Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
2013 Camp, Day 3
January 15, 2013
The Pittsburgh Penguins were back at a chilled Consol Energy Center for day 3 of training camp and so was I. If you follow me on Twitter (@LGP_netwolf), you know most of what I saw. If you don't, why is that? I'm not good enough? No hard feelings though, I'll still share my thoughts with you.
Up front, Bennett and Tangradi traded places:
Defense pairings were jumbled most of the day, though Martin-Letang and Orpik-Niskanen were together more often than not. The other pairings changed almost every trip up the ice. Despres got a fair amount of time with Engelland, but Bortuzzo was there a lot too. Bortuzzo was also paired up with Strait. That's been the top pairing for Wilkes-Barre for a while now.
There isn't a whole lot to talk about from the first part of the practice; just a bunch of standard drills to get everyone moving and shooting with some contact. There was one highlight reel moment though. During a 1 on 1 drill down low, Eric Tangradi shook past Simon Despres, deked the heck out of Tomas Vokoun, and dumped a backhand into a mostly-empty net.
As the first part of the practice wound down, there was a lot of snow building up all over the ice. Enter head coach Dan Bylsma. He grabbed one of the shovels and began pushing the excess snow out to center ice. Drills wrapped up a little after that and everyone went back to the locker room for brief team meetings while the ice was cleaned.
The second part of the practice was all special teams work using the full length of the ice. The top two power play units were the same as yesterday. The PK units working against them were Adams, Cooke, Orpik and Bortuzzo, then Vitale, Glass, Strait, and Engelland. Lovejoy rotated in on defense. Tangradi, Megna, Bennett, Jeffrey and Despres comprised a third unit to allow some of the other power play guys to get work on the PK as well. First out was Sutter, Dupuis, Martin, and Niskanen. Crosby and Kunitz got out there too, and towards the end, Crosby and Malkin were out there together. I really hope that last thing isn't just a camp experiment. Malkin was pretty good on the PK in Russia before he was drafted and he's great at stripping pucks. The thought of him and 87 getting out there at the end of a kill against a tired PP is extremely interesting to me. It was also inject some much-needed aggression to a unit that sits back too much at times.
The top unit's plan of attack was the same as yesterday. There was a lot of movement, with the primary goal appearing to be allowing Neal to slip away into open space and finding him for a shot. On one instance, Malkin got the puck on the right side and went low. He skated along the goal line and threaded a diagonal pass between two sticks to Neal, who was sneaking down the left side. Neal gathered it and rifled a low wrister just inside the left post. It was the old backdoor play they used to run with Ryan Whitney, executed to perfection.
As good as that sequence looked, another one reminded everyone that they can still fall victim to getting too cute. They entered the zone with possession and got the umbrella set up. They were passing well, but then something happened. It was like they wanted to see who could make the toughest pass or that they got bonus points for passing through the center of the PK box. Eventually, one got picked off and the puck was cleared. No shots on goal, despite ample opportunities. Better they work that out of their system now though.
Practice concluded with a full team shootout, with a twist. There was a relay element to it. Everyone went to their respective benches. Once the whistle blew, a guy from each team would skate out, collect a puck and take their shot. If he scored, he skated back to center. Once he crossed the blueline, the next guy went. If he didn't score, he had to go after the puck and take it back over the blueline before the next guy could go. As you might expect, Fleury took this opportunity to have some fun. Whenever he would make a save and the puck was loose, he would try to get to it first (or at least skate in their way) and play it away from the shooter, delaying that team's progress. They kept going after everyone had shot once (they might have been tied), but eventually Bennett ended it with a silky-smooth deke. He faked backhand, pulled it back to his forehand, and slid it in as he fell over Fleury.
There is no open practice tomorrow, but as you undoubtedly know, there is a full scrimmage at 7pm. Admission is free, as is parking in arena surface lots. The Pens will be recalling additional players so each side has 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and a goalie. The scrimmage will be mirroring a regular game night for the most part, but there will be some staged scenarios. I assume that's to allow special teams practice. If you can't make it down to CEC, the game will be carried live on Root Sports and WXDX.
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