Specific assignments take priority in Penguins' camp
Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin skates with his teammates for the first time since the lockout at the Consol Energy Center.
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The Penguins have time to make personnel and strategic decisions before the regular season starts.
Just not very much of it.
With the opener scheduled for 3:08 p.m. Saturday against the Flyers in Philadelphia, coach Dan Bylsma and his staff have little opportunity to experiment.
Rather, they must try to get players as comfortable in their roles as possible, so at practice Monday at Consol Energy Center they displayed a few things likely to be seen when the Penguins face the Flyers.
• The No. 1 power-play unit featured Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz up front, with Kris Letang and James Neal on the points, although Neal will be more of a rover than a traditional point man.
• Simon Despres partnered with Letang, although another defenseman, likely Matt Niskanen, could be used there at times.
• Paul Martin, playing the right side, and Brooks Orpik will be the shutdown defense pairing.
• Eric Tangradi again skated alongside Malkin and Neal and stands to get playing time there, although others could be slotted in there if game situations dictate.
The Penguins allowed 10 short-handed goals a year ago, tying for fourth most in the NHL, and using a forward such as Neal on the point generally raises the chances of yielding those.
Bylsma, though, said that in 2011-12, winger Steve Sullivan was charged with being the first man back when the Penguins had a man-advantage. That responsibility now falls on Letang.
"In that regard, I think we're better, a little bit different than last year," he said.
Bylsma said that while "it's a real possibility" Despres and Letang will play together in Philadelphia, it is "not something we're locked into."
While Tangradi is the front-runner to start the season at left wing on Malkin's line, he won't have exclusive rights to that spot.
"No matter who plays there, you're going to see situations where other people play there," Bylsma said.
Brandon Sutter might be used if there's a faceoff to be taken on the right dot, he said, while Tanner Glass or Matt Cooke could play there when the Penguins are trying to protect a third-period lead.
Long days for Malkin
Malkin, who arrived Sunday night from Russia, skated Monday with his teammates.
"He got not a lot of sleep, with the time change," Bylsma said. "He got up early for his physical and spent a long day on the ice."
Malkin declined to speak with reporters, but is supposed to do interviews today.
Goalies Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff and winger Steve MacIntyre, none of whom are in training camp, cleared waivers.
They aren't the final guys who will go through that process this week, although the Penguins didn't put anyone on waivers Monday.
Jason Botterill, who is assistant general manager of the Penguins and GM of their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre, said all waivers-eligible players who are now playing with, or who will be assigned to, the Baby Penguins this week will have to clear by 3 p.m. Friday.
A number of Baby Penguins are expected to be brought in after their game in Norfolk tonight to participate in the scrimmage planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Bylsma said he would like the day to be as realistic as possible, so the Penguins will conduct a game-day skate and hold the meetings they usually would when playing.
Penguins prospect Keven Veilleux has been suspended indefinitely by their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling for allegedly using a racial slur Sunday in a game.
He is charged with directing it toward South Carolina's Scotter Vaughan after the two fought in a 5-0 Nailers victory.
"I'm horrified and I'm disgusted," Nailers alternate governor Tim Roberts told the Wheeling Intelligencer/News-Register. "It will not be tolerated."
The Penguins offered a statement that read:
"The Penguins concur with the Nailers' decision to suspend Keven indefinitely at this time. We have talked to Keven and told him that such behavior is unacceptable. We will continue to work with the ECHL and the Nailers organization on this matter."
First Published January 15, 2013 12:00 am