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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens’ 6-5 win against the Detroit Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena.

* There is no doubt the best player in the game was winger Jake Guentzel. He finished the game with one goal and four assists. More impressive is the way he accumulated those points.

Guentzel’s first assist was the result of some grit and tenacity. He went into the end boards hard, separating Trevor Daley from the puck. Then he made a quick pass to Conor Sheary, whose shot was placed into the net on the rebound by Adam Johnson.

Guentzel’s other two helpers were the result of some great vision. On a power play in the second period a Justin Schultz shot went off of the post. There was a scramble in front and the puck found Guentzel in the slot. While 90 percent of players in the league would have shot the puck, Guentzel saw Sheary (through two Red Wings) and slid him a perfect pass for the easy tap-in.

* Speaking of Johnson, he’s one of five players in training camp that are fighting for the third-line center role on the team. No doubt he was the beneficiary of having Guentzel and Sheary as his linemates tonight, but he made the most of his opportunity. Johnson scored two goals in the game, one on a rebound and the other with a nasty shot into the corner of the net.

This preseason was the first taste of pro hockey in Johnson’s career (he’s played the past two seasons at Minnesota-Duluth). He definitely has a learning curve and would benefit from some time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But with games like Wednesday, he’s making that a hard decision for management.

* While we’re on the topic of the third-line center role, don’t count out Greg McKegg. He picked up an assist and had an impressive showing in Tuesday’s contest against Buffalo at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena. He made such a good impression on the coaching staff that they played him in back-to-back games.

McKegg, 25, has great offensive instincts, and the speed that it takes to really thrive in Mike Sullivan’s system. He scored a goal against Detroit and nearly had a second (the puck went off the post). He also has some NHL experience which may help in the competition against some of the team’s other younger prospects.

* Pens fans got their first look at newcomer Ryan Reaves, though it was a limited look. Mostly due to the large amount of special teams work in the game, Reaves’ ice time was only 10:55. But he made quite an impact in those 11 minutes, registering seven hits.

* The NHL has made it clear that it’s main two “points of emphasis” regarding officiating this season will be face-off violations and slashing. The crackdown, as it usually does, has begun in the preseason. The tightly-called game resulted in seven penalties in the first period alone. There were 16 penalties in total, seven slashing and two face-off violations.

The calls certainly slowed the pace of the game down. It’s still preseason so both the referees and players are still feeling out the process. But hopefully the players adjust quickly.

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After a weekend of intersquad training camp scrimmages, the Pens held a championship game on Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Sidney Crosby’s Team 1 played Evgeni Malkin’s Team 2, with the captain’s group skating to a 4-2 victory. Here’s some thoughts, musings and observations…

* The coaching staff have kept Crosby and Malkin with the same linemates through the first few days of training camp. Crosby has skated with Jake Guentzel and Dominik Simon, while Malkin has skated with Zach Aston-Reese and Phil Kessel. “When a young player like Zach has an opportunity to play with established guys like Geno and Phil, it’s a great opportunity for him,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve tried to put some of our guys in those positions. We did the same thing with Dominik Simon, with Crosby and Guentzel. We’re trying to put players in positions where they have an opportunity to be at their best and show what they can do. What better way to do it then put them with some established players?”

* Crosby and Guentzel picked up right where they left off in terms of chemistry, and today, Simon truly looked to be on the same page as them. They read and reacted off each other for a few sweet plays. Simon did a good job of finding soft spots and getting open, and was rewarded when Crosby fed him with a perfect pass off a turnover that the winger roofed short side. “I think when you get back to camp, you just look to build off of things,” Crosby said. “And with Dom with us there, he did a great job for the three scrimmages. We’ll see kind of moving on, but I think for me and Jake, we just wanted to continue to build.”

* This is Aston-Reese’s first NHL preseason, as he signed with the Penguins in March following his senior year at Northeastern. Which means this has been his first chance to play with elite talents like Malkin and Kessel. “The first day, when we saw the lineup on the wall, it was kind of like, ‘wow,’” Aston-Reese admitted. “But they’re just hockey players at the end of the day, and just got to have a good attitude and just play to your abilities as best you can and learn from it.”

* It’s been an eye-opening experience for Aston-Reese, who said his biggest takeaway was the pace. “I definitely noticed the puck has to be on your stick and off your stick a lot quicker,” he said. “I found a lot of times, I’d wait an extra second to get the puck off my stick or shoot it on net or make a pass, and by the time I got the puck off the play wasn’t there anymore. So it was definitely a good learning experience and having that mindset every day at the rink, that you’ve got to be quicker and quicker and learn from it.” Moving into the exhibition games, Aston-Reese said he wants to continue his strong wall play and prove that he can handle the pace.

