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The Inside Scoop: Bennett Close, Gonchar Joins Team

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins forward Beau Bennett is on the cusp of returning to the lineup after missing the previous five games with an undisclosed injury.

Bennett. 23, has had two-full contact practices and hopes to rejoin the team when they play in Washington against the Capitals on Wednesday night.

“Really good. It was a good practice today,” Bennett said. “I definitely want to get back into a game and see how that feels. All the battle drills feel great, so I’m feeling really good.”

Bennett, who was injured after celebrating a goal against Montreal on Oct. 13, said the decision of if he’ll play is out of his hands.

“It’s all up to the coaches now,” Bennett said. “I’ve gone through the protocol of pushing and shoving, battling. My shot feels good. My hands feel good. I just have to see what happens tomorrow.”

“It’s matter of regrouping with the trainers and doctors today and making sure they’re all set to clear him to play,” head coach Mike Johnston told reporters, team employees and bloggers after today’s practice. “He’s had two good practices. We’ll get a skate tomorrow morning. I would expect right now the way he’s looked out there that he’s pretty close.”

Bennett feels that he’ll be able to pick up his game quickly because he wasn’t off the ice for very long due to the injury. He was out for two days before getting back on the ice.

“I didn’t really lose much, as opposed to the other injuries,” Bennett said. “I really feel like I haven’t lost a step in practice. I have to make sure I got out and do it in a game.”

Former NHL defenseman Sergei Gonchar gave one final shot to keep his career alive when he signed with Pittsburgh for a training camp tryout contract.

Though he didn’t make the team, the Penguins approached Gonchar about another role with the team – on the side of management.

“After it didn’t work out in training camp, (Pens general manager) Jim (Rutherford) approached me and asked me to think about working for them,” Gonchar told me. “I took some time and made a decision that I wanted to be a part of this club.

Gonchar will be the team’s defensemen development coach, working with the team’s blueliners at the NHL level and throughout the system. He will also scout European tournaments for the team.  

“They have a younger group of guys and he asked me to help them to develop them,” said the former 20-year veteran that has a Stanley Cup and over 800 NHL games played. “With my experience I think it’s good for both sides.”

Gonchar is still favorably beloved by Pens fans for his role in bring the Cup to Pittsburgh in 2009. He spent five years in Pittsburgh and is a close personal friend of All-Star center Evgeni Malkin.

So in a way this is a return home.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization,” Gonchar said. “I want to do something in hockey. I’m really happy that it’s Pittsburgh.”

The Pens used the following lines/D-pairs at practice…



Eric Fehr took Crosby’s place for an occasional rush and Kevin Porter actually took some shifts on defense.

The Pens also worked with a new-look power play. Kessel was back at his half wall. Letang was still at the midpoint with Hornqvist providing the net-front. The tweak was between Malkin and Crosby. They took turns working the half wall while the other worked down low – below the goal line and at the net.

Crosby on facing the Caps and the rivalry: “This is always an intense game. For guys who’ve been a part of that for a long time need to make sure that’s understood. There are a lot of guys left who have been around for a while. They’ve always raised their game against us so we have to make sure we do the same.”

Crosby on coach Dan Bylsma’s return to Pittsburgh when the Pens host the Sabres on Thursday: “The first time is always a little bit different. At this point we’ve all dealt with those things before. Once you get into the game you kind of get into it. Everything becomes normal. The initial start is always like that.”

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