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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 1:49 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

One more opening night for Pens

For openers -- that is, NHL home openers -- this will be the Pittsburgh Penguins' fourth in as many games.
 
After playing the home openers for Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton in a four-night span, the Penguins returned home from their Western Canada road trip to take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday in their own home opener.
 
The Penguins are looking to do better than last year's home opener, when they opened the Consol Energy Center with a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
 
While there are ceremonies associated with each opening night, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said the only adjustment the players must make is to a little more idle time than usual in the dressing room and on the ice during the pregame introductions.
 
"It's a little longer to wait, so you kind of just stand there," Fleury said. "It's a little longer, but it's not a big deal. You try to move around in the room and stay loose."

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 12:38 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

With Malkin out, Letestu remains on top line

With center Evgeni Malkin (lower body) out for the Penguins' home opener Tuesday night against Florida, Mark Letestu again moved into his spot on a line with Steve Sullivan at left wing and James Neal at right wing. That could very well be one of the Penguins' lines once Sidney Crosby returns from his concussion.
 
Crosby took part in the Penguins' morning skate, as he did during their three-game road trip to Western Canada, but again wore a white helmet signifying he cannot be hit. He said he is closer to being cleared for contact, but that he is not certain when he will get the go-ahead to take part in all aspects of practice.
 
The Penguins' other line combinations were: Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy; Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Pascal Dupuis; and Arron Asham - Richard Park - Craig Adams. The defensive pairs were Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek, Kris Letang - Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy - Matt Niskanen. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal.

The Panthers, coming off a 2-0 victory over the Islanders on Saturday, are something of an unknown quantity to the Penguins given all of their roster changes since last season. Among the additions were Jose Theodore, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall and Kris Versteeg, plus coach Kevin Dineen.

"It's a lot of new players, a new coach, a new goalie, a lot of different things," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "The similarities, the things we know about them are from people from other teams. I coached against their coach in the minor leagues. Their goalie (Theodore) we've seen at different spots. (There's a) familiarity with some of the players and the parts, but not necessarily the team."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:26 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Penguins Camp: Can Neal reach 30 goals?

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins forward James Neal doesn't have to convince coach Dan Bylsma he can be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. Persuading the Penguins' fans might take a little while longer.

Neal, acquired from Dallas late last season to add a reliable scorer to the Sidney Crosby line, never got to play alongside Crosby because of the concussion that sidelined the Penguins' captain during the second half of the 2010-11 season. Neal, pressing to prove to Pittsburgh that he could be the scorer he was in Dallas, wound up with only one goal in 20 regular season games and another in the playoffs after producing 21 goals in 59 games with the Stars.

Regardless, teammate Jordan Staal said, "I think personally Neal is going to do some great things this year."

Some of those once-skeptical fans must feel the same way, as they gave Neal a warm ovation during the first day of training camp on Saturday.

Staal believes that going through an entire training camp and season with the Penguins will prove far less stressful to Neal than making a hasty switch in teams and conferences late in a season. Bylsma concurs.

"He scored more goals than Tyler Kennedy last year, and Tyler Kennedy had a breakout year," Bylsma said, referring to Kennedy's 21-goal season. "To our fans, the feeling isn't the same because we didn't see him score those goals in our jersey.  James Neal is a plus 20-goals scorer and we think he can get to 30."
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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 2:08 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Penguins Camp: Crosby happy with first day

PITTSBURGH -- If it wasn't for the white helmet he wore that signified no contact, Sidney Crosby offered no sign that he is recovering from a concussion.

Crosby skated at full speed, pushing himself longer and faster than he has at any time during his injury layoff, while staying on the ice for nearly 70 minutes during the Pittsburgh Penguins' first training camp practice on Saturday. He drew loud cheers from a large crowd at Consol Energy Center when he snapped off a wrist shot that hit the net with authority and when he did anything that was reminiscent of a healthy Crosby.

Considering this was only the first day of camp, there was a lot of that. Or exactly how Crosby planned it.

Crosby, who hasn't played since Jan. 5, exerted himself at a 100 percent pace for the first time since he began working out in advance of this season -- and with no apparent ill effects. When Crosby recently pushed himself at a 90 percent pace, he had a relapse of the concussion-related symptoms that have prevented him from being cleared for full contact.

"That was a really good pace -- it was tough but fun to feel it again," Crosby said. "I worked as hard as I possibly could out there. For that period of time, that's the longest I've went at that pace. It felt good."

Unless the symptoms return -- and Crosby said they have largely vanished the last few weeks -- he plans to practice every day at this same pace until he is cleared for contact. The Penguins have no offered no hint when that might be.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 12:35 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Penguins Camp: Crosby going through drills

PITTSBURGH -- If Sidney Crosby didn't realize how much he was missed by Penguins' fans, he does now.

Crosby, whose popularity in Pittsburgh might be unrivaled by any other athlete, took the ice to a standing ovation during his first training camp practice Saturday. While players such as Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury also drew loud cheers when they first stepped onto the ice, the greeting given to Crosby was movie-star like. There were additional cheers when he merely skated up and down the ice and even more when he began passing the puck during routine drills.

Crosby, who hasn't played since Jan. 6 because of a concussion, stood out from the rest of his teammates for reasons other than his still-evident hockey skills. He is wearing a white helmet, rather than a black one like the rest of his teammates, to signify that he cannot be involved in contact. Crosby, whose recovery from the concussion remains ongoing, has been cleared to practice but still cannot take part in any scrimmaging or contact drills. He also wore the white helmet during an informal team workout Friday.

Crosby expects camp to be more intense and physically demanding than the practices were when he resumed working out with his teammates on March 31. He stopped practicing during the Penguins' first-round playoff loss to Tampa Bay when his concussion symptoms returned.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 11:02 AM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Penguins Camp: Positive start for Evgeni Malkin

PITTSBURGH -- If Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin is looking for a good omen to open his season, maybe this is it.

Malkin, admittedly not the most confident player in shootouts, beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a forehanded attempt on a penalty shot during the first period of a training camp-opening scrimmage Saturday at Consol Energy Center. Malkin has tried a variety of moves and strategies during his career in an attempt to find a reliable way to score on breakaways, and he was continuing to search when his 2010-11 season ended prematurely with a right knee injury on Feb. 4. He later had surgery to repair two torn ligaments.

In his career, Malkin is 7 of 29 (24.1 percent) in shootouts.

This is a pivotal season for Malkin, who is coming off not only a shortened season but a less-than-satisfying one in which he has 15 goals and 22 assists in 43 games only two years after leading the NHL with 113 points during the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning season in 2008-09. With Sidney Crosby's status for the start of the season uncertain as he recovers from a concussion, the Penguins are relying on Malkin to carry their offense until Crosby returns.

"I think he's a motivated guy right now," coach Dan Bylsma said.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 10:28 AM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Penguins Camp: Thousands at CEC for first practice

PITTSBURGH -- Saturday wasn't a day to sleep in for Pittsburgh Penguins fans.

The Penguins are offering free admission to their first two days of training camp, and thousands of fans filled much of Consol Energy Center's lower bowl for a 9 a.m. EDT session Saturday. Concession stands were open and parking was free at lots adjacent to the uptown arena, and a majority of the fans wore team jerseys or apparel.

The 52 players available for Saturday's practice were divided into three groups, with forwards Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz and James Neal and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury among the first on the ice. Sidney Crosby, cleared to practice but not for contact as he recovers from a concussion, was in the third and final group that was scheduled to practice around noon.
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I was in there icing my face as she was trying to push a baby out.

— Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf on going to the hospital with a facial laceration while his wife was in labor following Game 1 on Wednesday