* Malkin and Kessel were a little slower to rediscover their chemistry, but today it looked like they found it. They had one lengthy offensive zone shift where they kept the opposing team pinned, and Teddy Blueger came in off a line change and scored against his tired opponents. They also had some nice passing sequences together.

* One defenseman who stood out today was Justin Schultz. Early in the game, he made a beautiful pass to spring Malkin on a breakaway, and later in the game, pulled out some incredible moves to create a quality scoring chance for himself. Overall, he definitely showcased his strengths, as he didn’t hesitate to join the rush and contribute offensively. And though he was often involved in the play, he didn’t let himself get caught out of position. While it’s impressive how the Pens won with a bruised and battered blue line last year, seeing players like Schultz and Kris Letang shine in these scrimmages is so good to see heading into this season.

“Just trying to get back into it,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t that long of a summer, but being away for a couple months, you’ve got to get back into it and get the habits back. It takes a little bit, so it’s good to play these games and get ready.”

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Perhaps the biggest question regarding the Pens’ power play is who will be the team’s quarterback.

Defenseman Kris Letang has been a staple in that position for the past several years. But after a herniated disc in his neck sidelined him in February, Justin Schultz stepped into that position and filled in admirably.

“These are two guys that are real good power-play guys. And they’re both going to see some time there,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “That’s how I envision it moving forward. They’re both No. 1 power-play defensemen.”

Letang, 30, is a workhorse for the Pens, averaging 25-plus minutes per game over the past three seasons. Splitting some power-play minutes with Schultz could help alleviate some of Letang’s minutes.

“It should give us the ability to spread the minutes evenly,” Sullivan said. “Maybe we can take some workload off of both guys. They’re both bonafide No. 1 power-play defensemen and we’re fortunate to have them.”

Schultz’s presence will also be an asset to the Pens considering Letang is returning from surgery on the aforementioned herniated disc in his neck. So the team has the luxury to ease Letang back into the lineup and build up his minutes.

Letang and Schultz are similar players as both are offensive-type of defensemen. They are great skaters, can carry the puck through traffic and can make plays.

But they also have some differences. Letang likes to freelance from the mid-point position and create offense on his own. Schultz prefers to remain along the blue line as a safety valve and will either dish the puck or tee up a slap shot.

“It’s a huge asset to have two guys like that,” Recchi said.

The Pens’ power play will also be making another adjustment, though this one is not on the ice.

Rick Tocchet, who served as the team’s assistant coach and oversaw the power play, has departed for Arizona to become a head coach.

Now, new assistant coaches Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar will take over in that department, with the help of head coach Mike Sullivan, of course.

“We collaborate on everything. We’re working on things together,” Recchi said. “We have different ideas, bounce things off of each other. None of us have egos so we’ll have fun with it. When you have a group like this, it’s enjoyable and seeing what we can do.”

There’s a reason Recchi is excited to inherit this group. The Pens’ power play features all the ingredients needed for success with some of the best offensive players in the entire league in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Letang and Phil Kessel.

The unit ranked third in the National Hockey League last season with a success rate of 23.1 percent. The Pens even had three players reach double digits in power-play goals with Crosby (14), Malkin (11) and Patric Hornqvist (10), while Kessel totaled 30 power-play points.

“A lot of the video we watched, it’s simple why we’re effective,” Recchi said. “We’ll try not to get in the way.”

Having too many capable people is certainly a nice problem to have. Beyond the top unit, the Pens have a plethora of players that can step in and delivery like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary or Bryan Rust.

“You go down the list, it’s a great thing,” Recchi said. “We have a lot of guys that can get that opportunity. Whoever is playing well is going to get that opportunity. That’s the nice thing. We can reward guys for playing well. When guys are struggling we can put them in situations to get them out of it.”

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe that goaltender Matt Murray is still just a youthful 23 years old. After all, he’s accomplished more success in one-and-a-half years in the NHL than most goaltenders achieve in a lifetime.

Murray has led the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships in back-to-back seasons while tying NHL and franchise records along the way. In fact, Murray’s only two seasons in the NHL ended with him raising the Cup.

So what does Murray do for an encore?

“(The media) asked me that last year too and I’ll give the same answer,” Murray said. “My job is to take things one day at a time. I’m not thinking about results or anything like that. I’m not thinking about an encore. I’m thinking about getting better each and every day. That’s how I’m going to approach it.”

