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The American Hockey League announced today that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Daniel Sprong has been selected as CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for December.

Sprong tallied nine goals – including three game-winners – and five assists for 14 points in 12 games for the Penguins in December before earning a recall to the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL). Among the rookie’s scoring outburst in December was his second hat trick of the season on Dec. 29 – part of a four-point effort in a 5-1 win over Hartford.

A second-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2015 NHL Draft, Sprong is tied for second among all AHL skaters with 18 goals and ranks fifth among league rookies with 28 points in 29 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season. Sprong, a 20-year-old native of Amsterdam, Netherlands, leads all Penguins with 18 goals and 28 points this season, as well.

Sprong is the third Penguins player in team history to earn CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month, joining forward Jake Guentzel (2016-17) and goaltender John Curry (2007-08). All three players earned Rookie of the Month honors for their play in the month of December.

Sprong will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming home game in recognition of his achievement.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 2-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena…

* Goaltender Tristan Jarry made his sixth consecutive start and eighth straight appearance in the blue paint for Pittsburgh. His previous outing didn’t go so well as he allowed three goals and was pulled after 20 minutes against Toronto. The question was how Jarry would handle bouncing back from such an ugly outing.

The answer: magnificently.

Jarry made several ridiculous saves for Pittsburgh, including a shorthanded breakaway stop on J.T. Compher and a split pad save on Blake Comeau late in the third period. It was a tough test for the rookie tender, and he passed easily. Jarry gave the Pens a chance to win.

* Nova Scotia-native Nathan MacKinnon is off to the best start of his five-year NHL career. He was definitely the Avalanche’s best player in the game, and appeared to have scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season with a nice move around defenseman Kris Letang before slipping the puck through Jarry’s five-hole.

However, the Penguins challenged the play for offside. The challenge was upheld and the goal was negated.

* The Pens had their spurts of dominance, mostly in the third period, but it was an otherwise lackluster performance. Pittsburgh seemed to have no flow, appeared disjointed and its passes were off. Collectively, the Pens struggled to really find their game and assert themselves.

It was an uninspiring night all around for Pittsburgh.

* Entering the game, goaltender Jonathan Bernier had won just once in 10 previous appearances against the Pens. He improved that to twice.

* Phil Kessel extended his scoring streak to 5 games with a late third-period goal (4G-1A).

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Pittsburgh Penguins starting goalie Matt Murray is considered out week to week with a lower-body injury suffered on Monday, coach Mike Sullivan said.

Murray exited with 4:21 left in the second period after Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek crashed into him during a breakaway. The 23-year-old managed to skate off under his own power before limping down the runway, clearly favoring his right leg.

Tristan Jarry stepped in for Murray, and the Penguins rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Jarry appears to be the solution right now. Pittsburgh also called up goalie Casey DeSmith from the AHL.

Jarry earned his first NHL win against the Lightning Nov. 25, making 33 saves on 35 shots.

“We believe he is a solid goalie,” Sullivan said, according to NHL.com. “I think the game he played against Tampa is a perfect example of what he’s capable of. Tristan is going to have to make timely saves for us game in and game out. We believe he can do that.”

Backup goalie has been a point of concern for the Penguins this season. Antti Niemi, 34, entered the season as the No. 2, but he lasted only three games before being cut loose with a 7.97 goals-against average. That opened the door for the 22-year-old Jarry, who has appeared in only four games this season and one last year.

The Penguins were also missing center Evgeni Malkin Monday for a fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. Sullivan said he is day to day and will accompany the team on its trip to Buffalo Friday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have invited 59 players to their 2017 training camp, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Head coach Mike Sullivan’s camp roster (click here for full roster) will include 34 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goaltenders. Players will take the ice for the first time on Friday, September 15 at 9:00 AM at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

All training camp practices at the UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex are free of charge and open to the public.

This year’s camp roster built by Rutherford and his staff includes 18 players who logged action for the Penguins during the 2017 playoff run.

