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Penguins new lines in practice today and Haggerty rewarded with NHL contract

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Some interesting developments today for the Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL: Preseason-Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Some cool news as the Penguins have upgraded Ryan Haggarty from an AHL contract to an NHL deal.

“I just want to make some noise and give myself the best chance in Wilkes-Barre to get an NHL contract,” Haggerty told the Tribune-Review.

And noise he did make, scoring a couple goals in exhibition games and being an active player all over the ice.

It was an easy decision in many respects - earlier in the week Freddy Tiffels departed the team to go back to Germany (where he’s sign to play in the DEL already this season) so his NHL contract was terminated. That opens up an extra spot for Haggerty.

It’s a great trade to make too; Tiffels only had 2 goals and 3 points in 12 AHL games last year and spent the majority of the season in the ECHL. Haggerty scored 16 goals and had 37 points in 47 AHL games last season.

It’s a tough uphill battle to go from not even an NHL contract to the NHL, but it is possible. Haggerty, 25, only needs to look as far as Conor Sheary and Carter Rowney as examples of perseverance and making the long career track upward to the top.

Haggerty is not a very good skater and that may ultimately keep him from getting all the way to the show. But his hands and shot are very good. He also has a good knack to have that the more you watch him, the more you notice him and the more you tend to like him. It took Rowney until age-27 to get into his first NHL game, and while that is an unlikely path, who knows, Haggerty might be getting on the radar now if he continues moving in the right direction and can remain one of the best and most productive forwards in Wilkes-Barre he could garner more attention.

This was Haggerty’s 3rd camp in Pittsburgh, so he’s already been on the grind for a while. He just got cut on Sunday. But he’s still due some congratulations on a job well done and getting to take the new step with his first NHL contract so good on him!

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The Pens also had some new lines today at practice that was notable for a few reasons:

First of all, let’s remember Mike Sullivan said “don’t read too much into lines in practice” earlier in camp, as he wanted to test things and try out different combinations. Also anyone who knows Sullivan’s quick shuffling already knows that other than Crosby for 1st line center and Malkin for 2C that nothing is written in stone and everything will be altered sooner or later.

But some of what is happening (and NOT happening) is intriguing.

For starters, Riley Sheahan joined practice with his teammates for the first time this preseason coming off a minor lower-body injury. This shifted Matt Cullen to the wing for the first time. This did not shift Derick Brassard out of the 3rd line center role.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have remained a camp-constant, which was the most famous shuffling Sullivan enacted last season. Probably the most meaningful too.

Daniel Sprong, for the first time all camp, is away from Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. Sprong’s no 4th liner, but a spot with Cullen+Sheahan isn’t the most unskilled position to be in- at least unlike last year there’s no multiple Rowney/Kuhnhackl/Reaves types that would make Sprong virtually useless with no support.

Where Sprong lands or ends up remains somewhat blocked, as Kessel and Patric Hornqvist do not play well on the left wing, and the more versatile Bryan Rust has been almost exclusively on the right side as well lately. That leaves little room for Sprong, who also is only an option at RW.

For today at least, Dominik Simon gets a prime role with the Brassard-Rust duo. Zach Aston-Reese was on the outside looking in. That could well be changed by tomorrow but it’s significant that it was the case at least for today.

Lines will always be analyzed and debated, no matter the month. In the big picture, numerous combos will be experimented with early in the season as the coaching staff looks to find what is working. But for the world the top 4 lines and 3 defense pairs seen today could easily be the group to go with on Game 1 on October 4.

..Or they could go back into the blender tomorrow and Sprong could be on the 1st line, Brassard on the 2nd line wing, Kessel to the 3rd line. Who knows. Part of the fun to see what direction the team wants to go in.