Penguins notebook: Bennett expected to return to right wing

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For weeks, Beau Bennett was asked ad nauseam about switching from his natural position, right wing, to the left side, where he was expected to play for the Penguins alongside Evgeni Malkin or Brandon Sutter.

He insisted it doesn't really matter.

Now it really, really doesn't matter.

With James Neal out of the lineup for potentially an extended amount of time because of an unspecified upper-body injury, Bennett, 21, is expected to be one player, if not the main player, to fill in on Malkin's right wing. Jussi Jokinen on the left side, Malkin and Bennett was the combination primarily used on that second line Saturday night against Buffalo at Consol Energy Center.

"I've been playing left for a while now, so it's just kind of getting back in the swing of things on the right side," Bennett, a right-handed shot, said. "There's really not that much difference, especially with a smart guy like Jussi.

"When we come back in the zone, if he's on my side, I'll stay on his and whatnot. We're kind of all over the place, reading off of each other. For the most part, it's pretty much the same."

Playing with an elite, creative player such as Malkin has its challenges, regardless of which side a winger is stationed. Malkin and Neal have developed a strong rapport.

"When you see [Neal] playing on that side, they're always supporting each other no matter where it is on the ice," Bennett said. "You want to develop that chemistry, that trust, and it will only get better with time."

Bennett and Jokinen have often played on the second power-play unit and already know each others' tendencies.

"We talk quite a bit," Bennett said. "He's a smart guy. You just have to read and react to what he's doing."

There was no update on Neal, who is out on a week-to-week basis.

Letang skating again

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang skated on his own briefly before the team's game-day skate, his first time on the ice since he got what is believed to be a knee injury Sept. 27 in practice.

"I don't have an exact timetable on when he would return to practice for sure, but he's progressed real well," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I hope [his return to practice] is in the near future."

Letang is eligible to come off of injured reserve in time to play Tuesday against Carolina, but there is no indication of whether he will be ready for that game.

Winger Matt D'Agostini, who is on long-term injured reserve because of an unspecified injury, could be back to practice in less than two weeks.

"I'm looking for Matt probably about the 16th or the 18th -- we play [at Philadelphia] on the 17th," Bylsma said.

Sabres summon goalie

Around midnight Friday night, goaltender Matt Hackett was decompressing from a rough outing with the Rochester Americans, when he gave up six goals on 30 shots in an 8-1, season-opening loss to defending American Hockey League champion Grand Rapids.

"I was home, about to pass out," Hackett, 23, said.

He didn't expect his phone to ring, and especially not the call he got: The Sabres were summoning him to Pittsburgh because goalie Ryan Miller came out of a 1-0 loss to Ottawa that night with a minor injury.

"I never saw being called up after giving up six goals coming," Hackett said.

He drove from Rochester to Buffalo, and a driver brought him to Consol Energy Center in time for a Sabres optional morning skate.

"It's been a crazy night," he said after the skate.

Hackett dressed as Jhonas Enroth's backup against the Penguins. Miller reportedly had a sore groin, and coach Ron Rolston said his No. 1 goalie is expected to be back quickly.

Quick hits

The Penguins' only healthy scratch was defenseman Deryk Engelland. ... Defenseman Henrik Tallinder did not play. He was injured in the Ottawa game and could miss about a week, Rolston said. ... The Sabres are splitting their captaincy this season, with center Steve Ott wearing the "C" on the road and winger Thomas Vanek wearing it for home games.

penguins

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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