The “three-headed monster” hit the ice for the first time together Thursday afternoon at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all skated, as well as a number of other players, for the team’s informal skate.
Kessel spoke with the Pittsburgh media for the first time since arriving in his new home.
“It’s a whirlwind. I’m getting settled, getting ready,” he said. “I got a place here. I’m really excited for the start of the season. It should be great.”
Kessel is a prolific goal scorer in the NHL. On five occasions in his career he’s potted 30 or more goals, and has an uncanny velocity on his shot from any angle of the ice. He’s also blessed with jaguar speed. That combination puts him in a unique category of talents and a dynamic threat.
Those talents were also on display in Cranberry on Thursday afternoon.
“A lot of speed, shoots the puck really well. Things when we played against him we were well aware of,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “It’s pretty clear to see it when you practice with him, those strengths of his.”
Crosby and Malkin are also in the category of elite athletes in their sport and are arguably the best setup men at their position. Pairing the skilled setup superstars with a legit finisher has Pens fans salivating.
“They’re great players. They’re the best players in the world,” Kessel said. “I’m lucky to play with them.”
“It’s definitely a big plus when you add a pure goal scorer to your lineup,” winger Pascal Dupuis said. “He’s an elite player. He’s a proven goal scorer in this league. It’s good to have him on our team. He seems happy to be here, excited.”
The Pens took part in an informal five-on-five scrimmage at the end of their on-ice session. Although the players rotated through varying combinations, Crosby and Kessel worked together quite often. It’s a duo that head coach Mike Johnston said would pair up for the start of training camp.
But however the lineup shakes out, everyone knows that Kessel’s presence will make the Pens a bigger threat to compete for a Stanley Cup.
“Adding an elite player like this just brings us closer to winning a championship, a big trophy,” Dupuis said. “It doesn’t matter where you fit. It’s what this team can do as a whole.”
Kessel worked this offseason with fitness guru, former player and Executive Director of UPMC Performance Training Center Gary Roberts. While his training wasn’t much different, Kessel did say his eating habits improved.
“I ate a little healthier,” he said. “Training-wise I didn’t do anything crazy different. Gary is a great guy. I had a lot of fun there.”
There was a media report that Kessel had lost 13 pounds this summer while working with Roberts, an assertion that Kessel indicated was an exaggeration.
“I didn’t lose any weight guys,” he said with a smile. “I’m the same as I’ve always been.”
And that’s fine, because the Pens will take him and his scoring touch as they are.