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The Inside Scoop: Last Preseason Game

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Hello from Raleigh, North Carolina! As Evgeni Malkin pointed out on the team bus to the arena this morning, this is the Pens' last game of the preseason. After having the day off yesterday for team building, the Pens were back on the ice for morning skate prior to playing the Hurricanes tonight at 7 p.m. at PNC Arena. It can be heard on 105.9 the X and will be live streamed (thanks to esteemed PensTV producer Mark Cottington) on our official website, penguins.nhl.com, by taking the scoreboard feed and syncing it with the radio broadcast.


After a couple rounds of cuts before and after the Pens' game against Detroit on Wednesday, Pittsburgh's roster is down to 31 players (18 forwards; 11 defensemen; 2 goaltenders). And the Pens' focus has shifted away from individual evaluation and more towards getting the team ready for its season opener on Oct. 8 in Dallas -- where they'll need get down to at least 23 men.

"Early in camp, it’s a lot about evaluation and also getting your team play down," head coach Mike Johnston said. "Now it’s more about team play, structure, how you’re playing, getting individuals sharp before we open up. It’s probably 10 percent evaluation on some guys."

They used the following lines during rushes...

Kunitz-Crosby-Kessel
Plotnikov-Malkin-Hornqvist
Dupuis-Bonino-Sprong
Farnham-Cullen-Perron

A couple of notes:

* The top-6 looked exactly as expected. The bottom-6, however, seems to still be in flux. Johnston said that while overall the forwards are "pretty well set" and this is close to the look they'll use next week, from his perspective, there's still a lot of combinations they can use on both the third and fourth line right now. They'll try a couple of different looks tonight and finalize that going into next week.
* Johnston said Beau Bennett, who's tied with Phil Kessel for the team lead in goals (3) this preseason, is getting a rest tonight since he already played his four games. Getting each player that amount was a priority.
* Johnston confirmed that Bobby Farnham will be back in the lineup tonight for his second preseason game after getting injured early in camp. As far as what they want to see from him, Johnston said they just want him to bring his regular game. "We need that type of player in our lineup, that physical play, that energy. He was hurt for a while, we waited. Weren’t really sure if he was going to play tonight, but the last couple days he had some good practices and now he’s ready to go."
* In regards to David Perron slotting in on the fourth line, Johnston said, "He’s a guy who can really provide a different look to a line and we’re just trying to find the right chemistry of a line that’ll fit well. We’ve tried him in a lot of different spots. So in fairness to him, he has played on different lines. We put him up on the left side, now he’s back on the right side."


They used the following D-pairs during rushes...
Scuderi-Maatta
Cole-Letang
Pouliot-Clendening-Dumoulin (all rotating)

A couple more notes:

* Obviously the most notable change was the separation of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, a duo that Johnston has indicated will be together to start the season.
* When asked about that and about Sergei Gonchar not playing tonight, Johnston said the Pens don’t have their defense pairs locked in as far as the start for next week. "So we’re looking at some different options tonight just to see where they are and get our mind set on exactly what we want for those pairs," he said. "We’ll do the evaluation over the next 24-48 hours and finalize that heading into Sunday when we start to practice and get ready for next week."


Finally, Crosby and Malkin practiced on different power-play units. Here's how they looked:
1) Letang, Kessel, Crosby, Perron, Kunitz.
2) Maatta, Sprong, Malkin, Hornqvist, Plotnikov
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