Penguins rookie forward Anthony Angello had a solid contingent of loved ones at PPG Paints Arena to watch his NHL debut Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
They were also well traveled.
“I’ve got family driving in from Syracuse,” Angello said after the morning skate. “My sister is flying in from Alabama where she goes to school. And my aunt is flying in from Kansas.”
Angello didn’t have to trek over as much physical ground to get to the NHL, but his journey to the Penguins was hardly a brief stroll.
A fifth-round pick in 2014, Angello spent three seasons at Cornell before turning professional late in the 2017-18 season and joining the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on an amateur tryout.
After parts of three seasons in the American Hockey League, he finally is getting a chance in the NHL.
“It feels really good,” said Angello, 23. “I got a good sleep last night. I feel good. … I got some good advice from a mental coach I work with. He just said, ‘Hey, it’s a bigger crowd. It’s the same sheet of ice, the same game of hockey. Go out there and do exactly what you did to get yourself here and continue to work hard to stay here.’ I’m excited, a little bit nervous. But those nerves should go away pretty quick here.”
Angello has emerged in his third professional season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He has 25 points in 45 game, including a team-leading 16 goals. Last season, he established a career-high with 16 goals in 65 games.
“Honestly, I’ve just been shooting the puck,” Angello said of his success this season. “I’ve been playing free. I haven’t been overthinking it, and I’ve just been playing hockey. As simple as that sounds, that’s the style I need to play and it’s been working out.”
He’ll likely have a familiar face lined up next to him Friday in Andrew Agozzino. The two have been linemates most of the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“Once we started playing together, we had some good chemistry right away,” Agozzino said. “He kind of got hot. He was shooting the puck really well. That’s kind of one of his best assets, how well he can shoot it. We had some chemistry together. We were playing well. We just kind of started rolling together.”
At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Angello offers an element of size the Penguins don’t possess in great abundance, especially with forward Nick Bjugstad (6-6, 215) sidelined with a core muscle injury.
“He protects the puck well,” Agozzino said. “That’s one of the biggest things. He can throw his body around on the forecheck, but when he has the puck, he’s pretty effective when he’s holding onto it and protecting it.”
Said coach Mike Sullivan: “It just adds another dimension to our group of forwards. He’s a physical player. He can help us on the forecheck. He can lean on people, which makes us more difficult to play against. Anthony’s got a pretty simple, straight-ahead game. So we think that he can help us here. We’re excited to get him in the lineup.”
• Goaltender Tristan Jarry is expected to start for the Penguins. In 25 games this season, he has a 16-8-1 record along with a 2.16 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and three shutouts.
• Defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to return to the lineup after missing the past 16 games because of an undisclosed injury. He skated on a third defensive pairing with Chad Ruhwedel during the morning skate.
• The Penguins’ lines and pairings in the morning skate were:
Jared McCann — Sidney Crosby — Dominik Simon
Bryan Rust — Evgeni Malkin — Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brandon Tanev
Alex Galchenyuk — Andrew Agozzino — Anthony Angello
Jack Johnson — Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson — John Marino
Chad Ruhwedel — Justin Schultz
The top power-play unit included Crosby, Hornqvist, Letang, Malkin and Rust. The second power-play squad involved Galchenyuk, Marino, McCann, Schultz and Simon.
• Injured forward Dominik Kahun (concussion) skated before the morning skate.
• Bjugstad, sidelined since Nov. 15, has not skated for the past two days since the team returned from its nine-day break in the schedule. He had been skating in recent weeks and even accompanied the team on a road trip earlier this month on the western portion of the continent.
Sullivan was asked if Bjugstad had suffered a setback in his recovery.
“He hasn’t had a setback per se,” Sullivan said. “I’d rather not get into the details of his progress or his rehab process. Our medical staff is trying to make the best decisions that they can on a daily basis, or a weekly basis for that matter, to get Nick to where we can get him back to the lineup. That’s what’s taking place. There are always improvements and plateaus as part of the rehab process, especially when it involves a longer-term injury like Nick’s. They’re just going through that process together.
“Our medical staff is making the decisions according to make sure that we continue making progress when it comes to the rehab process for Nick. It’s going to involve sometimes being on the ice. It’s going to involve sometimes being off the ice. They’re going to make those decisions accordingly.”
• The Flyers are expected to start goaltender Brian Elliott. During the most recent game for both teams Jan. 21, Elliott made 19 saves in a 3-0 shutout of the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
In 24 games this season, Elliott has a 12-5-3 record with a 2.89 goals-against average, a .904 save percentage and one shutout.
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Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .