Penguins Notebook: Match-up with Blackhawks downplayed


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It sounds like a compelling matchup -- the two most recent Stanley Cup champions, whose payrolls include some of the game's finest talents -- and, under most circumstances, it would be.

Just not in September.

Fact is, when the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks meet in a preseason game at 7:08 tonight at Consol Energy Center, both figure to be far more focused on preparing for the regular season than on which can outscore the other.

"We're a ways removed [from their championship] and in [an] exhibition, they're not going to play their whole team," coach Dan Bylsma said.

Even if the Blackhawks packed their lineup with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and other big-time talents, the Penguins' top priority would be identifying the players and personnel combinations that will give them the best chance for success when the real games start.

"In the preseason, you're more worried about your team than anything," center Sidney Crosby said. "That's always your approach. You always respect the team you're playing, but, at the same time, you don't want to focus on them too much.

"No matter who we play [tonight], we have to focus on getting better throughout the preseason and getting some good habits."

More cuts due soon

Performances tonight could be critical for players hoping to be around for the regular-season opener Oct. 7 against Philadelphia, because the Penguins' 41-man roster is expected to shrink considerably before they go on the road for games at Chicago Friday and Detroit Sunday.

"We'll be getting real close [to the regular-season roster] in those two games," Bylsma said. "That's going to look a lot like the group that's going to be here for the start of the season."

Team officials still have not said -- and, quite possibly, have not yet determined -- how many players they intend to have on hand when the regular season starts.

Craig still out

Forward Ryan Craig, who left the Penguins' 3-1 victory against Columbus Saturday night because of a sore groin, sat out his second consecutive practice Monday, and team officials said it had not been determined when he might resume working out.

Craig, signed as a free agent in the offseason, was expected to be in contention for a spot on the NHL roster, but being injured at a time when the final cuts are looming certainly does not work in his favor.

He would have to clear waivers to join the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

Tip-ins

Crosby, on the playing surface at the CEC: "I think the ice is kind of a work in progress." ... The Penguins are 3-0 in preseason play, with two of those victories on home ice.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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