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The Inside Scoop: Summer Skate Quick Hits

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

We checked out one of the informal summer skates going on at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Friday afternoon. Notable Pens in attendance were Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot and Oskar Sundqvist. Here’s a few quick hits from our conversations with each of them…

- Sundqvist has been a staple at these sessions, as he returned to Pittsburgh from Sweden on Aug. 1. “For me, having a six-hour time change, coming in a little bit early and getting used to everything and settling in is a good thing to do,” he said. “The time change is usually the biggest problem, so it feels good to be here and get everything set up and be ready.”

- It may have been a short summer, but both Pouliot and Sundqvist were able to make big changes in such a small amount of time. Physically, Pouliot looks fantastic. It’s the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. He told us that he took about 1.5-2 weeks off before heading up to Toronto to train, focusing on getting quicker and in better shape conditioning-wise. Meanwhile, Sundqvist only took four days off before starting a new program with a new strength coach in Sweden. He’s at the same weight but has lost a lot of fat, and said compared to last year at this time it’s like night and day. “It’s been a good summer for me,” he said. “I’m definitely feeling that I’m a new person, almost.”

- Pouliot and Sundqvist are looking to earn permanent spots in a lineup that’s going to be difficult to crack, as it’s almost the exact same one the Pens used for the majority of their Stanley Cup championship run. With Matt Cullen signing in late August, the forward group will be unchanged. “I know how good Cullen is and I know how great he is off the ice, and he’s a good teacher for us young guys,” Sundqvist said. “Just have to start the competing right away from training camp and show them I had a good summer. I know I’m going to have a shot on this team, whether it’s at the beginning of the season or later, whenever. I’m just going to compete every day and show management up here that I’m ready.”

- Meanwhile, Ben Lovejoy is the only departure on defense. There will be stiff competition for spots back there, and Pouliot said he’s ready to compete. Even though he’s in the last year of his entry-level deal, his focus is on making this team. “Anything can happen during training camp and I’m going to do my best to come in and push for a spot in that starting six,” Pouliot said.

- That’s exactly what Dumoulin did last year. He ended up having an incredible first full NHL season – where he was one of the Pens’ most consistent and reliable defenders – capped off by scoring a goal, the second of his NHL career, in the Cup-clinching victory over San Jose in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He had a great attitude when talking about his mindset for this year:

“I definitely think I grew as a player and as a person in this locker room and I want to keep that confidence, but also keep that humbleness where I need to continue to get better and earn my spot here. That’s how I’m going into camp. I need to continue where I left off and be playing my best hockey right from the beginning. I’m not worried about getting a contract or anything like that. I just want to help this team win and play the best I can because I know things will take care of themselves the better the team does.”

- Speaking of that Cup Final goal by Dumoulin, when I talked to Sidney Crosby a couple of weeks ago and asked him to reflect on the Pens’ run, he specifically mentioned Dumoulin and Ian Cole – both unlikely sources of offense – chipping in big goals during the Sharks series. When I told that to Dumoulin, he laughed. “I always told him throughout the season that when I scored it was going to be a big goal. And I mean, I’ll take not scoring any goals in the regular season to score in the clinching game. I just knew I had to believe in myself and my teammates did too. Fortunately that goal went in for me and it was a big goal, and hopefully I can carry that into this year.”

- Shortly after Dumoulin returned to Boston for the summer, he went back to school. He signed up for a psychology course called ‘Human Development Through a Lifespan,’ an elective that has him one class away from getting his bachelor’s degree in marketing. He plans to graduate next summer. “That was tough,” he said with a smile about getting back into the academic life. “I felt like as soon as I got back there in June I was home for about a week then I went into a classroom for two days a week for a month. So that was different, but it was fun.”

- Dumoulin had his day with the Stanley Cup on Aug. 9, taking it to his hometown of Biddeford, Maine (sidenote: he’s the first person to ever take it to that state). It got off to a rough start, as the trophy got stuck at the airport. “The Cup was supposed to arrive at 9:30 (a.m.) and it ended up showing up at 11 (a.m.), it got delayed in Newark so everything had to adjust around that,” Dumoulin said. “I went to my old high school; we went to my old arena where I grew up; went to my favorite restaurant in Maine, Hewitt’s, where I used to work at. I used to be a dishwasher there. Then we brought it back to my house and we did a little neighborhood party, and then we went out on a boat in Casco Bay Harbor up in Portland and a lot of my family and friends were on it, so we had a good time.”

- Dumoulin had some special guests at that lunch. “The lunch was mostly for all the old coaches that had helped me. All the way through mites when I first started to (Boston College) coach (Jerry) York was there. It was just cool to share that experience with them.”

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