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Penguins Report: Training Camp 9/20/11

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Crosby following same schedule today as he still isn't cleared for contact; says he's feeling good (12:02 PM).
  • Sullivan does not skate today for precautionary reasons (1:01 PM)
  • Jeffrey sits out Tuesday, status remains the same (1:16 PM)
  • Photos of Crosby and Malkin sharing the ice for the first time since January (12:20 PM)
  • Adams feels "100 percent" after Aug. 22 appendectomy, Sullivan on Geno (2:09 PM)
  • PensTV gives you an all-access pass to Monday's Black and Gold Game (5:18 PM)
  • Coach Bylsma discusses pre-season strategy, among other topics (1:58 PM)
  • Blogging the scrimmage between Groups C and A (10:50 AM)
  • Pics of the scrimmage (11:32 AM)
  • Pics of Group C at work (9:45 AM)
  • Tuesday's itinerary (8:46 AM)

5:18 PM:
PensTV extraordinare Mark Cottington traveled with us to Wilkes-Barre for the Black and Gold Game on Monday. He put together this awesome behind-the-scenes package from that night. Make sure you check it out!!!

2:09 PM:
Full transcript from Sullivan and an update from Craig Adams in this edition of sounds heard around the locker room...


On if he’s learned about self-preservation and pacing himself:
Yes. I have. I am injury-prone, in the last 4-5 years I’ve had some issues with that. I’ve got to be aware of my body. I know how much I can push it and how much it can take before it’s going to break down. I know that the importance is for me to be ready for game 1. That being said, I need to get some reps in to try to find the system out. But I think that last night, I was happy they were able to pull me out so it stays precautionary and as a just a soreness instead of a tweak or pull.

On working with Malkin in more of an actual game situation vs. camp scrimmages:
Every time I’m on the ice with him I get a little more comfortable with him. I’m starting to realize his tendencies a little bit more. It’s great. He’s an absolute thrill to play with. As great a hockey player as he is, it’s pretty simple to play with him. He does keep things very basic. It’s been easy for me to make that adjustment.

On what Malkin’s personality is like on the ice:
There is a little bit of a language barrier, we don’t talk a lot on the ice. We’re not very vocal out there. I’ve never been a very vocal player. We’re just trying to read off each other. If there is some chemistry there, it’s definitely just trying to read each other.

On Malkin’s game having both creativity and simplicity:
He’s extremely creative. But I think you can see it coming. You know what he’s going to do. I have an idea of where he wants to go. I don’t know exactly. I know where to get out of the way. I know what he’s trying to do, so I just get out of the way. That’s what I mean by it’s simple for me. I know where to go. I know what he’s trying to do and I know what he’s capable of doing, which is a lot more than most players. I just allow him that space. I think my strength is skating, so I’m just trying to create some room with my speed and allow him to maneuver with the puck. If we can do that, then we can be successful.

On Malkin’s stickhandling:
It’s a thrill to watch. I just have to make sure I don’t get mesmerized out there by what’s going on. I think that we had a really good first period with James Neal, too. He brings a little bit more of a crash and bang. He’s a little more physical in there and he’s just a smart guy. Has a great shot. I thought we had a lot of scoring chances there in the first period.


On his recovery from an appendectomy:
It’s going great. I’m 100 percent ready to go. It was tough for a couple weeks not doing anything, but I had enough time to get back into some sort of shape. As camp goes on here, I’m feeling better and better.

On competition within the line combinations as well as for roster spots:
My mentality doesn’t change much year to year. I never feel secure. You look around and we have so many good forwards here and so many guys challenging for a chance to make this team, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m playing to make this team and win a job. So that’s all I’m thinking about.

On being reunited with Arron Asham:
We’ve been skating together pretty much all camp so far with a couple different centers. Hopefully if they see us together, then it’s great to get as much time together as we can and hopefully we can keep growing a little bit of chemistry.

