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Open competition for Penguins' bottom-six forwards

by Wes Crosby /

PITTSBURGH -- With a few noteworthy names lost during the offseason, at least three of the Pittsburgh Penguins' six forward spots on the team's bottom two lines are up for grabs, which should create heated competition during training camp.

Forwards Jarome Iginla (Boston Bruins), Brenden Morrow (unrestricted free agent), Matt Cooke (Minnesota Wild) and Tyler Kennedy (San Jose Sharks) are gone, leaving holes on the third and fourth lines. Brandon Sutter and Craig Adams can be expected to be the third- and fourth-line centers, respectively. And either Beau Bennett or Jussi Jokinen, whoever loses out on playing next to Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, will take a spot on the bottom two lines.

Sutter is in his second season with the Penguins and said he is anxious to see who he will be playing with.

"I'm not too sure who I'm going to be skating with yet, so we'll wait and see," he said. "We have a lot of talented guys here, obviously, and a few guys left in the offseason and there are a few spots open. So I'm looking forward to seeing who I'm going to be playing with and starting with."

Several players will be in competition for those final spots, among them Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Vitale, Matt D'Agostini and Tanner Glass. Out of those four, Glass had the most ice time, playing all 48 games last season, while Jeffrey had the most productive campaign with six points and a plus-1 rating in 24 games.

"I would say the third- and fourth-line situation, and particularly the third line, there is a lot of competition in that area throughout the organization," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Not just within the team, or the guys that may have been here in the past, but some younger players, some new players to the group will be in competition in that area.

"I don't want to say there's a spot that's open because obviously there's a logjam there with a lot of people, but there's definitely areas for people to make an impression with the opportunity they're going to have in training camp."

Bylsma also said forward Chuck Kobasew, who the Penguins invited to camp on a professional tryout, also will be in the running for one of the final spots. Kobasew is a 10-year veteran who has 208 points (108 goals, 100 assists) in 568 games.

"I'm fortunate to get the opportunity to come here," Kobasew said. "You look at this team, it's a very skilled team. So I'm trying to bring some energy, be physical."

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