American Hockey League

Penguins‘ Harkins contributing any way he can

Seconds after taking the ice Saturday night against Toronto, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jansen Harkins skated full speed into Maple Leafs defenseman William Lagesson, delivering a bruising hit along the neutral zone wall opposite both clubs’ benches.

For Harkins, it was his first shift with the Penguins in five weeks dating to Oct. 18.

After the 3-2 Penguins win, Harkins spoke about the notable physical edge he provided in the contest.

“I think the best way to get yourself in the game is either get hit or hit somebody,” he said.

A waiver claim from Winnipeg in early October, Harkins earned a roster spot with the Penguins at the end of the preseason and skated on the third line for the first four games.

Failing to record a point in that span, Harkins was placed on waivers, clearing soon thereafter before being sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

Recently, Harkins’ transaction history between the Penguins and their AHL affiliate has become dizzying.

This month, the Penguins repeatedly have announced his recall from the AHL only to reassign him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shortly thereafter: seven times since Nov. 18 to be exact.

To be clear, those moves — many of them done in either a same- or next-day fashion — have not meant Harkins is perpetually traveling back and forth from Wilkes-Barre to Pittsburgh.

Rather, they can be considered paper transactions to ensure the Penguins have sufficient depth and remain compliant with the salary cap as other players (Rickard Rakell, P.O Joseph and Chad Ruhwedel being recent examples) are shifted to injured reserve.

Harkins has taken it all in good stride.

“That’s hockey,” he said. “I’m never going to complain about getting called up and getting sent down is part of it. So I just try to keep my gaze forward, stay in the moment and not let those things bother me too much.”

Still, a drawback of being frequently shifted between the Penguins’ and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s books meant that before last Saturday, Harkins had gone eight days without playing a game for either organization.

Thus, when he suited up for the Penguins on Saturday, Harkins was ready to make the most of his opportunity.

“I think physicality is something I’m going to have to do to be able to kind of carve out a role,” he said. “I think that comes first and, hopefully, making some plays and chipping in offensively comes after that. I also think it’s good to get in the game that way.”

Harkins skated for 6 minutes, 38 seconds and nine shifts against Toronto, both team lows.

As the third-line right wing alongside Lars Eller and Radim Zohorna, Harkins ended the evening with a shot and two hits while seeing 1:26 on the Penguins’ second power-play unit.

Coach Mike Sullivan was pleased with how Harkins played, even if there wasn’t too much that showed up on the stats sheet.

“He didn’t get a ton of minutes, but I thought he brought a lot of energy,” Sullivan said Saturday. “I thought he was impactful in the minutes that he played. He was physical on a number of different occasions. He made good decisions with the puck. He got in on the forecheck, he made some wall plays. Given the allotted time that he was given, I thought he made the most of it. He was certainly impactful on the game.”

On Tuesday night in Nashville, Harkins skated at left wing on the Penguins’ third line, seeing 11:34 of ice time and posting one shot in a 3-2 overtime defeat.

While he took a hooking penalty in the second period, his three hits led the club.

As long as he continues to get the call for the Penguins, Harkins is committed to contributing in whichever ways he can.

“Everybody wants to score goals and make plays, but sometimes it’s the little things that count,” Harkins said. “(I) just try to do my part out there. I’m just trying to bring something.”

Notes: The Penguins assigned forward Alex Nylander to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday. … The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assigned forward Jordan Frasca to Wheeling of the ECHL and released forward Cedric Desruisseaux from a professional tryout contract.

Justin Guerriero is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Justin by email at jguerriero@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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