Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hornqvist brings intensity every day

- Jason Mackey: jmackey@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.

cross between American Gladiator and middle linebacker.

“If you look at our other European guys like Olli Maatta [Finland] or Evgeni Malkin [Russia], there’s intensity,” Kuhnhackl said. “But with Horny, it’s on another level.”

Kuhnhackl said Hornqvist has developed a new pregame routine, in that he couples the yelling with a few body punches before they head out onto the ice.

Hornqvist does similar stuff with Marc-Andre Fleury while bumping gloves and chests with several others.

“He brings an intensity to everything,” Bryan Rust said.

“Intensity is the only way to describe him,” Justin Schultz added.

“Nonstop,” was how Conor Sheary put it.

“It’s sometimes too much yelling,” Evgeni Malkin kidded on Saturday. “But I know he brings energy. … He loves to play, he loves to be here.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has said repeatedly that he has no problem with Hornqvist’s bench antics — chirping at officials or opposing players — but about five or six times a game, Sullivan will have to reel Hornqvist in. Sullivan joked that he and Hornqvist “have their own vocabulary” when it comes to those heated moments in the bench.

Tempers have surely flared, but it’s a small price to pay for the benefit of having Hornqvist around.

“I don’t ever want him to change,” Sullivan said of Hornqvist. “That’s what makes him what he is. That’s what makes him the personalit­y that helps this team become a more competitiv­e team. I think that energy is contagious. I think his teammates get a kick out of it. I know his coaches do.”

Hornqvist said the intensity actually comes from his mom, while he looks more like his dad — totally accurate if you kept track of Root Sports’ reporting of the team’s annual dads’ trip.

“Some guys are that way,” Hornqvist said. “Some guys are not. I like to make things happen.”

With the news out of Sunday’s practice that he could supplant Sheary on Sidney Crosby’s right wing, Hornqvist will certainly look to make things happen in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But reality says that, for this team, Hornqvist doesn’t need to score a goal or produce a point to have an impact.

“He’s definitely the most intense guy I’ve ever played with,” said Matt Cullen, who has played 1,469 NHL games when you combine regular season and playoffs. “Everybody understand­s how bad he wants to win. It’s all about that.

“It’s not about personal stuff as far as wanting goals or wanting assists. I think we all know how much he wants to win and how much he cares about the guys.

“He brings our intensity level up as a group. There’s been quite a few games where his level of intensity has either gotten the crowd going on gotten us going. That’s pretty unique for a guy to be able to spark a team that way.”

Before Sunday’s practice, Hornqvist — you’d think or hope he was joking — slid into the slot to block a shot. His language during practice can be loud and is typically quite colorful, one of the few voices reporters can distinguis­h.

General manager Jim Rutherford isn’t in the dressing room before games, but he does notice Hornqvist when he reports for work each day. It’s never subtle.

“It doesn’t matter how tired he is, whether we won the night before or we lost the night before, he’s in there. ‘Hey, hey, hey, hey. How’s everybody doing?’ ” Rutherford said. “It’s not dragging into the rink. It’s always very positive, very positive attitude, upbeat. That rubs off on the other guys.”

After games, the necks of Hornqvist’s undershirt­s are routinely shredded. They don’t come like this. Hornqvist usually Hulk Hogan’s them in fits of intensity.

In practice or warmup before a game, Hornqvist doesn’t dial it down around the goalies, poking for rebounds around Fleury, celebratin­g when his scores, screaming when he doesn’t.

“He’s fun,” Fleury said. “Great to be around. It works you up a bit.”

It’s actually impossible to talk to one of Hornqvist’s teammates without their faces lighting up with excitement.

Or laugh at some of the stuff he has done, the stuff they’re not willing to share publicly.

“Nothing we’d like the media to get a hold of,” Sheary laughed when prodded for his favorite Hornqvist story.

“I can tell you this, when he was injured, pregame soccer was much quieter when he was injured [Hornqvist has had two concussion­s]. It felt awkward.

“He just brings the energy wherever he is. I don’t know where he gets it all, but it’s pretty impressive.”

 ?? Peter Diana/Post-Gazette ?? Mike Sullivan said Sunday he's enjoying the break and the chance it gives him to teach, something he doesn't often get to do during the season.
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette Mike Sullivan said Sunday he's enjoying the break and the chance it gives him to teach, something he doesn't often get to do during the season.

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