The situation with the Pittsburgh Penguins is pretty plain. The lineup for their second preseason game tonight in Buffalo is made up primarily of prospects and hopefuls. Training camp for their American Hockey League affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, opens Sunday. For those making the trip to play against the Sabres, it’s a big night.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan wants those prospects — forwards Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare would top the list — to not only get past the pressure of the situation but also embrace it and prosper under it. In fact, Sullivan liked PHN’s phrase, poise under pressure.
“I think that’s a great phrase … when you say poise under pressure because that’s what’s required to play in the NHL,” Sullivan said. “These guys, when they get a chance to play in an NHL exhibition game, they’re going to get an opportunity to show what they do and their ability to have success and play their game in an NHL environment — which usually involves some sort of pressure. And I think part of playing pro sports is your ability to handle pressure.
“I’ve always been a believer — and I’ve had this conversation with our players through the high stakes and circumstances that we’ve been through as a team — that you can look at circumstances through two different lenses. You can look at circumstances as a threat and you can be afraid of it, or you can look it at circumstances as an opportunity you get excited about. I’ve always been a believer that we all should look through the latter lens, that it’s a great opportunity for our guys and we should try to make the most of it.
“We can’t get overwhelmed by circumstances because it’s a young player playing in an NHL game. For me, it’s not about putting pressure on yourself; it’s about getting excited about an opportunity and then just immersing yourself in the game and the details associated with the game.”
So, no pressure…
One player in the lineup tonight with some NHL experience is Drew O’Connor, who apparently will get a chance to shift from wing to center.
“Playing at center is an opportunity to open up the ice a little bit more, have a little bit more room to skate,” O’Connor said, adding that he will also be aware of some added responsibility in his own end.
One of the few veterans in the lineup is winger Kasperi Kapanen, who also played in the Penguins’ exhibition opener.
“We just think Kappy benefits from the workload, and we really like the track he’s on right now,” Sullivan said. “He’s been getting in better and better shape, and we think he benefits from the workload. We’ll manage his workload down the road.”
While the defensemen mixed and matched at Friday’s morning skate at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the forward lines looked like this:
Sam Poulin-Radim Zahorna-Kasperi Kapanen
Dominik Simon-Michael Chaput-Valtteri Puustinen
Kasper Bjorkqvist-Drew O’Connor-Nathan Legare
Kyle Olson-Jordy Bellerive-Anthony Angello
Jonathan Gruden looked to be the 13th forward.