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Smith, Holzapfel, Peters, Reese, Grant, Phil Dupuis, Strait, Ferriero (PIT).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Fans lined up around the block hours before a training camp scrimmage Wednesday night. Brandon Sutter stole the show.
In order to do this, the Pens need more bodies. So they put in the call to the AHL and brought up the following players to participate, from the Pens twitter:
Forwards Holzapfel, Uher, Gibbons, Payerl, Trevor Smith, Peters, MacIntyre, Sill and Thompson...Defensemen Dumoulin, Morrow, Samuelsson, Grant and Reese. Goalie Killeen. Black and Gold Game players
A very interesting mix of players who will at least get a chance to show their skills in as close to an NHL game without actually being in the NHL.
And, as Dan Bylsma said they're not picking teams out of a playground, the club has very carefully selected which team is which to allow for them to work on powerplays, shorthanded situations, and also potential lines. It's believed that Eric Tangradi will start out with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal but at some point tonight Beau Bennett will get his chance to play on the big line. It's definitely a big night for those two young guys.
We're about to drop the puck tonight at 7:00, and it feels good. Root Sports will even have a television broadcast with full coverage, just like any normal Wednesday night game in January. It's finally time to play some hockey.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Beau Bennett – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Eric Tangradi – Jayson Megna – Dustin Jeffrey
**Notice anything there? Bennett and Tangradi have flip-flopped with the rest of the lines remaining exactly the same. The top line is a mortal lock (assuming health) and it’s a pretty good bet the 3rd and 4th lines are locked in too- unless Bylsma gets cute and tries to move TK up to the 2nd line, opening a 3rd line spot for Tangradi and a trip back to the minors for Bennett.
**What a chance for Beau Bennett. On a line with the league MVP and a sniper who netter 40 last year. Not bad for a kid who just turned 21 a few months ago. Huge, huge chance for Bennett to show if he’s ready.
**Really liking the look of the bottom two lines. A lot of nasty on there, especially that 4th line which should be a perfect energy/physical line.
**Poor Dustin Jeffrey. Yesterday Tangradi got the chance with Malkin/Neal. Today the prospect that most think (and hope) will eventually be a top player gets his shot. What does old Dustin Jeffrey have to do? Maybe it’s the plan of the team to give the rotation in this order, and training camp is very short, but it would be a shame if Jeffrey never gets a shot to stick on a regular line. He’s not going to win any major end of season awards, but he seems to have enough skill and size to make the lineup.
Head Coach Dan Bylsma has decided to use Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik in his "shutdown" pair that he is so fond of, ever since the days of Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. Despite the chemistry and breakdowns that Orpik/Martin have had when they've played together in the past in brief stints, it seems like that is happening.
Which opens up the big question: who will then play as the regular partner of Kris Letang? Letang will probably be playing 26-28 minutes a night and played very heavily on all the special teams, so it's not as if whoever his regular partner will be the only guy he's out there with.
The top answer seemed like Matt Niskanen, who's the most experienced and best options after Orpik and Martin. However, Bylsma hinted that might not be the case. Bylsma told the media it's "a real possibility" that 2009 first round pick Simon Despres may play with Letang, though the coach quickly hedged his statement with it "not something we're locked into".
Bylsma's said a lot of things in past training camps. He's said that Arron Asham might play with Evgeni Malkin at times (and he really didn't). He's said seemingly every year that Tyler Kennedy might play with Malkin- and that never lasts.
Should we read into it this time? Mike Colligan from the Hockey Writers isn't, giving Despres only a 3% chance of making the roster and saying:
Simon Despres is simply a victim of a numbers game. Shero says he’ll keep no more than eight defenseman on the final roster and may possibly cut that to seven. Barring a trade, with eight defensemen eligible for waivers and no exhibition games for Despres to steal a job, it’ll be very difficult for him to make the team. It also wouldn’t make sense from a development standpoint. A young, promising defenseman like Despres can learn a lot more from having a big role at the AHL level as opposed to spending most evenings in the press box or getting limited minutes at the NHL level.
Despres only chance is to play very well with Letang, but perhaps more importantly- benefit from Letang playing very well when they're out there together. If the Despres/Letang combo is showing the coach so much that he simply can't turn away from it, that might force management's hand on one of the other depth players.
Despres and Letang have some experience playing together in preseasons of past, and they've played well too. From my vantage point, Letang seemed to play some of the most heady and best hockey that I've ever seen him play while paired with Despres. Letang wouldn't pinch as much, seemed to be very conscious of the fact his partner was a young guy and Letang made sure to compensenate for that and prepare his positioning for anything. It's no guarantee it would keep up over a long season, but Despres might just have a chance if he can display great chemistry with the Pens top defenseman.
