Penguins Notebook: Practice feels regular now
Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey worked on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Mike Comrie yesterday in practice.
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The Penguins' regular-season opener is less than a week away, and signs that another season is about to begin are hard to miss.
Like how the Penguins are down to two exhibition games -- tonight in Chicago and Sunday in Detroit -- and how, for the first time this fall, they conducted practice with just one group of players at Southpointe Thursday.
"It feels like a regular practice now," center Sidney Crosby said.
Fifteen forwards participated in Thursday's workout -- Jordan Staal (foot) and Ryan Craig (groin) still cannot practice -- and were deployed in these combinations:
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Dustin Jeffrey-Mike Comrie-Evgeni Malkin
Matt Cooke-Max Talbot-Arron Asham
Mike Rupp-Craig Adams-Eric Godard,
Eric Tangradi-Mark Letestu-Tyler Kennedy.
The most eye-catching player placement might have been Jeffrey, who spent most of camp at center, on the left side with Comrie and Malkin, a spot usually filled by Tangradi the past two weeks.
"It was a little bit surprising," Jeffrey said, smiling.
"It wasn't a bad surprise. It was something different, but I played wing all [last] year, so I'm a little bit more comfortable than if this was the first time I played wing."
Mind you, there's no guarantee Jeffrey will be in that role -- or even on the NHL roster -- when Philadelphia visits Consol Energy Center at 7:03 p.m. Thursday, because the coaching staff and management still have several personnel issues to resolve.
There are a couple of unclaimed spots up front as well as on defense, and the makeup of at least a couple of lines has not been determined. What happens against the Blackhawks and Red Wings will go a long way toward answering those questions.
"It's a huge weekend," Jeffrey said.
"There are only two preseason games before the regular season starts, so, obviously, the decisions are going to be made after the games this weekend."
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a 1.20 goals-against average and .963 save percentage in two preseason appearances, is expected to play at least one of the two remaining exhibition games.
And while he might like a bit more work than he will get before the regular season begins, Fleury figures that it will not really matter, on at least one level.
"No matter how many games I get before I played the first [regular-season] game, I'm still going to be a little nervous, a little excited to get going," he said.
"I don't know if any more games would make a difference for being prepared."
All 11 players the Penguins assigned to their Wilkes-Barre minor league team Wednesday cleared waivers. ... Crosby, on the impact of the absences of veterans such as Sergei Gonchar and Bill Guerin leaving the team: "We definitely got younger, but I think everyone's pretty familiar with one another. Everyone has a pretty good idea of what to expect and has gone through a lot together."
First Published October 1, 2010 12:00 am