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Penguins' Kessel to start camp playing with Crosby

NHL.com @NHL

Right wing Phil Kessel will start his first Pittsburgh Penguins training camp with Sidney Crosby as his center, coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday.

The Penguins acquired Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer, in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1. The subject of who Kessel would play with to start the season, Crosby or center Evgeni Malkin, has been a topic of debate and conversation.

"You'd probably find him starting on the right side with Sid to begin with," Johnston told the Penguins website.

Johnston said Patric Hornqvist will start training camp, which begins next month, at right wing on a line with Malkin. Johnston said he is unsure who will play left wing on each of the top two lines; the leading candidates are David Perron, Beau Bennett, Chris Kunitz and rookie Sergei Plotnikov.

Johnston left open the possibility he would use Kessel with Malkin and Hornqvist with Crosby.

"We have eight exhibition games, so with the games we want to try combinations together so we're ready for the beginning of the season," Johnston said. "We want to give guys a chance to play together, but we also want to take a look at some different looks in practice. So don't get enamored if some practice there are some different combinations. We need to take a look at it as we head in and approach the beginning of the season."

Johnston said he has received positive medical updates on Malkin, right wing Pascal Dupuis and defensemen Kris Letang and Olli Maatta.

Dupuis (blood clot in lung) missed 66 games last season and didn't play after Nov. 15. Maatta (shoulder) played in 20 games, none after Dec. 6. Letang (concussion) did not play after March 29. Malkin played on a sprained ankle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"[Malkin] was injured before the playoffs last year; he's in skating already," Johnston said. "Kris Letang said he's had a great summer. Pascal Dupuis seems like he's doing really well. He was champing at the bit to play if we had extended the playoff series last year. Then you've got Olli Maatta. With those guys, with that type of energy, guys that had long-term injuries, especially Dupuis and Maatta, coming back, it's going to be exciting for the group."

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