Cranberry Twp, PA — The Pittsburgh Penguins further cemented their new defensive pairings as coaches put the team through a brisk workout Friday morning. The back defensive pairing also may have tipped the Penguins personnel decisions which are due by Monday.
Alex Galchenyuk returned after being scratched Wednesday night due to a nagging lower body injury.
The Penguins kept Juuso Riikola and Erik Gudbranson together as the third defensive pairing. Chad Ruhwedel, John Marino and Jack Johnson shared the extra pair. Riikola played well Thursday night, as he battled for an NHL roster spot.
Jack Johnson also hustled during practice. He chopped at Brandon Tanev and kept the rushing forwards to the perimeter during a 5v5 drill. Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, and Dominik Simon comprised what would be the Penguins fourth line..for some of the practice.
The Penguins first power-play unit, was Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist.
The second unit was run by Justin Schultz and Marcus Pettersson on the points and included Dominik Simon and Dominik Kahun. However, coaches were not shy with different groups including a second power-play troop with Letang and Riikola at the top, Jared McCann in the low position and the Dominiks on the walls.
However, if Galchenyuk worked on the power play, he sneaked past us.
All three goalies swapped in and out, so nothing to read into that.
To conclude practice, the defensemen worked with Sergei Gonchar to walk the blue line and avoid rushing attackers.
This file will be updated throughout practice and after locker room availability.
Sidney Crosby may or may not play tomorrow during the annual kids game. Crosby’s junior team Rimouski Oceanic is retiring his number Friday night. Crosby is tentatively scheduled to play tomorrow but the Penguins also won’t overextend their franchise player for a preseason game.
What a ridiculous treat it is to watch Crosby go about his business. Most of us whine when we’re pulled in 1000 directions. Crosby just goes about his business. Impressive.
Per head coach Mike Sullivan, Galchenyuk skated on his own Friday morning. He did not participate in practice and his participation Saturday seems unlikely.
PHN also asked Mike Sullivan about the Pettersson-Schultz pairing. Without spoiling the pending Pettersson story we’re working on, Sullivan immediately said, “If they are our second pairing.” He also called Pettersson one of their four best defensemen.
We also had a chat with Erik Gudbranson. I always try to relate to the players, maybe get a chuckle. With Gudbranson, it’s usually him who makes me laugh. We were both laughing after I asked about Riikola being an agitator. The video will be on Youtube, shortly. Story to follow Saturday.