Good afternoon from CONSOL Energy Center, where the Pens are looking to get their first win of the year tonight against the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s positive,” Phil Kessel said of the mood in the room following their 0-3 start. “I think we’ve got a great team here. We’ve got a lot of great players and we’re going to get going here. It’s early. We’ve got to be urgent and play real well.”
Beau Bennett was the only player absent from morning skate, and head coach Mike Johnston said afterward he will not play in tonight’s game.
“Beau is injured,” Johnston said. “He’s going to be further evaluated like any other injury after a game. He was evaluated yesterday and today and start to get some news on how long that injury may be.”
It’s yet another tough break for the 23-year-old winger, who reported to training camp healthy and in the best shape of his young career after a couple of injury-filled seasons. And all of his hard work this summer had been paying off to start the year.
Bennett had an excellent preseason, where he was one of the Pens’ best players and tied for the team lead in goals (3) with Kessel. Bennett then built off that to start the season and had an especially strong performance in Pittsburgh’s last game on Tuesday vs. Montreal, scoring a goal and recording six shots in the Pens’ 3-2 loss to the Canadiens.UPDATE 4:15 p.m.:
The Pens just called up forward Bryan Rust
from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and re-assigned Tim Erixon to make room on the roster. If Rust makes it to Pittsburgh in time, either he or Bobby Farnham – who played in the regular season opener vs. Dallas – could slot into the lineup in Bennett's place.POWER OUTAGE
While the Pens didn’t do line rushes during practice, they did spend a lot of time working on the power play – which has gone 0-for-9 through the first three games and has been a big part of the team’s struggles offensively.
But despite that, the guys feel they’re close to breaking through – especially when considering all of the talented personnel they have and the looks they’ve gotten thus far.
“We’ve had some good chances,” Kessel said. “If you look at the couple games, we’ve had some good looks and good opportunities to score. We’ve just got to bury pucks. I think we’ve got to get in the zone a little better. When we’re in the zone, we’re pretty deadly I feel.”
“I think the main thing is just you’re getting momentum and you’re executing,” Sidney Crosby added. “The goals will come when you do that. We’ve done it in spurts, but I think that there’s a level of urgency I still think that we can get to power play and 5-on-5. Just making sure we outwork the other team’s PK with our skill we have, we should generate chances.”
After being split up for much of the first few games, this morning Crosby and Evgeni Malkin practiced on a unit with Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang. The second group was Olli Maatta, David Perron, Daniel Sprong, Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz.FEHR PRACTICES
On a positive note, forward Eric Fehr skated with his teammates for the first time since undergoing offseason elbow surgery on June 3, where he was given a projected recovery time of 4-6 months.
Fehr, who is not yet cleared for contact, said he isn’t putting an exact date on his return. Right now, he’s just pumped to skate with the guys for the first time since signing with the team.
“It felt good to be out there,” Fehr said. “Obviously it’s just the first step. But to be out there working on timing a little bit and just being with your teammates is a huge first step.”
Fehr, who agreed to a three-year deal with the Pens on July 28, has missed all of training
camp and the Pens’ first few games. However, he has been skating on his own for the past six weeks. With his type of injury, the main area he needed to progress was shooting. Now that Fehr is able to do that at 100 percent, joining his teammates was the next step.
“Once his shooting progressed to the level where he could participate full out in practice, then he was allowed to skate,” Johnston said. “So this was his first day, and like a player that has been out for all of training camp like that and the end of last season, it probably is going to take him some time. I don’t know how much time that is, but it’s a matter of just getting into quality practices.”
Fehr said from here, the next step is now progressing into battle drills and of course, like Johnston said, working on his timing and conditioning.
“I’m in bag skating shape, not game-playing shape,” Fehr said. “There’s a big difference. Anyone that’s played hockey knows the difference. It’s a lot more stops and starts. It’s a lot tougher to think with the puck. It’s going to to be great out there to get a feel for the game, get the timing back and hopefully with that the game speed will come.”GAME INFO
Where: CONSOL Energy Center
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: 105.9 the X, Penguins Radio Network
Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoopPENSTV INTERVIEWSSidney Crosby Phil Kessel Eric Fehr