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Penguins' Pouliot working out with Gary Roberts, hopes to become 'reliable defender'

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

Derrick Pouliot is determined to enter next season in the best shape of his life.

Heading into his second full NHL season, the 21-year-old - drafted eighth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012 - is one of several players working out with former NHL forward-turned-training guru Gary Roberts, and has drastically changed his diet with a view to improve his conditioning.

With Paul Martin off to San Jose as a free agent, the opportunity exists for Pouliot to take on an increased role, and he's set to seize it.

"I think I’m capable of being a reliable defender in this league. I think I can produce even more offensively, too," Pouliot told Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It’s really about taking a two-way role, not giving up anything and creating some chances for us. I’ll come into camp in shape and be able to handle some more minutes and keep up with those guys.

"It’s about getting my conditioning up so if I get caught out there I’m not dying trying to keep up."

Pouliot recorded two goals and five assists while averaging 17:33 of ice time through 34 games prior to suffering a season-ending upper-body injury.

The Penguins were understandably reluctant to include Pouliot in any trade proposals this summer, and he'll be looked at to take a big next step in 2015-16.

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