On if he’s ready for the preseason games to get started:
I am. I’m excited. The first few days of practice are always tough, but it’s something you need to go through. I’m feeling stronger and stronger as we go on, so I think that’s a good sign.

1:58 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On Ben Lovejoy being a top-four defenseman and his progression:
That is not set in stone. I wouldn’t set any of the pairings or anything in stone. It’s got to play itself out in camp. Five, six, seven and eight aren’t set in stone. I actually think he’s at a different level right now then he was last year. He’s a pretty confident player right now. He certainly hasn’t been this way in camp in the NHL ever. He’s comfortable, he’s playing aggressive, playing physical. Right now, he’s having a good camp, but so is Matt Niskanen, so is Deryk Engelland. There are other guys that are in that mix as well, so there’s some good competition there.

On how he’s going to handle players in the first two preseason games:
We have it right now where no guy is going to play both games. So it’s two squads. Different people in different games, and we’re mindful of power play situations and penalty kill situations. But otherwise, it’s split-squad game 1 and 2.

On how he’s going to split up playing time between the goalies:
As we have it now, it’s two periods each for goalies and the other goalie in the game will get one period.

On what he’s looking for in the preseason:
Well from a team standpoint, you’re certainly looking for detail and habits that we’re talking about and what we’re trying to do. You saw that last night in the Black and Gold Game in Wilkes-Barre. You saw a pretty good hockey game at a pretty good pace. In terms of individuals and especially in these two games, you’re looking for people to jump off the page with what they do. If there are players that play with speed, they better show what they can bring in terms of speed. If you’re a physical player you better be ready to show that, and not be as concerned about making a mistake in the system or making one mistake in the game. You need to show what you can do in the chance that you’ve been given in this exhibition game. A lot of people will be given chances. I really look for that from the individual players to make a statement with how they play saying, “I should be on this team” or “This is the position I should be in, this is what I can do.”

On making the tough decisions during training camp:
I think in training camp you have a certain idea how things are going to go. You love to see players up their position by doing something, and make it hard (for the coaches). I think that’s what you expect to have. If they’re hard decisions, then I’m happy to make them because that means guys are doing well, guys are playing well, and that’s what we’re looking for. We have that right now. We have a lot of guys in that gray. That are playing really, really well, and making it difficult, and they’re showing really well right now. Hopefully games 1 and 2 will be that as well.

On critiquing Marc-Andre Fleury thus far:
I wouldn’t gauge much on a first scrimmage game on day 1. It didn’t going really well for him, but it was noted that he’s had several rusty camps, and he’s had one really good camp. With the rusty camps he’s started (the season) better, so we did note that. We’ll get into games, we’ll get into more situations. Goalies are probably maybe the hardest position to go from the offseason, where you see lots of shots and see a different kind of hockey, to seeing practice and games. So when we get into the games, we’ll see him get two full games. Two periods scheduled here for the next six games, and he’ll get a chance to get ready for the opener.

On Jason Williams and his shootout ability value:
Not very much with our team. You’re talking about three shooters. We have some good shooters to go right now. Kris Letang is somewhere around the 40-percent mark. Sidney Crosby is around the 40-percent mark. James Neal was very good for us last year. (Steve) Sullivan has been good. Evgeni Malkin is in that mix. We have some good shooters so we’re not in need of more. Now it does make a difference. It’s made a difference before sometimes. Once you have your roster, this player can help you out. Expect this game to be close, and a guy we may need for a shootout. I expect that to be a factor during the season. During here and preseason it’s going to be about what he can do for the team. We saw him on the point in the power play shooting the puck hard last night. He did that very well. That’s more along the lines of what we’re looking for him to be a player then worry about what he can add to a shootout.

On his impressions of Richard Park this camp:
I think the intelligence and the work ethic that he plays the game with is extremely high. You see that in different situations – face-off, penalty kill, and moving in different spots and all of that. Left wing, right wing, center, he’s a guy that can do that. He’s been in a position to compete so far in this camp and he will be in that position certainly for games 1 and 2 and we’ll go from there. It’s pretty impressive numbers for a guy in his last four years in the National Hockey League, and he’s getting used to the pace here in the first couple days of camp. He’s right in the mix in that competition if he can do those things.

