Maybe the legs aren’t burning much anymore or the skate bite has subsided. But there is still much do to. Welcome to the midpoint of Pittsburgh Penguins camp – 10 days since it convened, 10 days until the season opener at Tampa Bay.
The first big roster cuts came Saturday, the eve of the opening of camp for the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate, Wilkes-Barre-Scranton.
There are two preseason games down, four to go, including one Sunday against Detroit at PPG Paints Arena when the Penguins are expected to dress a fairly veteran lineup and use goaltender Tristan Jarry the full game.
The reports coming from the club offer good reviews so far.
“I think it’s been really good,” Penguins center Teddy Blueger said of camp. “I think the pace has been really high. I think the point of emphasis is high pace, high intensity. Practice has been tough, but I think we’ve been getting better both in conditioning, physically.
“Not all of us have played a game yet, but in scrimmages and things like that, (we’re) just getting the timing down, the little systematic details.”
That latter point, the X’s and O’s of Penguins hockey, is something winger Jason Zucker is seeing more of.
“Now it’s getting more into system stuff – from breakouts to tracking, basically everything, getting more familiar with that type of stuff,” Zucker said.
Saturday, for instance, the main group (there is a smaller group of mostly prospects after the cutdown) spent a good deal of time on special teams.
The power play units, which will have to open the season without injured centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, looked like this:
No. 1 unit – Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Jeff Carter, Kasperi Kapanen.
No. 2 unit – Mike Matheson, John Marino, Zucker, Evan Rodrigues, Drew O’Connor.
“At this particular time in the camp we’re starting to get down to smaller numbers, more manageable numbers, where we can focus more on the details and the subtleties of our concepts, and also focus on individuals that might make our opening roster and the roles that they may play,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
“That’s basically, for me, how most training camps evolve. We’re in the middle of it at this point and we’re going through that process.”
And going through it to the satisfaction of the coach.
“To this point we’ve been really encouraged with the effort of the guys, the focus of the guys,” Sullivan said, “but we’re looking to get better every day, and we’re going to push these guys each and every day to get to another level.”