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Original Issue

Born Again

Since arriving in Pittsburgh, winger Carl Hagelin has revived his own game and breathed new life into the Penguins

Last year Carl Hagelin ended Pittsburgh's season; this year he might well save it. The fleet-footed winger—who as a Ranger scored a series-clinching overtime winner against the Penguins in the first round of the 2015 playoffs—has helped turn underachieving Pittsburgh into a potential playoff force.

After a 43-game tenure in Anaheim, where he had just 12 points and disappeared into the fourth line, Hagelin was traded to Pittsburgh in mid-January. There he has rediscovered his game as a havoc-raising forechecker with a nose for big goals. After the deal Hagelin had 27 points in 37 games and six game-winning goals, setting a franchise record for the most by a midseason acquisition. Playing on the second line with the equally speedy Phil Kessel, who not accidentally exploded for 34 points after Jan. 17, Hagelin has seen a 15.1% jump in offensive-zone starts, which has had a direct effect on his possession stats (Pittsburgh owns a 57.3% advantage in shot attempts when Hagelin is on the ice), which have never been higher.

Moreover, Hagelin's extensive postseason experience as a clutch scorer and penalty killer—73 games over the last four years—is an asset for a team that has not won a game beyond the second round since 2009. Most important for the Penguins, who have scored just one goal in seven of their last eight playoff games, Hagelin holds the promise of secondary scoring, either by netting goals himself or by acting as a spark plug for the dangerous Kessel.

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JUSTIN BERL/ICON SPORTSWIRE/AP