On Sidney Crosby:
I say it’s a tough, tough few days for everybody, and I think that’s the optimistic thing seeing Sid out there. It’s tough. It’s not practice at the end of the year where the heart rate’s not getting near max heart rate. It’s not a 140 a day. It’s maxed out. You get maxed out and you push through the fatigue and that’s where he’s been for day 1, day 2 and day 3. He’s getting tired and he’s working just like every other guy’s been, and that’s the good thing to see tat he’s going through. He’s working.

On changing his current system:
We’ve looked to add more things to what we do. So, I would say that there’s probably four things that we’re looking to add to what we do – not necessarily replacing what we do, but add to what we’ve already done. So for the players who are new, they haven’t seen any of those yet. The old players haven’t seen those things yet, but once we get our foundation in we’ll be adding some things to our system that will give us different looks in different scenarios against different teams. Set plays, different neutral zone forecheck and some different D-zone looks.

Goal: Justin Criado

1:16 PM:
Dustin Jeffrey also did not participate in practice, but nothing has changed with his status. It's part of his normal rehab schedule from a knee injury suffered in March.

1:01 PM:
Steve Sullivan did not skate today for precautionary reasons. The veteran forward left Monday's Black and Gold intra-squad scrimmage early with groin tightness, but assured that it's nothing to be alarmed about. He's planning on playing in either Wednesday or Thursday's preseason game.

"I came out and I was just looking to kind of get stretched out and kind of see if I could get the tightness out of it," Sullivan explained. "Coach just said that was enough."

"It was just one of those training camp things. It’s nothing to be alarmed of. We’ll treat it again today and then we should be ready to go on Wednesday or Thursday."

12:37 PM:
Bylsma said Monday that the coaches would use non-game days during camp to finetune their 5-on-5 play, while special teams would be the focus on game days. That's certainly the case today.

Crosby has been centering a line with Malkin and Tyler Kennedy for those 5-on-5 drills.

12:20 PM:
I can't tell you how awesome it is seeing Crosby and Malkin practicing on the same sheet of ice. Also, Crosby is not wearing an alternate colored helmet for today's practice. He is wearing white just like the rest of Group B.

12:02 PM:
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who is set to hit the ice in a couple minutes here for practice, spoke to the media this morning before his skate. He's following the same schedule he has been, meaning he is only practicing and not scrimmaging as he is still not cleared for contact.

He said he feels good and that he's "pretty happy" with the way things have gone so far. When asked if he knew when contact would be introduced, he said he had "no clue." However, it hasn't been determined yet just how that step will occur -- whether a certain player will be picked to deliver the first check or if it will be in a more controlled setting.

Here are Crosby's full comments:

On how he feels:
I feel good.

On if today is the same schedule as the other days of training camp:
Yeah. That’s a good thing. With each day it’s good. We’ll see how things go, but I’m pretty happy with the way they’ve gone so far.

On his conditioning and if he feels like he’s in normal shape for this time of year:
Yeah, I mean, the practices I’ve been in have been pretty tough, pretty intense. But I think everyone’s kind of felt that way, so I don’t feel like I’m too far behind there. That being said, hitting kind of throws a whole different element in the physical part of the game. It makes that a little bit more difficult. So skating-wise and that kind of thing, it’s starting to come. When you throw some contact in there, that’ll be a new step.

On if he has any idea yet of when that might be:
No clue.

On how they will determine who will be the first to hit him:
You know what, I really don’t know. I haven’t really gotten to that step yet.

On if he’s picked anybody out:
No. Probably the biggest guy (laughs). It’d be nice if (Steve MacIntyre) got ahold of me with a good one and then we’ll see how we do. But yeah, I don’t know. That’s kind of the first time I’ve really gone through that, so I really don’t know how that goes. You just say probably light contact. I’ve gotten bumped kind of accidentally here a couple of times anyway and I’ve been ok. So we’ve just got to see how it goes.

