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Carter Impresses in Penguins Debut

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

There's a lot that Jeff Carter will remember about his Penguins debut in Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Philadelphia. But something that really stood out was the crowd support.

Tonight was the Penguins' first home game with their newly-approved capacity of 25 percent, which means he got to play in front of a sellout crowd of 4,672. The atmosphere was especially meaningful considering that he had been playing in empty buildings for well over a year back in Los Angeles.

"I think it was just fun to get out there and play in front of some fans at home here," said Carter, who was acquired from the Kings early in the morning on Monday's trade deadline day. "It's been a while since I did that, so that was exciting. I wish we could've finished the job tonight, but it was definitely a fun experience."

The veteran forward produced some great plays for them to cheer about, playing in all situations during his 17:54 of ice time and generating a number of scoring chances with his linemates Jared McCann and Jason Zucker.

"I thought Jeff had a good game," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think his skating ability really stands out. He's got real good hands. He can still shoot the puck extremely well. I thought he did pretty well in the faceoff circle, especially considering the fact that he hasn't taken a whole lot of draws this year.

"You could see how he's going to help us become a better hockey team. I think the more familiar he gets with how we're trying to play, I think it's going to help him even more moving forward. So we're real excited to have him as part of the group."

Kris Letang echoed that sentiment.

"I always thought highly of Jeff," the defenseman said. "He's a really good player on both sides of the puck. He fits in every aspect of the game. He can play across your lineup - on the first, the second, the third line. Brings tons of speed, he's good around the net. I think we saw everything tonight all on display. I just think the more we practice and play games, he's going to get more chemistry with his teammates and just going to get better."

Carter joked that in the first period, it felt like he was standing still thinking about the systems and trying to figure out where he was supposed to go. But in the second period, the switch flipped, and he began doing what he does best.

"I just started to play hockey and use my speed, and that's when we started creating chances as a line," Carter said. "And from there on, I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping things going north and attacking the net. Something to build on, for sure."

On one play, Carter used his speed to power around the Flyers defense and to the net, forcing Carter Hart to come up with a huge save. McCann and Zucker both followed up the play trying to corral the loose puck, but Philadelphia was able to get a stoppage.

"I kind of had (the defense) standing still, so tried to cut in," Carter said. "I probably could've maybe shot it, but I thought I could kind of get across because I had the speed. He made a good save; I think it caught him right on the toe there. We had a couple whacks at it after, but just couldn't get it in."

Carter said he felt like he started to grasp the systems more and more as the game went on, and plans to sit down in the coming days with the coaches and his linemates to watch film and discuss the details more as everything starts to calm down following the initial chaos that comes with a trade.

"It's been a little bit of a whirlwind getting out here," Carter said. "Couple skates and right into it, then trying to figure out all the logistics family-wise and whatnot. I'm glad I got in tonight and got that first one over, and now we can kind of settle in here and get going."

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