Unsung Hero: Mark Eaton’s long road back to Penguins, playoffs (Puck Daddy)

Mark Eaton didn’t have a contract after last season, when he played 62 games with the New York Islanders and was a minus-17. He didn’t find any takers during the summer free-agent frenzy. Then the lockout arrived, and was settled four months later – and Eaton still didn’t have a contract for 2012-13. So he did what many people do when their prospects have dried up: He went home again. Eaton signed a professional tryout agreement with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom he played four seasons between 2006-10. There were no guarantees he’d return to the big club – just the chance for the then-35-year-old defenseman to play pro hockey. "Making the Penguins team was my ultimate goal, but I just tried to keep it short-sighted and short-term, going to Wilkes-Barre to try and get my game going, but, obviously, the lockout and everything else didn't allow that to happen," said Eaton to the Post Gazette back in March. "I just tried to work hard, keep getting better every day, and eventually end up here. And fortunately that's what happened."

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