CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa — Mike Sullivan’s booming voice echoed through the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The Penguins fourth-year coach educated Daniel Sprong on neutral zone coverage. Sullivan told the young winger to not be fooled by two options and to resist being steered out of position. Sprong dutifully nodded.
Moments later, Sullivan again halted the Penguins breakout drill to instruct defenseman Olli Maatta, only Sullivan quickly transitioned to lecturing the entire team about transition play.
The Penguins unveiled what could be their opening night lines. Daniel Sprong is no longer the first line winger.
The defensive pairings reflect the last two preseason games:
11:32 a.m.: The drills for the first 30 minutes of practice were exclusively designed to hone the Penguins transition game and zone breakouts. From freeing the backside winger for a controlled zone entry to quick transitions back to offense in the neutral zone with quick passes to the defenseman and back. The Penguins practice had pace and zip. And Sullivan’s booming voice directing the ship.
Riley Sheahan was a full participant in practice, for the first time this season. Sheahan, who signed a one year deal after the Penguins declined to make him a qualifying tender, suffered an upper-body injury on the eve of training camp and has been skating on his own for the past week.
11:45 a.m.: Penguins appear to be working a 1-2-2 forecheck system or how to beat it. The echo makes it difficult to understand the coach’s instructions.
12:00 p.m.: We’ve moved to Rink 2 for power-play drills. The usual cast of characters are on the top unit: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Phil Kessel, and Patric Hornqvist.
It looks like Sprong will get a look on the second unit–on the point/left circle. Riikola, Sprong, Brassard, Guentzel, and Simon are on the second power-play.