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New guy Tangradi catches Noel's attention in Jets debut

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It was a pointless Jets debut for newcomer Eric Tangradi, but his new coach Claude Noel seemed to have no problem with the 24-year-old left-winger acquired from the Penguins earlier in the week.

Noel used Tangradi for 12 minutes 42 seconds on a line with Olli Jokinen and Kyle Wellwood.

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"You noticed him," Noel said after the game.

Tangradi said he was dearly looking forward to the opportunity with the Jets, feeling he wasn't free to play his game with the Penguins and their star-studded lineup.

"Sometimes I felt like I had a short leash out there," Tangradi said. "Playing games, I was playing just not to make a mistake instead of getting to my game.

"I think that's what held me back and really prevented me from getting to my game and doing the things that got me into the NHL."

He said all the talk of potential and opportunity with the Penguins is now water under the bridge.

"Coulda, shoulda, woulda," he said. "I know the way I'm capable of playing and I can honestly say at times I showed my game in Pittsburgh and other times it was tough to be in the lineup.

"I'm here, I think I'm getting a fair opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."

-- -- --

Pittsburgh's first-round pick of 2010, Gardena, Calif., native Beau Bennett, played his first NHL game Friday night in a city where he has some roots.

Bennett, 21, has a grandmother and an aunt who were born in Winnipeg.

"That's kind of how the whole hockey thing got introduced to my family," Bennett told reporters Friday. "They're Canadian, and I can tell you my grandma's excited that the first game's in Winnipeg."

Bennett played 11 minutes 37 seconds in his first game. He's been playing his rookie pro season with Wilkes-Barre of the AHL.

-- -- --

It was an uneventful night Friday for Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke, in stark contrast to his previous game, when he accidentally stepped on the back of the foot of Ottawa defenceman Erik Karlsson, partially cutting Karlsson's Achilles tendon.

Karlsson is said to be out for three or four months.

Sens owner Eugene Melnyk popped off on Thursday, calling it no accident and lambasting Cooke.

"I'm sorry Mr. Melnyk feels that way," said Cooke, who played 12-plus minutes against the Jets.

"I understand the position he's in... it's not easy. I obviously felt bad about what happened and I just hope he has a fast recovery. I know it's not fast, but as fast as possible. At the end of the day it was a freak, unfortunate accident. I can't control anything else than that. I reached out to him via text. Whether or not he responds to me, I understand."

-- Tim Campbell, Ed Tait, Gary Lawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 C2

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