with Martin Skoula for Alexei Ponikarovsky at the trade deadline, a golden chance to break in with his rebuilding hometown team instead of being buried on Pittsburgh’s talent-laden roster.

“It (Sunday) is something that’s been in the back of my mind the past couple of days,” Caputi said Friday at the MasterCard Centre. “It will be emotional, but I just want to get the two points and play my game, play hard and create energy.

“If you look at the game sheet (from Thursday’s 2-1 overtime win in Atlanta), I played almost 17 minutes, which is something I didn’t come close to in Pittsburgh. There is so much depth there, it’s almost impossible to crack that roster unless they run into salary cap issues next summer.

“But I’m glad I’m here and glad I’m getting the opportunity. I really want this deal to work out for the Leafs, to hone my game so they can’t send me down.”

To that end, the 21-year-old was one of the most gung-ho participants in Friday’s optional skate, working hard on bending his body into the path of shots for maximum deflection positioning and garbage goals after missing chances in previous games. He has one goal in 11 starts as a Leaf.

Caputi, who was slowed by flu symptoms last week, also stayed out late with skating coach Graeme Townshend.

“That’s what you have to do when you’re young and inexperienced,” Caputi said of the puck drill. “Staying athletic because you don’t know when pucks will land on your stick. Having your stick on the ice all the time is one of those little things.

“This summer (skating) will be a big focus of mine, gaining the first couple of steps and using my game down low to my benefit.

“Moving on to (the Ranger game), I want to bring in all the positives. There will be a lot more (scoring) chances. I don’t want to beat myself up about it.”

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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