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Thursday November 26 2015
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Dropping The Gloves with Arron Asham

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Arron Asham missed 38 games in 2010-11 after signing with Pittsburgh in the 2010 offseason. That usually doesn’t earn a contract renewal for a 33-year-old role player whose offensive output was just 5 goals and 6 assists.

But after Asham's work in the playoffs and the departure of Mike Rupp opened for the gritty winger, who will make a thrifty $775,000 this year. Asham says he feels healthy, confident and comfortable in Pittsburgh now, and hopes his performance on the ice will reflect that. PSR's Alex Nseir spoke with Asham during the start of training camp.

Alex Nseir: A lot has been made about the competitiveness at camp. Was it more intense than usual?
I think every camp you've got to come in and earn your spot. But we've got a lot of guys here that helped us last year get to the playoffs and they’re hungry for a spot. The veterans can’t be too confident. We’ve got to come here, we’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to set a good example.

AN: Sidney Crosby was in your practice group the other day. What was it like skating with him again in a real practice?
It’s definitely good to get him back. As everyone knows he’s been out for a long time and you’ve just got to take it slowly with him. We want him back as soon as we can, (but) he’s got to come back on his terms. We’ve got to make sure he knows he’s 100 percent. As soon as he comes back our team is going to be that much better.

AN: You missed a lot of last season due to injuries. Do you feel confident coming into this year that you can stay healthy?
AA: I worked hard in the offseason. Last year wasn’t the best year for me with all of the injuries and stuff and not feeling comfortable. But I had a good playoffs and I’m just going to (carry that into this season) and hope that I come in here and earn some ice time.
photo by Chuck LeClaire
AN: How did you structure your offseason since you had so much time off this summer?
I took about a month and a bit off and then started off slowly. It was a long offseason so I didn’t want to burn out too quickly. But I’m feeling great right now. I’ve got a lot of jump and I feel strong out there. I think the summer went really well.

AN: After the playoffs ended last year, you expressed an interest in returning to Pittsburgh and you ended up signing before the start of free agency. Were you at all surprised at how everything worked out?
AA: I think if it wasn’t for my playoff performance I don’t think I would’ve been back. Because of the season I had with all of the injuries I didn’t get to prove myself too much. Ray (Shero) had me back and gave me another shot, so I’ve got to come in here and prove to him that he made the right decision and hopefully earn another contract.

AN: Do you have any goals or expectations to start this season?
I want five goals this year, five assists – I’ll be happy. I just want a regular shift in every game. I want to try to stay healthy and go from there.

AN: As someone who has been a tougher player in the league throughout your career, can you talk about the sudden deaths of enforcers Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak over the summer?
It’s definitely tough to see guys you played against for years go down like that. It’s tough to comment on. I’m not sure if it’s from the pressure weighing on their shoulders every game knowing that they have to fight or what it was. It’s something that we definitely have to look into more and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

AN: When you say you have to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore, do you mean taking fighting out of the game should be a consideration?
Fighting will never leave the game I think. If fighting’s gone then star players are going to be taken advantage of. There are going to be a lot more injuries than if there REUTERS/Jason Cohnwas fighting. I think it is part of the game. It should stay in the game. It’s tough (what happened to Boogaard, Rypien and Belak). Depression is a disease – it’s tough to deal with. I don’t think anyone knew that Belak had depression or the bout of it that he had. It’s unfortunate that it happens so we just need to keep a better eye on it.

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason—likely to $10 million—and signing him to a long-term extension will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million annually.
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