- Scott Burnside, NHL
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PITTSBURGH -- A little over a year ago, we sat with Paul Martin and a group of U.S. Olympic hopefuls in Chicago to chat about the Vancouver Olympics and the 2009-10 season.
At one point, the other players began joking with Martin about the electric shocks New Jersey Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello had embedded in his defensemen and that were employed whenever a defender ventured too far into the offensive zone.
A lot of water has passed under Martin's bridge since that meeting.
But it's safe to say there will be no shock collar employed by his new coach, Dan Bylsma, now that Martin is a Pittsburgh Penguin.
"The mindset when we get the puck if you're a defenseman is you're part of the offense," Bylsma said after the Penguins' last practice before opening the new CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday night against Philadelphia. "That's a mindset that's maybe a little bit different, so you may see [Martin] in different areas of the ice, but it doesn't imply there's more risk."
A New Jersey draft pick, Martin had spent his entire career with the Devils. He admitted there is safety in the comfort of knowing how everything works, where you're supposed to go, the training routine, everything that comes with playing with only one NHL team for the past six seasons.
But the past year has been anything but routine for Martin.
The skilled defenseman, penciled in as a top-four defenseman for the U.S. Olympic team, played in just nine games last season before he broke his forearm, ironically, blocking a Bill Guerin shot in a game against the Penguins. A number of medical setbacks cost Martin a chance to compete in the Olympics and he did not return to action again until March 17. When he became an unrestricted free agent, he opted to make a change and signed with the Penguins on July 1.
"For me, I don't like to look back," Martin told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "Once you make a decision, you go with it. Life goes on. I had some stuff you just had to put behind you. Right now, I'm a Penguin and I'm happy to be a Penguin, and the guys are great. It's a good team, a great organization."
Along with Michalek, who also signed on July 1 with the Penguins, Martin's presence in Pittsburgh gives the Penguins their strongest blue-line corps in many years, at least on paper.
For Martin, 29, it still remains somewhat strange to pull on the gold-and-black jersey, but he feels more and more at home with each day.
That sense of strangeness will almost certainly melt more Thursday, when Martin hopes to mark the beginning of a fresh chapter in his career.
"It's something that I'm hoping will happen," Martin said. "You always hope that it goes better than it has the last year or so. New team, new arena, new everything. Just something to hopefully re-energize me, get me going and think positive and have good things happen and go that direction as opposed to the other way and worrying about things that you can't control.
"I'm excited so far to start the season here. Hopefully things go well. I'm trying to do everything that I can so that they do."
Asham again misses practice
One player who didn't take part in Wednesday's practice but who dearly wants to play in Thursday's opener is Arron Asham. The former Philadelphia Flyer, who signed with the Pens as a free agent this summer, suffered an upper-body injury and hasn't skated since Friday.
"We're hoping Arron Asham can play," Bylsma said. "Arron really wants to play. He's going to get further evaluated this afternoon."
7dScott Burnside and Craig Custance