Leading the way once again is captain Sidney Crosby, winner of consecutive Conn Smythe Trophies; Evgeni Malkin, who led the NHL playoffs in points with 28 last spring, the second time in his career he’s done that; returning high-scoring blueliner Kris Letang; and goalie Matt Murray, who has backstopped the Penguins to Cup victories in each of his first two years in the league.

A new season brings new faces to the equation, and some of the veteran newcomers this season are defenseman Matt Hunwick and goalie Antti Niemi, both of whom signed as free agents on July 1, and forward Ryan Reaves, acquired in a draft-day trade from St. Louis.

Hunwick was a key catalyst in Toronto’s ascension to become a playoff team last year, while Niemi has won 227 career NHL games and backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2010. Reaves enjoyed a career year with the Blues last season, setting career highs in goals (7), assists (6) and points (13) while ranking 10th in the NHL with 239 hits.

Center Jay McClement, one of the top forward penalty-killing specialists in the NHL, will be attending camp on a professional tryout contract. A veteran of 12 NHL seasons, McClement spent the last three years with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he tallied 15 goals and 40 points in 224 contests, and won 53.7% of his faceoffs.

Sullivan’s squad begins camp at 9:00 AM on Friday with a pair of practices, as Team 1 will be on Rink 1, and Team 2 will practice on Rink 2.

Teams 1 and 2 will then partake in a scrimmage against one another from 10:00-10:45 AM on Rink 1, before both squads finish their morning with conditioning until 11:05 AM.

Team 3 has two practice sessions on Friday, both on Rink 1. That team will have its first practice from 11:30 AM-12:15 PM, then it will finish with a practice that spans from 12:45-1:30 PM.

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PITTSBURGH — Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has been cleared for contact before training camp opens Friday.

Letang, who underwent season-ending neck surgery on April 13 to repair a herniated disk, said he felt healthy Tuesday but continues to take his recovery one day at a time. He hopes to play when the defending Stanley Cup champions open their regular season against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 4.

“Health is pretty good,” Letang said. “I’ve been working out all summer. I was restrained at the beginning, but I got the clearance to start running and skating around July 5. Pretty full summer. … We’ll just start and go day by day. I got cleared to have contact and skate with the team. We’ll see how it goes the first few days and we’ll increase the workload.”

Letang had five goals and 29 assists in 41 games while battling various injuries last season. Throughout that season, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he would like Letang to adjust his style and avoid unnecessary hits.

If it’s up to Letang, nothing will change. He plans to average over 25 minutes per game again in 2017-18.

“(Playing at least 25 minutes is) what I want to do,” Letang said. “That’s part of my game, the way I play. So, obviously, it’s the goal. I have no expectation. I’m just going to go like I always did and go from there.

“There’s certain things to avoid, that’s for sure. But it’s not going to change my game. … I’m healthy. That’s the only thing I know. So, I don’t know why I would rest. The energy is going to be there, for sure.”

Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 2, when he had one assist in 28:49 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Penguins announced April 5 that Letang would miss four to six months after undergoing neck surgery. The surgery was successful, albeit slightly frightening for Pittsburgh’s defensive leader.

“When I woke up, it was hard,” Letang said. “I’m not going to lie. It was a tough first two weeks. A lot goes through your mind, but after that, I got more confidence. When the guys were playing, I was actually able to work out, do little things. I got my confidence back then that I was going to be healthy.”

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The Penguins defeated the New Jersey Devils, 6-2, in the second game of the 2017 Prospects Challenge at HARBORCenter in Buffalo. Thoughts, musings and observations…

- When talking about what he expected from the prospects this weekend, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin said the biggest thing is for these guys to make an impact in their own way – and to “get out there and do something.” Jordy Bellerive has clearly taken that to heart. The youngest player on the roster, here on an amateur tryout contract after being invited to Pens development camp earlier this summer, scored a hat trick to give him four goals and an assist in two games. This weekend has been a dream come true so far for the 18-year-old, who went undrafted this summer. “My agent called me with a couple options for teams that wanted me to go to camp,” said Bellerive, who plays for Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. “Obviously it was an easy choice when Pittsburgh asked me to come to camp, the best organization there is. It’s pretty special for me. I had a good feeling about Pittsburgh and glad I made this decision.” While he was disappointed to not get his name called, he used the motivation of coming here to have a strong summer.

