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Training Camp

Defending champion Penguins 'ready to go'

High-spirited Stanley Cup winners eager to get back on ice

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up where they left off three months ago at the start of training camp Friday.

In the Penguins' first camp session at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the reigning Stanley Cup champions showcased their characteristic speed during three practices and a scrimmage. There wasn't a sign of complacency, even with coach Mike Sullivan arriving late and star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin competing at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"There's definitely a confidence," defenseman Derrick Pouliot said. "The guys are excited to be back. It's good to see everybody back here. We have some great guys and they're ready to go for the season."

The Penguins, who were in high spirits, echoed a desire to start their title defense. Some players seemed determined to make an impact early, including Pouliot.

Pouliot came into camp a year ago destined to snag a roster spot for opening day, but played his way out of one because of a lack of conditioning. He was eventually recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and had seven assists in 22 games with Pittsburgh last season.

"Maybe [conditioning] was one of the things holding me back last year from performing at my best," Pouliot said. "I'm going into my third year professionally, so I have to learn how to be professional. … I think I have a little more confidence coming into this training camp. I'm confident in my ability to play and the shape I came in. There's no worries there anymore."

Though it was only one day, the difference in Pouliot's build and agility was noticeable. The slimmed-down 22-year-old, who said he lost "quite a bit of weight" but was unsure of the exact amount, was paired with defenseman Trevor Daley in a scrimmage their team won 3-2.

Pouliot said he was focused on making sure his performance from the previous camp didn't carry over into this September.

"[I want to show] just an overall consistent game, all-around consistent game," Pouliot said. "I want to be good in my own zone and part of my game is creating offensively. … I feel really good. I definitely feel a lot better, a lot lighter and quicker."

Sullivan, who arrived from Toronto around noon Friday, was impressed with Pouliot's transformation.

"He looks terrific," Sullivan said. "I was talking to him in the dressing room before I went out on the ice with these guys and he looks terrific. He's a determined guy and that's great for us."

Daley, who sustained a broken ankle May 20 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final, also is determined to regain form after watching his teammates compete in the Stanley Cup Final.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm6: Daley chats about lifting the Cup

"I want to play as much as I can depending on what positions they put me in," Daley said. "Every time I go over the boards, I'll do my best. … Some of the exhibition games will help, obviously. That's why we play exhibitions, but I feel good, though."

Daley impressed after the Chicago Blackhawks traded him to Pittsburgh on Dec. 14, with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 53 regular-season games and a goal and five assists in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games. His most noteworthy performance came with defenseman Kris Letang suspended for Game 4 against the Washington Capitals in the second round.

In a 3-2 win on May 4, Daley played 28:41 and scored Pittsburgh's first goal after falling behind 1-0 in the first period.

Nearly five months removed from that effort, Daley was happy to join his teammates for practice.

"It's great. It's like we never left each other," Daley said. "It's funny. We're looking around like 'Didn't we see each other the other day?' But no, it's good to be back. It's good to be back in a little routine today. Summertime, you kind of get out of the routine, so it's good to be back."

Defenseman Justin Schultz, who scored on a snap shot for the second goal of the scrimmage Friday, also said he was excited to be return from a short summer. That being said, Schultz and the rest of the Penguins feel they aren't guaranteed a roster spot when Pittsburgh opens its season against the Capitals at Consol Energy Center on Oct. 13.

"Everyone here has a chance to play for this team," Schultz said. "Everyone has to bring their A-game, and it's just going to make everyone better. It's good for everyone."

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