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Penguins Report: First CONSOL Practice

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
That's it for the first practice day of the Penguins 2010 training camp. Over 6,000 fans made their way to CONSOL Energy Center for an eventful day, and some of the early camp questions were answered. Here is the skinny on Day 1 of camp:

> Sidney Crosby skated with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis (9:15 AM). Crosby and Dupuis talked about the possible line combination (3:42 PM).
> Evgeni Malkin practiced as a wing with Mike Comrie (center) and Eric Tangradi (12:34 PM).
> Mark Letestu was impressive and scored the only goal in a scrimmage to give Group B a 1-0 victory (10:49 AM).
> Fans lined up early (some as early as 2 a.m.) to get in for the free practice (8:45 AM).

For a more in-depth look at the developing stories from Day 1 of camp, read Jason Seidling's article.


3:46 PM:
Here are some final shots from the first practice day of training camp.

Marc-Andre Fleury chats with communications coordinator Erik Heasley before practice.

Kris Letang (left); Alex Pechurskiy (right)

Dan Bylsma and Paul Martin chat (left); Malkin, Martin and a hidden Letang (right)

Bylsma addresses his troops at the Group C practice

3:42 PM:
Sidney Crosby chatted with the media (as he does everyday):

Sidney Crosby

On the CONSOL Energy Center ice:
It’s OK. It’s the first time that we’ve skated on it and there were concerts the last two nights. It’s OK for this time of year. I’m sure it’s going to get better.
On his linemates:
There’s always juggling. That always goes on in camp, trying to figure out combinations and build chemistry with guys. I don’t think you worry about that a whole lot. Guys are working on their timing and getting back their game. Whoever you’re with, you’re job is not going to change. The goal everyday is to build chemistry with whoever you’re with.
On playing with Kunitz and Dupuis:
I think we’ve all played together at some point, so you won’t get many combinations with guys that they aren’t comfortable with. Our job is to make it work no matter who you’re with. Nobody’s job changes depending on the line your on. A lot of us have played together in the past so it shouldn’t be a huge adjustment.
On motivation with last year’s second-round lost:
It’s tough to go to the Finals every year. To go back to back like we did wasn’t easy. It took a lot of hard work and determination. We went through it, a lot of us together. That’s where we want to be, but it’s a process too. At the end of the day, it’s tough to get there every year. That was a good lesson for us.
On Staal’s injury:
We’re all there for him. It’s not any different when anyone else gets injured. We all have to step up. We just have to make sure you do your job. That’s the most important thing. Collectively, we’ll try to make sure we play well until he comes back. He doesn’t have to worry about anything except getting healthy. It may take time to adjust, but the main thing is getting back. His game will come. It’s a process. If anyone can go through it, it’s him. He’s got a great attitude. That’s going to help him coming back.


2:39 PM:
All was quiet at CONSOL Energy Center in the morning before the arena hosted its first-ever practice.

The gates opened at 8:45 a.m. and the fans poured into the arena. Over 6,000 fans took in the historic first practice.


2:35 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room:

Dan Bylsma
On comparing Martin and Letang:
I think Kris Letang can be a more physical player than Paul Martin is. I think (Martin is) more along the lines of Alex Goligoski in terms of skating and defending with position and your skating ability and a good stick. I’m not sure we can compare him with anybody on our defense in terms of his smarts with the puck and his ability to make reads and make that pass. A real poised guy with the puck. I see a little bit of Alex Goligoski, but a little bit bigger and Alex doesn’t have quite the poise with the puck as Paul does.
On finding good partners for Michalek and Martin:
Going into camp, there is a couple different ideas that we are going to play with. I talked to Paul and I talked to 'Z' about the best partners they’ve played with, who they’ve played with and what style of partner they like to play with. You take that into consideration when you put together some of the exhibition games and some of the matchups. I’m not sure you’re going to see a straight matchup pair as much as four defensemen that will be playing against the other team’s top lines. We will try to match up pairs, but we have to see what players play well together. In past year’s you’ve seen Mark Eaton and Kris Letang real comfortable, and those are the best pairs for those two players. We’ll try to figure that out in the next 20 days or so. And we’ll see some of those matchups in the exhibition games.
On Staal’s injury and how that changes the team’s plans:
The news we heard a few days ago does not change the plan for Jordan, getting his foot healthy, getting him back into a skate and full training mode. Spending a period of time, a two- or three-week period of time of training camp situation where we’re training him and working to get him back onto the ice, and getting him back into the games after that. As far as his position on the ice, part of training camp will be people competing for the spot he’s vacated. But yes we’d like to see him move up in our lineup and that will still be the plan when he comes back to full strength. Whether that’s the first game he’s back or after that, that remains to be seen. We don’t know if we’re going to throw him back into a 22-minute a night situation. But the plan down the road will be to see Geno play the wing, possibly on Jordan’s line and possibly on Sid’s line.
On where he wants to see Asham play:
I prefer players who say that [they’ll play either wing]. If you say that you can only play the right wing, then you’ll be limited as to when you can be used and where you can be used. So I expect players to be able to adapt to that. Certain situations will see players playing under the situation they’re best at or they’re most comfortable in. And I see him as a right winger, but if he shows me that at the left wing he can be there, then in situations like third periods if he’s playing well and in the game situations if you have the ability to be able to do that, then that’s a good situation. I see him as a right winger, but I’m happy to have him do well on left wing.

