FIRST CAMP PRACTICE WRAPUP
The Pens hit the ice for their first formal practice(s) of the season. A couple things seem to have emerged from the early practices and partial scrimmage. Here are a few of the highlights.
*Judging from the line combinations working during the practice sessions it seems that the Penguins will go with the following units:
(The remainder of the defensemen were shuffled around a bit)
*The Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis line was flying in the scrimmage. Didn’t miss a beat. Those three have worked together for so long that they communicate telepathically and on a higher level than everybody else. I have no doubt they’ll reclaim their place as the NHL’s top offensive line.
*Scuderi and Letang had some early chemistry during the scrimmage. The two worked the puck D-to-D well and Scuderi gave the Pens a defensive outlet point whenever Letang carried low into the offensive zone. I hope Scuderi gets used to that role, because he’ll be doing that a lot playing alongside the gifted Letang.
*The Pens started out using Jokinen, Sutter and D’Agostini as their third line. Typically, a third line features a physical, checking element. The Penguins had one of the best third lines in the league with Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy. The trio was physical and defensively sound. However, that wouldn’t be the way a Jokinen-Sutter-D’Agostini line would play.
“With Jussi, Brandon and Matt it wouldn’t be a crashing, banging line or a matchup, checking type of line,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We have players on the bottom six that could be on a checking line or used in a defensive role if that were the case in a game. You could see Tanner Glass or Craig Adams move up into a defensive type of role or line if need be.
“That line with Jussi, Brandon and Matt wouldn’t necessarily be a straight out physical line or checking line. You’re talking about guys that have had 40-plus points in this league in Jussi and Matt. Guys that can add a different type of element to a third line and we’ll looked to crash and bang from other aspects of our team.”
Pens center Evgeni Malkin spoke with the media for the first time this season. Among the things he discussed were his summer training, the Olympics and playing with Beau Bennett.
*Two summers ago, Malkin was coming off of knee surgery and requested that strength coach Mike Kadar visit him in Russia to work on his rehab and conditioning. That following season Malkin went on to win the NHL MVP, Ted Lindsey (outstanding player voted by peers) and Art Ross trophies (NHL scoring champion). Kadar joined Malkin again last summer. But this time around, due to the Russian Olympic orientation camp, Kadar wasn’t able to train Malkin.
“It was a little bit tougher and different,” Malkin said of not having Kadar. “I have a schedule for myself, doing what I did before. I did myself. It was harder, but I did my hardest.
“I feel pretty good. My body isn’t quite ready, but I have 20 days to get ready. That’s lots of time to get ready for the first game.”
Malkin was also without his normal workout partner and mentor – former Pen Sergei Gonchar.
“He stayed in the US the whole summer,” Malkin said. “Maybe next summer.”
*Malkin is pumped to play in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. No shock there as Malkin is very patriotic and proud of his home country.
“It’s very exciting,” Malkin said. “I’m glad the NHL said yes and the best players will come to Sochi. I think it’s unbelievable for me because we play at home – it’s probably the only time in my life. It’s an amazing feeling.”
*At the first camp practice for his group, Malkin worked alongside longtime linemate James Neal and youngster Beau Bennett. It looks like in the early going Bennett will get a shot on that line, a trio that saw some action together last season.
“Playing with Neal again, he’s a good partner for me, but Beau did a great job last year,” Malkin said. “It’s now his second year. He’s more experienced. He’s more physical, bigger, stronger. He’s a righty with a great shot and great skills, too.”
GROUP C PICS
The Three Amigos (that means the three friends): Malkin; Bennett; and Neal.
There is no truth to the rumor that Malkin will represent Russia at the G-20.
"All Along the Boards." One of Jimi Hendrix's lesser known songs.
Engelland does the 1-2 step down the ice.
Sill falls asleep in the middle of a lecture, leaving WBS coach Hynes very displeased.
Tony G is hot on the trail of Despres.
Matt Niskanen ladies and gentlemen. Matt Niskanen.
Coach Martin asks strength coach Mike Kadar about the latest workout craze: Core Stix.
Hartzell is spontaneously raptured, leaving only his mask behind.
James Neal wears his tinted visor at night, so he can, so he can...
Bortuzzo looks like he's bulked up a bit over the summer. Suns out, guns out.
--Michelle Crechiolo & Sam Kasan
GROUP B PICS
I'm going to tell you right now - my captions aren't anywhere near as funny as Sam's.
All of our staff in the stands watching.
Crosby bears down on Vokoun.
Vokoun making a pad save
Kunitz with the puck on his stick
Joey V's jersey matches his eyes
Rob Scuderi was paired with Kris Letang during the first day of camp
Dupuis chases down a rebound
Crosby goes around coach Bylsma...
While Kunitz steps around coach Nasreddine.
Tanner Glass lets one go with Crosby going to the net
LIVE TWEETING THE SCRIMMAGE
GROUP A PICS
Sutter and possibly his new linemate Matt D'Agostini.
Jokinen snaps a shot on goal.
Martin looks completely healed from his summer operation.
The stare returns.
New assistant coach Jacques Martin.
Fleury working with new goalie coach Mike Bales.
Coach Bylsma goes over the day's drills.
Pouliot with excellent vision. Not to be critical, but the visor is clear.
Someone asked coach Bylsma where the jumbotron is.
Sutter's hair is creeping out from under his helmet.
--Michelle Crechiolo & Sam Kasan
GROUP A NOTES
Here are a couple takeaways from the Group A’s practice session:
*The duo of Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin were reunited during faceoff/line rushes. That pairing was probably Pittsburgh’s best last season. Looks like they will remain together – at least for the early part of camp.
*One question heading into camp is who will be on the third line with Brandon Sutter. It looks like the Penguins are starting with Jussi Jokinen and Matt D’Agostini. The three skated together in a unit.
*Also, the practice was the first time that new goaltending coach Mike Bales had a chance to work with Marc-Andre Fleury. Putting in the building blocks of a good goalie-coach relationship.
*The Pens used the following lines for Group A:
Orpik and Martin worked exclusively together. The rest of the D-men rotated through.
Here are the groupings for the Penguins’ 2013 training camp:
Today's schedule looks as so...
9:00-9:45 = Group A practice
10:00-10:45 = Scrimmage A vs. B
11:00-11:45 = Group B practice
12:00-1:30 = Group C practice
START THE DAY
Good morning Pens fans! The Penguins reported to training camp on Wednesday and underwent physical testing as well as shooting the in-house media needs. For the buzz on all of yesterday's goings on click on this Pens Report.
But today, Thursday, starts all the real fun. Because the Pens will hit the ice for the first official practice of training camp. We're in here talking about practice. We're talking about practice. Not a game, not a game. We're talking about practice. How silly is that?
The Pens' 55 camp invitees (31 forwards; 18 defensemen; 6 goalies) will be broken into three practice groups - A, B and C (clever). Each group will have its own practice session beginning at 9 a.m. and that includes a scrimmage between groups A and B at 10 a.m.
Stay tuned right here throughout the day for constant updates, pics and opinions as the practices (and scrimmage) unfold. Or follow us on Twitter (@PensInsideScoop) for some live updates.