Penguins' camp will end as quickly as it begins

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KITCHENER, Ontario -- Michel Therrien has been involved with training camps for most of the past three decades.

He has played in them, organized them and overseen them, from junior hockey through the minors and into the NHL.

But for all he has done and seen over the years, Therrien, the Penguins' coach, never has been part of anything quite like the camp that begins with physicals and photos today.

"There's a lot of reasons it's going to be different," he said.

The biggest is that it will be over almost as soon as it begins. The first on-ice workout at Mellon Arena is set for 9 a.m. tomorrow; just over 10 days later, they will jet off to Sweden to settle in for two season-opening games against the Ottawa Senators.

In between, the Penguins will go through one of the most compressed preseasons in franchise history, with four exhibition games -- home-and-home series against Tampa Bay and Toronto -- spliced into the itinerary.

Fifty players, not counting injured defenseman Ryan Whitney, will take part in the camp.

That's how many are scheduled to be on hand tomorrow, anyway. How long some of them will stick is another matter.

General manager Ray Shero said "we'll get right down to it pretty quickly," and that cuts and reassignments likely will come even before the exhibition opener against Tampa Bay Saturday night at Mellon Arena.

Barring injury, the Penguins seem set in goal, where Dany Sabourin will back up Marc-Andre Fleury, and on defense, where the only major issue is whether management wants to spend the money and salary-cap space that would be needed to keep Alex Goligoski on the NHL roster.

There still is, however, much to be worked out up front.

The Penguins must replace Marian Hossa on Sidney Crosby's right side. Miroslav Satan, signed as a free agent from the New York Islanders, figures to get the first audition for that role.

"That could be a good combination," Therrien said. "There's no doubt we're going to try it."

Therrien declined to say whether he will shift Jordan Staal, a center by trade, onto Evgeni Malkin's left wing, filling the void created by the departure of Ryan Malone, but the consensus of others inside the organization is that using Staal there is Plan A.

Therrien also refused to divulge where he envisions using Ruslan Fedotenko -- "I want to see him with different combinations," he said -- or one of the most intriguing players in camp, Finnish forward Janne Pesonen.

Therrien said, "I think [Pesonen] will play both wings," but that "I want to see him play some exhibition games" before determining the role he will fill.

While getting Pesonen into the preseason games will be a priority, that won't be the case for most guys who aren't established at this level.

With just four exhibition games before their opening-night roster is set -- there will be a final preseason tune-up in Finland -- Therrien and his staff will have limited opportunities to put together satisfactory personnel combinations.

Consequently, some of the prospects and marginal NHLers who count on getting into a preseason game or two most years might not have that opportunity.

"NHL players are almost going to have to play three out of the four games, if they're healthy enough," Therrien said. "We won't be able to give as many chances as we have in the past to younger players.

"When you play seven or eight [exhibition] games, you can spot some of those young guys to give them a little experience. This year, my main focus is going to be to prepare our team."

Another wrinkle to this camp is that, because the Penguins reached the Stanley Cup final, they had a short offseason, which altered training routines. What impact, if any, that will have is impossible to predict.

"I don't think [it will have an effect]," Therrien said. "I'd rather have a short summer."


NOTES -- Defenseman Jason Legault, left winger Casey Pierro-Zabotel and center Dustin Jeffrey scored in the Penguins' 3-1 victory against Ottawa in their prospects-tournament finale. Legault's goal didn't save him from being released from his amateur tryout after the game. ... Winger Luca Caputi was held out of the second game in a row because of a hip injury. ... Practices at Mellon Arena, set to run from 9 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m., will be open to the public tomorrow, Thursday and Friday.


Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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