On if they would have him and strength coach Mike Kadar introduce contact in a controlled setting:
I don’t know (laughs). Maybe not Kadar, maybe somebody else. He’s pretty aggressive out there, so I might need somebody that tones it down a bit. Not Kades, I don’t think.

On if this is the longest he’s gone without playing competitive hockey:
Yep. I don’t remember ever going this long. It’s something new, but at the same time, I think when you go through things you learn from them. Hopefully in some way, I’ll take something from this and learn from it.

On if he worries that it’s going to take him a while to reach the level he was playing at before he got injured:
Oh, yeah. I’d love to be able to say first game I’m right back where I left off. But it’s probably pretty unrealistic. I think it’s fair though to want to get back there and understand that it might take some time. With that being said, that’s where I want to be. That’s probably the best I’ve felt since I’ve played in the NHL and that’s where I want to get to. How long that will take, I don’t know. But I’m going to do my best to get back there as soon as I can.

On if there’s anything from a rejuvenation standpoint his long time away from hockey has given him:
It’s kind of a weird thing. When I came back even from my ankle (injury) – and I think it’s something I’ll probably talk to ‘Staalsy’ a bit about too, because he went through kind of a long layoff there. But the first part of it, I think you feel that. You do feel pretty energized. But once you hit the first couple months, it starts to set in. once you start to get into that grind, you probably feel it a little bit more. You kind of have to get over that hump for a little bit. Eventually I think maybe later on it will pay off, those extra months. But I think right in the middle of that, sometimes it’s tough to get through that and you got to find a way to kind of get through that grind.

On if it’s refreshing to have a normal season without trips to Europe or HBO:
I don’t know. I don’t think we think about it either way. If we have something, we deal with it. If we don’t, we don’t. We try to make the most of the time we have. I don’t think anyone’s even brought it up. That’s the first we’ve even talked about it is now. It does seem a little weird that we haven’t done anything, but it’s also not a bad thing. It’s kind of the usual routine and we just kind of go about things the same way.

On if he’ll be more emotionally appreciative of hockey once he comes back:
I’ve always appreciated it. I’ve never taken it for granted. That’s one thing for sure. I think it’s like anything in life. When you don’t have it, you realize how much you miss it. I think that’s fair to say. For me, I don’t think I’ve ever taken it for granted. Maybe in a way I will appreciate it. I think through this whole process, there’s things that I’ve learned to appreciate more than I didn’t before. So yeah, I think that’s probably fair to say.

11:32 AM:
New intern Justin Criado snapped some pics of the scrimmage...

10:50 AM:
Lines for Tuesday’s scrimmage...

Group A (white jerseys)
Vitale-N. Johnson-Veilleux

Group C (black jerseys)



Fleury starting in net for White. Thiessen in goal for Black.


20:00: Game on!

18:25: Big shift just now by Vitale, N. Johnson and Veilleux. Lots of cycling down in Black’s zone.

16:56: Nice breakout by White just now. Strait puts a pass right on Staal’s tape, who immediately sends it cross-ice to Neal. Neal carries in and dishes to Kunitz, whose blast goes high and wide.

12:41: Thiessen’s been getting a lot of work early, as White has kept play hemmed in the offensive zone. He’s looking comfortable and confident out there.

11:11: Neal and Staal drive to the net but try for one too many passes as they get close to the crease. They did a great job of creating space for themselves.

9:59: McDonald displays some speed, banking the puck to himself past defender Carl Sneep. But Sneep’s partner Samuelsson gets back in time to deflect the puck out of danger.

8:46: Dupuis throwing his body around on the forecheck, hitting guys left and right.

7:53: Orpik and Letang reunited on the point! They’re patrolling the blue line for White.

5:12: Cooke is planted just outside the blue paint and receives a nice pass with a wide-open net in front of him. However, the puck bounces up and over his stick and into the corner.

2:08: Pascal Dupuis scores on a 2-on-1 play when he lifts the puck past Fleury! White takes a 1-0 lead.

0:00: That’s it for the first.


20:00: Game on. Thiessen stays in net for Black and Munroe takes over for Fleury on White.

16:01: Craig tucks the puck into a wide-open net to put Black up 2-0.

14:34: Minutes later, Asham lights the lamp on a one-timer for a third goal.

10:00: Strait hounds McDonald as the forward goes into the corner for the puck and a penalty is called. McDonald gets a penalty shot and snipes a blistering wrister past Munroe.

7:10: Neal picks up a Letang rebound in the circle and quickly snaps it to the net, but Thiessen gets his blocker on it.

3:48: Street battling with Dupuis in the corner and the Pens prospect comes away with the puck, making a precise pass to Orpik in front of the net. However, White can’t quite get play cleared out of their zone.

0:00: That’ll do it. Thiessen earns the shutout in a 4-0 Black victory!!!

9:57 AM:
The ice is clean and the two squads (A and C) are stretching before their scrimmage. Stay tuned at the conclusion for the running blog.

9:45 AM:
Pics of Group C at work...

9:25 AM:
They've started to get into some line drills -- here's how the Group C combinations shake down:


9:05 AM:
The first practice of the day is underway despite a late arrival back in Pittsburgh last night. Craig Adams, Arron Asham and Ryan Craig are wearing yellow jerseys, so they're easy to spot. The rest of Group C is wearing black and white.

8:46 AM:
The players are back in Pittsburgh after a Monday night sojourn to Wilkes-Barre for the Black and Gold intra-squad scrimmage, where Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin put forth a dominant effort in his first real game action since suffering a knee injury in February, scoring twice to give Gold a 3-2 win over Black.

Forward Jordan Staal also turned out a stellar performance, netting both Black goals in his team's loss. Staal tried as hard as he could to get his squad the victory, as he had a little friendly wager with Geno entering the game -- whoever lost had to untie the other's skate laces after practice today. We'll do our best to get some pics and video of that happening.

For the complete training camp schedule, click here. The 55-man training camp roster can be downloaded here.

Tuesday’s itinerary:
9 am – Group C practice
10 am – Group A and Group C scrimmage
11 am – Group A practice
12 noon – Group B practice

Sidney Crosby and Dustin Jeffrey are with Group B today.
Below are the complete groupings:

Group A

11 Jordan Staal
14 Chris Kunitz
18 James Neal
28 Nick Johnson
33 Steve MacIntyre
42 Keven Veilleux
46 Joe Vitale
62 Ben Street
64 Tom Kuhnhackl
76 Dominik Uher

37 Brian Strait
44 Brooks Orpik
55 Philip Samuelsson
58 Kris Letang
59 Carl Sneep
70 Joseph Morrow

29 Marc-Andre Fleury
33 Scott Munroe

Group B

12 Richard Park
15 Dustin Jeffrey
19 Jason Williams
25 Eric Tangradi
26 Steve Sullivan
48 Tyler Kennedy
56 Paul Thompson
57 Brian Gibbons
71 Evgeni Malkin
87 Sidney Crosby

4 Zbynek Michalek
7 Paul Martin
47 Simon Despres
52 Alex Grant
53 Joey Mormina
67 Geoff Walker

1 Brent Johnson
61 Patrick Killeen

Group C

9 Pascal Dupuis
10 Mark Letestu
23 Ryan Craig
24 Matt Cooke
27 Craig Adams
38 Colin McDonald
45 Arron Asham
51 Zach Sill
69 Bryan Lerg

2 Matt Niskanen
5 Deryk Engelland
54 Alexandre Picard
74 Brandon DeFazio
78 Scott Harrington

39 Brad Thiessen
33 Patrick Killeen (double shifting)
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