What Malkin will find as the third member of his line will not be a total new face, though. Eric Tangradi, he of 1,000 chances, will get yet another as he'll be the first forward to get a crack at playing with the Malkin/Neal juggenaut. And, believe it or not, Tangradi actually has some experience and success playing a limited amount with Malkin.
Tangradi and Mr. Hilary Duff (aka Mike Comrie) were Malkin's linemates all throughout training camp of 2010, and the trio played pretty well together in practices and pre-season games. It didn't last long, but there is that history to draw off of, especially for Tangradi.
You don't really worry about having two guys who combined for 90 goals like Malkin and Neal did last season, and how they fit into the third member of the line. However, Tangradi could present some benefits for them. He's got the size to battle in front of the net, which could draw attention and open up more ice for Malkin and Neal to operate.
Tangradi's AHL stats this season aren't that impressive- 18 points (10g, 8a) in 34 games and his NHL career mark of 1 goal, 4 assists in 40 games is even worse. But in a short-season, the Pens only need to find lightning in a bottle. If Tangradi can take up space in front of the net and stay on-sides more often than not, they can let Malkin and Neal worry about the majority of the puck-handling and potentially find a successful combination.
@penguins #Pens GM Ray Shero: Malkin is on his way. Should arrive today. Won't skate today but will tomorrow.
@penguins More Shero: Friday you have to have your roster set at 3pm.
Will anything change with practices on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday a scrimmage Wednesday night and a practice Friday morning (a day before the opener)? Seems doubtful, but there are only 26 players in camp, so it's not as if there are a ton of different decisions that are needed to be made.
@penguins More Shero: No (injuries). Knock on wood. Everybody is healthy coming into camp
@penguins More Shero: Possible we could keep 8 defensemen but not 9
The odd man out, from a numbers perspective, seems to be Despres - who does not need to clear waivers - unlike the rest. There is also, the option of a trade or even waiving a player exists too. For a while it has seemed like the Pens have always liked and been grooming Strait and Bortuzzo for bigger roles, now we'll see this week if they are ready to become permanent members of the team.
From multiple reports on twitter the parking lot at the Penguins practice facility in Southpointe is already completely full. Fans will have to fight for parking all around now, including down a hill and near some industrial looking offices/buildings that is a bit of a hike (speaking from experience). The Pens have their door open for free today for their first official practice of the season. It's still unknown where in the world
Carmen Sandiego err Evgeni Malkin is. Malkin was reportedly collecting his belongings and preparing to depart Russia around this time, but his exact arrival to Pittsburgh is unknown. Unlike Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, Malkin will NOT be participating in the KHL all-star game and the Penguins do not expect any complications or issues with Malkin reporting to the team. It's just a matter of travel schedules at this point.
For the rest of the team, that are in Pittsburgh they will definitely see a very packed atmosphere for practice today, showing that at least in one NHL town fans are very welcoming and receptive to the end of the lockout.
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.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will open training camp on Sunday afternoon with a 3:10 p.m. practice that will be open to the public at the team’s Southpointe practice facility. A full training camp schedule and roster will be released on Sunday.
Why Southpointe and not their home at the Consol Energy Center?
Because Big Bird, Elmo and company with Sesame Street are in town for a show today. First scheduling conflict on the first day possible, what a way to begin the season.
The team hasn't announced a training camp roster yet, but see below in this story stream to see the comprehensive list of players that will be in the lightning quick camp.
Bortuzzo has six games of NHL experience, all from last year. He's expected to be a contender for a roster spot and under the terms of the last CBA he would have to clear waivers to make it back to the minor leagues, leaving many to believe that he would be kept in Pittsburgh if they decide to keep eight defenseman on their 23-man roster.
Strait has 12 career NHL games, including nine last season. He also played in Pittsburgh's last three playoff games. Like Bortuzzo, Strait probably is waiver eligible and also expected to contribute to the defensive logjam that Pittsburgh has.
Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin and Deryk Engelland all have opening night spots in the lineup locked up, given they stay healthy. That leaves one sweater for Bortuzzo, Strait, Ben Lovejoy and Simon Despres to battle it out for. With nine defensemen one of them (likely Despres) could be sent back to Wilkes-Barre following the lockout-shortened training camp.
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Dustin Jeffrey* - Evgeni Malkin** - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Eric Tangradi - Jayson Megna - Beau Bennett
Matt Niskanen / Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik / Paul Martin
Deryk Engelland / Ben Lovejoy
*Ok, so maybe Jeffrey has never lined up here, and there's no real evidence that he will get the first crack on this line but we had five lines worth of forwards and Jeffrey has senority over everyone on the 5th line so we just game him the chance.
** Malkin is expected to be in-transit from Russia to Pittsburgh this weekend and likely will join the team sometime on Sunday/Monday. Letang has returned from Russia earlier in the week and been practicing with the other Penguin players.
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