Penguins Notebook: Defenseman Simon Despres makes NHL debut

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WASHINGTON -- Defenseman Simon Despres made his NHL debut Thursday night against Washington at Verizon Center, but it was more than just his first game in the league.

It was the start of a tryout.

How long it will last hasn't been determined.

And won't be until management gets a feel for just how he fits in at this level.

"We'll see how the next couple of games go, probably, see about our injuries and go from there," general manager Ray Shero said Thursday.

"With the four injuries we have on defense, with [ Brian ] Strait and [ Ben ] Lovejoy being out long term, and now with [ Zbynek ] Michalek and [ Kris ] Letang being out -- we're not sure how long they'll be out for -- our depth is being tested.

"We want to get an idea of what we have, in terms of [ Robert ] Bortuzzo , [ Alexandre ] Picard and now, Despres. We'll give these guys opportunities and then, as we move forward, we can have a better idea and give them some experience and go from there."

Picard, an NHL veteran, was returned to the minor league team in Wilkes-Barre to clear space for Despres on the 23-man NHL roster.

Despres, a first-round draft choice in 2009, had three goals and four assists in 22 games with the Baby Penguins this season.

He is 20 years old and plays a solid, though rarely spectacular, overall game. Not surprisingly, he entered the Capitals game intent on adhering to a pretty basic style.

"Just keep it simple, be physical, [make] a good first pass and try not to [make] too many mistakes," Despres said.

That dovetails nicely with what management is looking for from him.

"He just needs to play a simple game," Shero said. "Move the puck, use his body down low, play with confidence."

Close shave minus one

Most Penguins players and staff members were clean-shaven when they reported to Verizon Center for their game-day skate.

No surprise there, since it was Dec. 1, and the campaign to have them grow moustaches to raise awareness of prostate cancer had run in November.

But there was one conspicuous exception.

The notoriously superstitious Sidney Crosby , who entered this month with a three-game scoring streak, still had his moustache.

The consensus among observers was that Crosby's moustache would last as long as his points streak, although Crosby never would admit as much.

And, indeed, he came up with another explanation for why his facial hair survived the turn of the calendar, although it wasn't terribly convincing.

"I couldn't find a razor," he said.

New coach has time

In mid-February, Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien behind the bench of a talented Penguins team that was underachieving and had stopped responding to its coach.

On Monday, Dale Hunter took over for Bruce Boudreau in a similar situation in Washington.

One major difference: The Penguins were entering the stretch drive when Bylsma arrived, while the Capitals have more than five months left before the playoffs start.

"They have a significant amount of time ... still left," Bylsma said.

He didn't deny, however, that Hunter has stepped into a situation with enormous potential.

"They have quite a bit of time and a good team," Bylsma said. "Good situation and good players. A real good opportunity for Dale Hunter to come in and give them a jump-start."


Bylsma said there was no new information on Letang and Michalek, both of whom got head injuries late in a 4-3 overtime victory Saturday in Montreal. Letang has a broken nose, and it's possible that one, or both, has a concussion. ... The Penguins will close out their four-game road trip Saturday night in Raleigh, N.C., against the Hurricanes.


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