He’s not the biggest guy at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, but he uses his smaller, thicker frame to his advantage to win battles in the corners, use his speed on the outside to get pucks toward the net. “He’s a very talented guy,” Donatelli said. “Works extremely hard. He’s not the biggest guy but he wins his 1-on-1 battles and he’s just got to continue doing that. We like to play with pace and play fast and he seems to really enjoy that. He really fits into our system and you can see the results from tonight.”

- After being held off the scoresheet in Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Boston, Daniel Sprong got on the board Saturday. While WBS head coach Clark Donatelli was pleased with the chances Sprong got on Friday, the staff still wanted to see more from him offensively. They told him to be more assertive and not pass up any chances to use his release. Saturday, he did that – letting the puck fly whenever he got the chance, especially on the half wall on the power play. He got got rewarded when his one-timer flew into the back of the net. “Today, I stuck more to my game,” he said. “I played a lot better that way creating a lot of chances for myself and for my team and try to build off that.” He’s still going through that process of being responsible defensively but also playing his game offensively.

- After Friday’s game, Thomas Di Pauli said that he felt fantastic after dealing with numerous injuries last season that limited him to just 21 games. And while he was happy with his performance, he joked that he needed to start scoring, because he had about 10 chances and couldn’t bury them. Today, Di Pauli put his words into action as he found the back of the net. He followed Adam Johnson up the ice, who decided to shoot instead of dropping a pass. And while that got blocked, Di Pauli picked up the loose puck and his shot banked off a defenseman and in. He was again impressive with how he can get the puck up ice and protect it on the way. “Now he’s healthy, you can see the difference in him,” Donatelli said. “He’s got a little more jump, he’s a little quicker.”

- It’s kind of funny using the term ‘veteran’ at a rookie tournament, but the Penguins are looking to the players who have been here before and spent time in the pros – whether it be Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Wheeling – to use their experience to be leaders. That’s certainly the case for Teddy Blueger, who has worn the “C” for both Friday and Saturday’s games and scored a goal this afternoon. The center, who Donatelli called “a great human,” has been on another level this weekend with how he thinks the game. He’s not the fastest skater, but he’s one of the smartest, and uses his hockey IQ to make sure he’s always in the right position and making the right play. His game reminds me a little bit of Nick Bonino’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Blueger sees time in Pittsburgh this year being more of a responsible that can handle that side of the game at the NHL level. “He came in out of college as an offensive guy. He came into Wilkes-Barre and we made him a defensive guy playing against top lines,” Donatelli explained. “But when he does force those turnovers and plays good solid defense, he can create offense and he can make really nice, nifty plays and he can score.

“He has that real offensive ability and is real solid defensively, he’s one of our best penalty killers, and his skating has improved. It looks like he’s gained half a step. He’s going to be a good one.”

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The Stanley Cup is the most coveted trophy in all of hockey. Young hockey players dream of winning it, hoisting it in the air and earning a chance to take it home with them for a day during the offseason.

What would you do if you had sole possession of the Stanley Cup for an entire day? We bet your answer isn’t the same as Pittsburgh Penguins right-winger Josh Archibald.

Archibald had a unique idea of how to best use his time with the Cup.

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On Wednesday, Archibald and his wife had their son, Brecken, baptized in the Stanley Cup during a ceremony held in Brainerd, Minnesota.

Brecken hasn’t even laced up his first pair of skates yet, but he has already had a religious experience with the Stanley Cup. It would seem that the newest member of the Archibald family is destined to be a hockey fan.