Mike Comrie
On if who he’s skating with on the first day of camp really matters:
No really. I think when you’re a little younger, you probably read into it a little bit more. The first couple years of camp, the first thing I did was check who's on your line.
On possibly skating with Crosby or Malkin:
I think that if you ask any player on the NHL, if they’re playing with great hockey players, they are going to do their best to play hard. It doesn’t matter who you’re out there with. But sometimes when you’re paired up with some great players, you want to be able to rise to the occasion. And I think that’s what’s going to make our team better. Everybody’s going to play hard to compete and everybody’s going to push each other.
On this season:
I’m excited. I think that since signing here I understood what’s at stake. And when you approach the season on a team like this organization, you have one goal in mind and that’s to compete for a Cup. I don’t think any other player would want it any other way.
On his role changing after Staal’s injury:
I think that whether your starting the season or if you’re in the middle of the season you have to adapt. We have forwards here who can fill in different roles and different spots. And training camp and preseason games are going to determine where guys are slotted and who you’re fitting in with. When you’re a forward and you see a player in your own organization miss some time, I think everybody has to chip in and everybody has to step up. He’s a key part of this team and we need him healthy.
On the salary cap and being a free agent for so long:
I think that, for me, I just turned 30 years old, so I wanted to go to a place like Pittsburgh. I looked at some rosters and kind of figured out where I felt I could fit in best, and this was one of the places I thought that if I could come here, work hard and fit in, I could help this team compete for a long season and in the playoffs. I think that we are still learning about the cap, but I think that every player’s situation is a bit different. I wanted to play with good players and play with a team that has a chance to win.
Marc-Andre Fleury
On finding motivation from the playoff loss last year:
I think we didn’t achieve our expectations last year and I think that’s just motivation for us to have a good season and get together, and we know that nothing’s going to be easy. We have to work real hard.
On getting back to his game:
I think I have to focus on camp right now and the beginning of the season. And just working hard at practice and working hard in games. Once we’re there we’ll see how it is. The focus is not too far out. The focus is the first game and we’ll go from there.

Zbynek Michalek
On the scrimmage:
I guess it’s good to get out of summer hockey and finally have some contact in there. Everybody was excited. I think it was a good first day and we can only get better.
On his preference for a defensive pairing:
No, I’m pretty versatile. I think and over the years I’ve played with some offensive guys and some defensive guys, you know it’s really up to the coaches. And whatever they decide I can adjust.
On why he came to Pittsburgh:
I obviously saw a good team, and a team that has a chance to battle for a Stanley Cup ever single year. That’s something I was looking for. I’m a competitive guy and I want to win. I saw the best chance of winning here, and that’s why I chose this team. I know it’s a good organization, they take care of the players and their families and it was really good coming here. Everyone was friendly and trying to help me out. There are a lot of new faces here so I’m still adjusting, but the first impression is good.
On the Penguins’ style:
We want to play an up-tempo style and spend as little time in our zone as possible. We use the skill we have up front and get the puck out fast to the forwards, and that’s the way I like play too. I like to make good passes out of my zone and get in the attack.  
On the famous Czech players who played for Pittsburgh:
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most popular teams in the Czech Republic, especially because of guys like (Jaromir) Jagr and (Martin) Straka and so many good Czech players. I know the history here is really long and hopefully and create a good name for Czech players here.
On his favorite Penguins:
Jagr, even though he was a forward and I was always a defenseman. But he was the hero for every small kid back home, and he did so much for hockey in the Czech Republic and I know for Pittsburgh here to. I remember watching as a small kid when they won those two Cups in the early 90s and it was amazing. 

Assist: Tony Jovenitti

12:34 PM:
The final group (C) are on the ice now for their practice (see 8:00 AM for roster groupings). One interesting piece of note, Evgeni Malkin practiced at right wing on a line with Mike Comrie (center) and Eric Tangradi.