It’s that type of maturity that has allowed Murray to already be one of the premiere performers in his profession at an age where most young adults are just graduating college and seeking to begin their careers.

“Human nature is to get ahead of yourself and thinking too far ahead,” Murray said. “It’s just about taking a minute, relaxing and focusing on the moment that you’re in and not worrying about anything else.

“It can be a challenge sometimes, but that’s what makes it so powerful if you’re able to do it because it’s so hard to overcome that.”

Murray’s maturity both as a player and person is the reason the Pens felt confident enough to put the weight of the franchise on the shoulders of a 23-year-old netminder.

The club left goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons in Pittsburgh, unprotected in the Las Vegas expansion draft with the expectations that he would be selected.

Murray and Fleury shared the crease over the past year-and-a-half. But now, the crease belongs solely to Murray. And with that increased workload comes greater responsibility.

“I hope to take a bit more of a leadership role,” Murray said. “That’s something I still need to learn. I’m still pretty young. But I get to watch guys like (Sidney Crosby) and (Kris Letang) each and every day. We have a great leadership group here. I just hope I can add whatever I need to.”

Murray admits that he’s not the most vocal person and that leading by example is his best route of leadership, particularly, his play in between the pipes.

“If you’re confident in your goalie and he stays calm, hopefully the team can stay calm, especially if things aren’t going our way,” Murray said. “I need to figure it out as I go. It’s about staying calm in every situation and staying confident in every situation, building each other up and helping each other feel comfortable out there.”

General manager Jim Rutherford, a former NHL goaltender, doesn’t think Murray has to change much about his game or approach this season.

“He has to be himself, has to be the guy that got him to where he is today,” Rutherford said.

It was only two years ago that Murray was the new guy on the scene, coming into a new locker room. He was welcomed by Fleury. Now he’s paying it forward by welcoming his new creasemate Antti Niemi.

“It’s a little different than the position I’ve been in the last couple of seasons,” Murray said. “He was asking me which areas are the best to live in and I’m happy to give him any advice I can.”

Niemi is a veteran netminder that has played eight seasons in the NHL with Chicago, San Jose and Dallas. Niemi backstopped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup title in 2010 in his season year of NHL action.

Having a goaltender of Niemi’s pedigree and experience will be a benefit to Murray.

“Obviously he’s been around forever too, so I have a lot to learn from a guy like that,” Murray said. “I’m always going to learn anything I can, especially from a guy like that.

“We have a good relationship thus far. I hope to get to know him a little bit more as we go. I’m sure we’re going to be pretty good friends.”

Relationships between goaltenders are typically stronger than any other position. After all, it’s difficult for, say, a defenseman or winger to understand what a goaltender is going through. But another goalie can completely empathize.

“There is a special bond with goalies because it’s a completely different sport,” Murray said. “You’re not playing hockey, you’re playing goalie. We know what position the other guy is in. I’ve never met another goalie I didn’t like.”

Murray’s backup isn’t the only difference he’ll have to adjust to this season. He’ll also be working with a new goaltending coach. Mike Buckley has taken over for Mike Bales, who left for the same position with Carolina.

Buckley was the Penguins goalie development coach for the previous four seasons and worked a lot with Murray throughout his career. Buckley occasionally visited Murray to lend support and coaching while he was in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and even after the tender jumped to the NHL.

“We have a great relationship and have been working together for a long time,” Murray said. “That’ll be an easy transition. That’ll be pretty natural for us.

“It’s going to be nice having him around all the time, and having just another mind to bounce things off of.”

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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.

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Murray stands alone: It’s strange to think that a 23-year-old goaltender in the NHL has played fewer than twice as many minutes in the regular season than he has in the playoffs. It speaks plenty to Matt Murray’s poise and potential as an unchecked No. 1 in the post-Marc-Andre Fleury era. On paper, he’s a top-five fantasy goaltender. That said, he hasn’t played like a workhorse before, and there will be some question as to whether he starts 65-plus games. Workload could limit his value compared to his top-tier counterparts.

Wingers to the stars: It’s been largely settled now that it doesn’t particularly matter who plays wing on the Penguins, as they will need to be monitored for fantasy potential simply due to their proximity to either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. There aren’t wholesale changes from last season, but it’s good to remember than Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel are penciled in for a full season of top-line work, with Guentzel possible for extended power play duty in his sophomore campaign. Patric Hornqvist may also be on the outside looking in for the important roles, his unbroken streak of healthy 20-goal seasons dating back to the previous decade notwithstanding.