Bruce Bennett

2013 Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp

A handful of players from the Penguins minor league team in Wilkes-Barre have unofficially been beckoned up to join the NHL level players before the expected start of training camp.

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14 Total Updates since January 12, 2013
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Cut day:Pens demote Bennett, put Strait on waivers

Some cuts today in Penguins training camp. Via Bob McKenzie on twitter about players placed on waivers today:

Smith, Holzapfel, Peters, Reese, Grant, Phil Dupuis, Strait, Ferriero (PIT).

Also the team has announced that forwards Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna (who do not need to clear waivers) have been cut and sent back down to the minors.

The biggest surprise is Brian Strait. Strait played in the Penguins last few playoff games, after Paul Martin was injured and was seen as a guy likely to make the NHL roster. To expose him to waivers is a risk, but also today is a day when many players league wide have hit the wire and could be claimed, so it's as good a day as any to try and sneak him down.

Among the survivors, for now at least, is Simon Despres. If he's good enough to stay in the lineup, he'll probably stay in Pittsburgh. If not, and he's beat out by guys like Robert Bortuzzo and Ben Lovejoy, Despres (who is safe from waivers) will be sent back to the AHL.

Does this news mean that Lovejoy and Bortuzzo have made it? There's nothing offical yet, but the Pens are down to 23 players, so they could keep everyone know if they so chose to.

Cut down day can always have some surprises and seeing Bennett and Strait sent packing certainly qualifies. Now we'll wait to see if anyone wants to claim Strait.


Trending Up & Down After Last Night's Scrimmage

After seeing last night's Black and Gold scrimmage, a look at who we think is trending up, and who is going the wrong way.

Trending Up

Beau Bennett
The 21 year old may not be experienced enough or strong enough to compete with NHL defensemen in the corners and along the boards, so he might be ending up back in the minors this season. But what’s undeniable is his ability- both physically and mentally to think the game. And both were on display in the goal he scored in the team’s scrimmage last night. In a heady move, Bennett played the puck off the wall to himself while avoiding the incoming defender looking to make a hit. He collected the puck and swooped in on a two on one, gave some moves and chipped a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury. It happened in an instant and showed the high amount of skill there. It also may be worth pointing out though that the more experienced Eric Tangradi played more on the Evgeni Malkin / James Neal line, so the numbers may not work out for Bennett this time around. But it won’t be long before he gets his chance to be in the NHL full-time.

Brandon Sutter
Looked great at the scrimmage. As NHL fans we knew Sutter was a good, young player, but now we’re starting to get an appreciation for just how good he is. I was impressed by his skating and foot-speed, both of which stood out. He produced points in the scrimmage, which may not always happen every night in games, but he looked confident with the puck on his stick and was making things happen.

Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin defensive unit
Sure it was an intra-squad scrimmage and Malkin and Sidney Crosby probably didn’t have the foot all the way down, but Martin and Orpik were on the opposite team from the Pens two stars and got a lot of looks at them and they didn’t look too out of place. Malkin scored a sick goal, but it was on a 5-on-3 drill, at even strength the Martin/Orpik unit was just fine. Orpik was physical, Martin made some good outlet passes. For one night, all was well with Dan Bylsma’s new “shut-down” pair.

Jayson Megna
Last night was one of the first times I’ve seen him play, and definitely the first time I had his number circled as someone to try and notice. To see why the organization is so high on him. It wasn’t hard to tell. Megna, an undrafted rookie free agent, has size, can skate and has some nifty hands that on at least two instances handled the puck enough for it to make an impression on me. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he kept improving and working at it, if Megna has a real shot to make the NHL roster or at least be a call-up starting next fall.

Dan Bylsma
Hard not to be impressed with this scrimmage. Not only was there a crowd, there were refs, television timeouts, full intermissions, arranged powerplay work, a scheduled overtime and shootout all set-up by the coaching staff. They had a lot of time to think and plan during the lockout, and the idea to basically have a fake pre-season game to get everyone closer to full NHL game speed has to be a good one.

Penguins fans
Yeah it’s hokey but when you get 18,000+ people for a meaningless scrimmage on a Wednesday night and actually have to turn people away, that’s saying something. Sure it was free admission and parking, but on the heels of the lockout the Penguin fans are in full-force and probably more ready than the players for the season to begin.