11:26 AM:
Here are some more pictures from Saturday's scrimmage:

The players prepare for the scrimmage

Brent Johnson in the crease, while Brooks Orpik's eyes are in mid-season form.

Newcomers Zbynek Michalek (left) and Arron Asham (right)


10:49 AM:
The 10 a.m. scrimmage is over. Here are some highlights (courtesy of Jason Seidling):

First Period
16:50: Chris Collins was all on alone on a breakaway but Brent Johnson made a nice right-pad save. 

4:22: GOAL! Arron Asham found his own rebound behind the net. He got the puck to Maxime Talbot, who found Mark Letestu on the doorstep. Letestu buried the shot.

0:44: Zbynek Michalek boards Talbot, giving him a penalty shot. But the puck rolled off of Talbot's stick before he could get a shot on goal.

Second Period
7:32: Crosby and Dupuis carry the puck on a two-on-two. Crosby draws in both defensemen and slipped the puck to Dupuis in front of the crease. Dupius made a move to his backhand to get Modig down on the ice, then sneaked a shot under his stick. The puck rolled along the goal line and hit the post. The ref ruled "no goal" and the fans weren't very happy.

1:00: Michalek was tripped by Collins. Crosby was awarded a penalty shot (Group B was not too happy). The crowd went crazy in anticipation. Crosby sent a hard wrist shot off the mask of Modig.

0:00: The game ends with Group B taking a 1-0 decision on Letestu's goal.

Note: Cooke and Asham have looked good together, and seem to have some quick chemistry in all three zones. See what happens when you "hug it out."

10:16 AM:
Group A and Group B are scrimmaging right now (see 8:00 entry for rosters). The combinations for the scrimmage are:

Group A
Brent Johnson
Thiessen (backup)

Group B
Collins-Sill-Boulerice-Smigelski-Brown (lots of shuffling here)
Modig (backup)

Group B is also using combinations of Asham-Letestu-Talbot and Cooke-Adams-Rupp. Adams took a few shifts at center during the scrimmage.

10:09 AM:
Here are some shots from Group A's practice.

Sidney Crosby (left); Crosby with linemates Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis (right)

9:15 AM:
Group A is on the ice for the Penguins and captain Sidney Crosby has been paired up with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.

8:58 AM:
Here are some shots from inside the locker room from early this morning. It is the first time the locker room has been setup for practice (in case you haven't noticed, there will be a lot of "firsts" this year).

The gear hanging in the locker stalls

Sidney Crosby's stall

The puck winning chart (left); the locker room strategy board (right)


8:35 AM:
Fans lined up early for the free practice at CONSOL Energy Center. The line was so long at the American Eagle Gate entrance that it stretched all the way down Fifth Avenue and well past the arena.


8:00 AM:
This season will no doubt feature many historic moments with the opening of the brand-new state-of-the-art CONSOL Energy Center, and Saturday marks another milestone. The Penguins will hit the ice for the very first time at their new home - which is also the new home of "Destiny."

The Penguins are celebrating this memorable event with the people who have made it all possible - the fans. The team's Saturday and Sunday practices are open to the public and free of charge. The team is expecting to get a preview of skating in the new building with loud cheering vibrating their temples.

The Penguins will hold three practices, and one intra-squad scrimmage. The 57-man training camp roster has been broken into three groups.  Click here to download the Training Camp schedule and groupings

Saturday's itinerary will be:
9 a.m. - Group A practices
10 a.m. - Group A and Group B scrimmage
11 a.m. - Group B practices
12 noon - Group C practices

Below are the team's groupings:

Group A

Sidney Crosby
Chris Conner
Pascal Dupuis
Eric Godard
Joey Haddad
Chris Kunitz
Nick Petersen
Casey Pierro-Zabotel
Joe Vitale
Geoff Walker

Robert Bortuzzo
Jason DeSantis
Simon Despres
Zbynek Michalek
Brooks Orpik
Brian Strait

Brent Johnson
Brad Thiessen

Group B

Arron Asham
Craig Adams
Jesse Boulerice
Tyler Brown
Chris Collins
Matt Cooke
Mark Letestu
Mike Rupp
Zach Sill
Alex Smigelski
Maxime Talbot

Deryk Engelland
Alex Goligoski
Andrew Hutchinson
Ben Lovejoy
Derek Peltier

John Curry
Mattias Modig

Group C

Mike Comrie
Ryan Craig
Dustin Jeffrey
Nick Johnson
Tyler Kennedy
Evgeni Malkin
Ryan Schnell
Brett Sterling
Eric Tangradi
Keven Veilleux
Tim Wallace

Kris Letang
Paul Martin
Corey Potter
Carl Sneep
Steve Wagner

Marc-Andre Fleury
Patrick Killeen
Alex Pechurskiy

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