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Penguins Matt Hunwick on his play: ‘Overall, it’s been alright’

March 21, 2018

During the Penguins’ three-game losing streak, Matt Hunwick has been on the ice for 11 of the opponents’ 17 goals, including nine at even strength. This despite playing in only about a quarter of the available minutes.

As such, Hunwick has become something of a fan lightning rod during this sour stretch for the Penguins, particularly in that it has come after the team traded Ian Cole — a move that necessitated Hunwick’s regular playing time.

Hunwick, though, is largely unfazed, at least in the respect that he isn’t willing to publicly admonish his own play.

Asked to assess his overall game, particularly in the six games he has been back in the lineup since Feb. 17, Hunwick said: “I feel good. I think my skating’s been good. Still working on some positional-type things. But overall, it’s been all right.”

Hunwick’s partner on the Penguins’ No. 3 defense pairing, Jamie Oleksiak, also is going through what is arguably his worst stretch since he was acquired by the Penguins in December. Although the two haven’t been together for every one of the goals against over this past week, Oleksiak also has been on the ice for 11 total and nine at even strength over the past three games.

“We’re ironing things out (as a pairing),” Oleksiak said. “It’s been a tough few games here (for) the team in general. We kind of are trying to find a groove. And when you’re playing with a different guy or on different lines, you’re trying to find that chemistry.

“But Matt’s a good player. I think communication is going to be huge for us going forward in just developing a pairing there. Just like as a team right now, we’re just trying to figure it out.”

Oleksiak and Cole seemed to mesh to the point that it appeared to bring out the best hockey of Oleksiak’s NHL career. It’s possible no player was more adversely affected by the trade of Cole than Oleksiak. Even though the two played together at points earlier this season, the Oleksiak-Hunwick pairing remains something of a work in progress.

“I think it’s just kind of when you get tossed into something like that, playing with a new guy, there’s just little things you’ve got to work on,” Oleksiak said. ”(Hunwick is) a good and smart player and responsible. I think that it’s just a matter of communicating. I think communication is key when play with new guys. That’s just something we are working on, different calls and different plays and tendencies. It’s a process.”

Hunwick was signed in July to a three-year, $6.75 million contract.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.