Trending Down

Simon Despres
Might be mean to say “trending down”, as it’s just a dry run scrimmage and Despres’ performance certainly isn’t going to change anyone’s long-term impression of him. But for a guy battling a numbers game to make the NHL roster (with 8 defensemen ahead of him on one-way contracts) Despres needed to standout and really prove that he belonged. And they paired him with Kris Letang at points last night, giving him the chance to do just that. Last night was definitely not the night. Either Despres or Letang got lost right from the opening faceoff, allowing Matt Cooke to get all alone and pot an easy goal. From there, maybe he was rattled but pucks seemed to explode off Despres’ stick all night. He just didn’t look like a guy you would put into an NHL lineup right now.

Warren Peters


(Image from The Pensblog)
Oh Warren Peters, poor, poor Warren Peters. The recipient of free candy in front of everyone.

Eric Tangradi
This could be just my sight of things, but in the battle between Bennett and Tangradi; Bennett made the splash plays, Tangradi was hardly noticeable. And when he was, it wasn’t a positive impression. Now the Pens brass may have their sights on letting Tangradi get the first chance at playing on the 2nd line, but as a man with exactly 1 goal in 40 NHL games, Tangradi just didn’t make an impact. Maybe he’s having better practices and showing stuff on different days, and you have to take the overall body of work into things to evaluate a roster spot, but for this night Tangradi was pretty much a dud.

Dustin Jeffrey
Again, barely noticeable, and unlike Tangradi it’s not as if he’s at least getting to play with some skilled players. Jeffrey seems absolutely buried, playing on lower lines with lesser players that don’t factor into the Penguins plans this season. It seems like a shame but Jeffrey’s stuck in some sort of opportunity rut that he’s just not getting out of. Hopefully there’s a roster spot in Pittsburgh for him, because it feels like he has something to offer the team. But from the way he’s used, it doesn’t seem like the coaches are in too much of a hurry to find that out.

Tyler Kennedy
This one may be a head-scratcher. Kennedy played pretty well and even scored a goal. But that could be the problem. TK scored from a really tight angle, throwing a junk shot at the net that just happened to get lucky enough to find a way past Tomas Vokoun. It’s happened many times in Kennedy’s career and then he starts throwing pucks from all sorts of places on the ice, most of which don’t have a reason to be shot or a prayer at beating an NHL level goalie. In the process the play is killed and all energy and momentum is stopped in its tracks. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this time around, but sometimes scoring a goal in a bad way can be bad for mental makeup.

From your vantage point who do you think has seen their chances of making the team improve and who has disappointed?


Pens Camp Schedule, free scrimmage Wednesday night

From a team release:

Fans are invited to the Penguins’ “Black & Gold” Scrimmage Wednesday at 7 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center.

Admission is free, and doors at the Trib Total Media gate will open at 6 p.m. Parking is free at CONSOL Energy Center surface lots on a first-come, first-served basis after 5 p.m.

Coach Dan Bylsma wants to create a game-like atmosphere for his players as they prepare for the start of the season. The scrimmage will include a full warm-up skate, TV timeouts and full intermissions. Regardless of the score, the teams will play a five-minute overtime period and also participate in a shootout.

The PensGear store inside the Trib Total Media gate lobby and selected concession stands throughout the FedEx Level will be open on Wednesday night. (However, the discounted merchandise and free concession promotions announced by the team will not start until the home opener on Jan. 23).

Penguins’ training camp practices on Monday (12 noon), Tuesday (11 a.m.) and Friday (11 a.m.) at CONSOL Energy Center also will be open to the public free of charge. Doors at the Trib Total Media gate will open 30 minutes before the start of each practice. Regular daily parking rates will be in effect on weekdays. The team will not skate on Thursday.

This, like the announcement of 15 promotions in the first 15 home games, is another effort for the Penguins to reach out and welcome back fans after the lockout.

It will be a quick turnaround to opening game, Saturday and Philadelphia followed by a compressed 48 games schedule, but the Pens are gearing up and there are a lot of free chances to see them in action before the games begin to count.

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