Matt Cooke (24) is pulled by Detroit Red Wings' Dan Cleary (11) as linesman Darren Gibbs (66) pulls Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk (13).
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
DETROIT -- The exhibition games are over. The last big bit of business for the Penguins this preseason is to finalize their roster.
They will ponder their last cuts while preparing for their regular-season opener Thursday against Philadelphia. Those moves could come as soon as today, but they have until 3 p.m. Wednesday to get down to no more than 23 players.
The options might be shaped based on the health of some players. Winger Arron Asham has been out with an undisclosed injury since Friday night, and his status for Thursday is undetermined.
Asham, center Sidney Crosby (sore hip flexor) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (sore groin) did not play in the Penguins' final exhibition game Sunday, a 5-2 win against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena.
Coach Dan Bylsma has said Crosby and Orpik are expected to be ready for the season opener.
If the Penguins are depleted at forward, they will comfortably turn to one of the prospects who have so far survived the cuts, Bylsma said. If not, they expect to see those fellows eventually called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
"In terms of Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey and Mark Letestu being able to play a role on our team in certain circumstances, they've had really good camps and shown that they can play," Bylsma said. "I'm comfortable in certain circumstances in saying that they're probably all going to play, and play significantly for us, at some point in the year."
Defenseman Simon Despres, the team's 2009 first-round draft pick, played in his fourth preseason game as the Penguins wanted to take as long a look at him as possible. He can be sent back to his junior club, Saint John, at any point up to nine games into the regular season without activating his entry-level pro contract.
"He [played in Detroit] because this is the toughest decision -- keeping a guy vs. sending a guy back to junior, and is he going to possibly stay the nine games?" Bylsma said.
The Penguins scored the first two goals in the victory -- a tip-in by Mike Comrie (4:19 of the first period) and Chris Kunitz off of a feed by Letestu (7:40 of the first period) -- before Detroit took advantage of its lively end boards in setting up a goal by Pavel Datsyuk at 10:24 of the first.
Comrie got his second goal, on a power play, with 15 seconds left in the first period to make it 3-1, and Alex Goligoski made it 4-1 at 4:35 of the second period as Tangradi set a screen.
Evgeni Malkin stole the puck and scored at 2:43 to make it 5-1.
Coaches on ice
It's training camp for the Penguins coaches, too, and that has meant a lot of time on the ice.
They don't mind a bit.
"That's the time to put it in," goaltending coach Gilles Meloche said. "The first 10 days is labor, but mentally you're ready for it. You just pace yourself."
There were days when the team had three practices and a scrimmage, or three practices and a game that night.
While the players' balance of skating, working out and rest is managed, the coaches have been on the ice a great deal, particularly early on, in addition to meetings and evaluation sessions.
"It's great because it's a lot of opportunity to help young players," first-year assistant Todd Reirden said. "It's a chance to teach a lot. We kept the groups small so that they could get individual attention, and that meant that we went on the ice a lot.
"But this is what I love doing. It's all in the name of players getting better."