Monday was a great day for hockey, as the on-ice portion of training camp began at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins held two practices, one for the main group and one for the taxi squad, and PittsburghPenguins.com watched it all from the Mike Lange Media Level. Here's the updates from Day 1.
- Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan likes to say his lineup isn't etched in stone; it's etched in pencil. And he had to get the eraser out right away due to extenuating circumstances with Kasperi Kapanen and Colton Sceviour.
Kapanen is still dealing with immigration issues that have kept him from getting to Pittsburgh, and Sullivan did not have specifics as to when he might arrive. "I know they're working on it," he said.
The plan had been for the 24-year-old winger, who was acquired from Toronto in August, to get an opportunity alongside Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby to start training camp. And while Sullivan said they're still excited about that possibility, every day Kapanen is absent makes it a more challenging process to build any potential chemistry.
"But it's not anything that we're not prepared to overcome," Sullivan said. "And I think in this unique circumstance with the environment the way it is, we have to be prepared to adapt and embrace any sort of challenges that come our way."
Evan Rodrigues, who was originally supposed to start on the third line, filled in on the first line - which he also did during Phase 3 training camp back in July when Crosby was sidelined with an injury.
"The two things we like about Evan are his speed and his good offensive instincts," Sullivan said. "I think those two elements potentially give him an opportunity to be successful with those guys."
Meanwhile, Sceviour - who was acquired from Florida along with Mike Matheson in September - was excused from practice for the birth of his child. That meant Drew O'Connor, who signed as a college free agent with the Penguins following his sophomore season at Dartmouth, got a look on the fourth line.
"We like Drew," Sullivan said. "Our hockey ops department was really excited to sign him and make him part of our organization. I thought he had a real good first practice, and we'll watch as the as the camp progresses here. But he's a guy that we know is part of the big picture."
Overall, Sullivan said what he likes about this forward group is the versatility and the ability to plug guys into different roles through injuries or other challenges that are going to come up this year.
"We've got a number of guys that we feel as though we can move up and down the lineup," he said. "We have some guys that can play center, we have some guys that can play the wing, we have other guys that can move up into the top six if we need them to. Jared McCann is another guy that we feel strongly can play in the top six as well. So, we like the flexibility of the of the roster that we have."
Here is the Penguins' workflow from the main group…
- After doing a lot of 5-on-5 drills - one of the priorities for this training camp as the coaches look to get the players back into game condition - the Penguins did some special teams work.
It was great to see assistant coach Todd Reirden back running the power play. He was his usual vocal self with the personnel, who worked down in one end in following units:
1) Letang, Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Rust
2) Marino, Pettersson, Zucker, McCann, Rodrigues
Letang said he thinks the approach to the power play will be different under Reirden, who helped Pittsburgh click at a 20.3-percent success rate during his first stint as an assistant coach.
"There's going to be a lot of looks and he's going to try to put guys in situations where they can be successful," Letang said. "He's not afraid of trying things and changing it up throughout games. He's not going to stick with the same thing all the time. He adjusts really well."
- After the main group wrapped up their practice, Sullivan addressed the players at center ice, with his parting words being, "Great job today."
"We were pleased with the progress we made on Day 1," Sullivan said afterward. "We understand that this is going to be a real short camp and we're going to try to prioritize what we do. We think we accomplished what we set out to accomplish today.
"And from our standpoint, it's exciting to be back with these guys and have the opportunity to do what we love to do. I think there's a certain level of enthusiasm in the air today both off the ice and on the ice, and we'll continue to build on that."
Video: Coach Sullivan speaks to the media after practice
- The taxi squad group took the ice after the main group finished. The participants were forwards Anthony Angello, Josh Currie, Frederick Gaudreau, Nathan Legare, Sam Miletic, Jordan Nolan, Sam Poulin and Radim Zohorna; defensemen Kevin Czuczman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Cam Lee, Josh Maniscalco and Zach Trotman; and goaltenders Alex D'Orio and Maxime Lagace.
While those players may not have had a chance like O'Connor did to skate with the main group, Sullivan said they will be constantly watching and evaluating everyone who got the invite to camp. And if they perform well and their body of work suggests they're deserving of being in the NHL, the Penguins will find a way to make that happen.
"I think anybody in this camp has a chance to make our final roster," Sullivan said. "My approach has always been - and I know Jim Rutherford and myself are very much on the same page with respect to this - is that we're looking for players that are going to try to help the Pittsburgh Penguins win."