CHICAGO -- Left or right? Who cares?
"I think people really make way too big of a deal of left and right," Penguins winger Beau Bennett said Thursday before a preseason game against the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
"If you're a winger, usually you can play both. There are a couple of things you'll have to adjust when you move over, but, for the most part, it's all the same."
Bennett scored the only goal in a shootout to give the Penguins a 4-3 win against Chicago.
Bennett, 21, doesn't fret over which side he plays; he just wants to be in the lineup regularly -- something that is pretty much a given for the 2013-14 season.
A right-handed shot and natural right winger, Bennett is penciled in -- or maybe inked in --to play left wing with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal, although those two did not travel to the game Thursday.
After spending the first week of training camp at that spot, Bennett and a few other players got a chance to mix and match a little for the game against the Blackhawks, what Bennett called "testing our chemistry."
Bennett played with center Brandon Sutter and right winger Matt D'Agostini.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is just taking a look at some different scenarios during the middle stretch of preseason games.
"In the next game [Saturday at home against Columbus], we'll see Malkin and Neal play with different players than Beau Bennett," Bylsma said. "Beau [was getting] an opportunity to play on a different line, different type of line, with some different type of players."
Bennett didn't have any points in the game but set up D'Agostini for a breakaway in the first period. The Penguins got goals from Joe Vitale, Derrick Pouliot and Sidney Crosby to improve their preseason record to 1-1-1.
Bennett, a Penguins first-round pick at the 2010 NHL draft, was much more concerned with his size and strength than which side he might play.
At 6 feet 2, 195 pounds, he is now NHL-sized compared with when he was drafted as a slimmer body.
"It's something that I took really to heart this summer, and I put a lot of work in off-ice and it's really helped me out so far," Bennett said.
"I did a lot of cross-training, a lot of track, and then weightlifting right afterward and then maybe back to track just so I could keep the weight functional that I was putting on."
As someone who on Malkin's line who could be the first forward on the forecheck, the extra size and strength help.
"It's helped me a lot down low, in the corners," Bennett said. "I got a little taste of playing the front of the net on the power play [Sunday in Columbus], and it helped."
Bennett wasn't playing with Sutter for the first time.
Last season, his first as a pro, he started in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout and played 39 games there (seven goals, 28 points) before playing 26 games with the Penguins (three goals, 14 points). He played some with Malkin and Neal but also with Sutter, first with Tyler Kennedy and later with Jarome Iginla.
A scenario similar to Bennett's played out Thursday. Chuck Kobasew, in camp on a pro tryout, played in Pascal Dupuis' usual spot alongside Crosby and Chris Kunitz on the top line. He had no points.
Kobasew had a strong first week of camp and, if signed, could be a candidate to work on one of the top two lines if injuries create an opening. But Bylsma made it clear that the Penguins are evaluating Kobasew primarily as a potential third-liner, perhaps in competition with D'Agostini.
"Realistically, on our team, he's probably trying out for a third-line wing position," Bylsma said. "In exhibition games, the opportunity is a little bit greater because you're playing with not a full [NHL-caliber] lineup."
In any case, Kobasew said he didn't plan to tinker with his game simply because he was penciled in last night for the No. 1 line.
"I'm a simple player, a straight-line player," he said. "Get in there, hunt pucks. I don't want to change anything."
Which doesn't mean he wasn't excited about sharing a line with Crosby, if only for one game.
"He sees the ice better than anyone," Kobasew said. "So you have to be ready for [the puck] at all times."
Kobasew made his preseason debut on a blue-collar line with Dustin Jeffrey and Tanner Glass in the Penguins' 5-4 overtime loss Sunday in Columbus and he responded with had two goals.
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. The Post-Gazette's Dave Molinari contributed. First Published September 20, 2013 4:00 AM