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Looking at the Penguins’ first camp lineups

We are BACK, back, baybay!

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Good morning and let me be the first to welcome you to the Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 season! (end Chris Berman voice)

The Pens officially kicked off training camp this morning at their UPMC Lemieux practice facility.

The 58 players participating have been split up into three practice groups. These teams can and will change from day to day, as the coaches see fit.

But what’s the fun in not reading into the groups a little? After all, Mike Sullivan has had many months to sit and stew and configure plans for what he wanted to see first. This is what he wanted to see first.

Team 1 has the presumptive first line, what could be for today anyways, with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust in this group with Jeff Carter. This team could also have elements of a fourth line with Brian Boyle and Danton Heinen around. Other candidates? Sam Poulin stands out. Team one has what will likely be the makeup of the third pair with Mike Matheson and Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Friedman.

Team 2 features what could be a potential season starting second line components with Jason Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen joining Evan Rodrigues. The only other surefire NHL opening lineup players are Brian Dumoulin and John Marino, a very interesting configuration. I believe in prior training camps the team has cross-trained and not kept Dumoulin and Kris Letang together, seeing what they may or may not have with other options. I suspect before too long the typical Pittsburgh first pair of 8-58 will find their way back together.

Team 3 has what should form over the next few weeks to be the team’s new buzz saw with free agent signee Brock McGinn joining Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese. Letang is in this group and will work with Marcus Pettersson and Pierre-Olivier Joseph in another eye-catching split of defenders.

If tradition holds, we will see a few new combinations and players shuffled between teams as soon as tomorrow. September is the time for some experimentation, as we see today with the split of Dumoulin and Letang.

However, today’s first look at the top three lines, specifically with the mentality to place Carter with the typical Sidney Crosby wingers does show where coach Sullivan’s head as at for his first idea for how to setup his personnel in a world where he will have to start the season with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both on the shelf due to injuries.

And here’s how they were deployed early in day 1, with some mixing and matching of NHL talent with young and new players to the team for a first practice: