The Penguins will hit the ice for the first time since their Game 7 Stanley Cup Final victory when they open the 2009-10 pre-season against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Mellon Arena Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
The contest with Columbus was originally slated for Set. 25 but was rescheduled because of the G-20 summit taking place in Pittsburgh during that time.
The game’s rescheduling also means that the Penguins will only have three practices before playing in an exhibition game, an oddity for any NHL team.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had it this quick,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Typically, you might have three days of scrimmage and then get into an exhibition game.”
“It’s one of those things that you cannot really control,” defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. “Mentally you’re right in it, maybe your body, your timing and everything as a team is not going to be what it would be at the end of the year. I’m sure when the game starts that mentally you’re right in it.”
Despite the quick turnaround from the start of training camp and their first pre-season, most of the Penguins viewed the change as a positive.
“I think we’d rather have that and get back into it,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “You work on forming good habits in practice but when you’re in games, that’s when you start making the most of what you’re doing. I think it will be good and everyone is looking forward to getting into it.”
“I actually like seeing other jerseys then having to practice and scrimmage against our own teammates,” Bylsma said. “For the veterans, I think scrimmaging against your own teammates is done at about 80 percent. They don’t want to hurt each other. They don’t want to battle. Getting a game this quick is getting the game situations that you need to get up to speed, and you get it right away. When I saw the change, I thought it actually was a good idea.”
In the past, players used training camp to work themselves back into game shape. To play a pre-season game that quickly after opening camp would have been unfathomable then. But now, players workout during the offseason and enter camp in great shape.
“Everyone comes to camp in such good shape nowadays. It’s really not an excuse,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “It’s the same fore everybody. It’s like one of those things where you complain about bad ice and both teams have to play on it. It’s a quick turnaround for a lot of guys. You get a scrimmage in here and a couple good practices. Most of the guys here have been skating for at least a week together.
“I think you can look at it both ways. You get a game right away and then the coaches can’t really kill you as much on the ice at the practices. At the same time, if you get a couple scrimmages, you’re timing’s a little bit better going into the games. It’s an even playing field for both teams. So it’s just something you have to deal with.”
“In the end it’s not really a big deal,” veteran Bill Guerin said. “The games are the ones that really get you in shape and get you prepared for the season. We’ve had three days of practice and guys have been skating for weeks. Let’s just play.”