--Sam Kasan BORTUZZO, STRAIT READY FOR CAMP
This season has been a different one for defensemen Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo, as it’s the first time since they turned professional three years ago that they haven’t attended NHL training camp in September. But they’re in Pittsburgh now and looking forward to hitting the ground (or ice) running.
There's going to be a healthy competition for spots on Pittsburgh’s deep blue line, and both players are grateful to come in having played a normal schedule with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – using the same systems that Pittsburgh does – during these last few months.
“I’ve been down in Wilkes-Barre, so I’m in game shape,” Strait said. “I’m ready to go. I’m healthy and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity.”
“You can feel the energy in the air,” Bortuzzo added. “It’s nice to have gone through a couple camps here where you’re familiar with a lot of faces. Physically I feel great. I had the luxury of being able to play games and have some of that physicality of game play under my belt. I consider it an advantage.”
Both Strait and Bortuzzo are in their fourth seasons with the organization, so they know what’s expected of them heading into this camp. They play a similar type of game, having developed into steady, reliable defensive defensemen – and this year, they’re looking to solidify themselves as NHL players.
“I’ve been up and down for a couple years now and I know what they expect from me,” Strait said. “I’m going to do my best to prove that I belong here and hopefully I get to be a part of this team.”
“Every year I have the same expectations of just working hard, making a push to open some eyes and get to that ultimate goal of sticking here in Pittsburgh,” Bortuzzo said. “Things haven’t changed for me.”
Although Strait does hope he gets back to playing defense on Monday, as he did line rushes as a forward with Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna on Sunday.
"It was different for me," Strait laughed. "More challenging mentally than physically."
--Michelle Crechiolo THE TAKEAWAY
GM Ray Shero and HC Dan Bylsma addressed a few topics in The Takeaway, Malkin's return, top-6 forwards, waivers for D-men, goalie workload and re-signing Malkin and Letang.
The best fans in hockey packed the arena to watch the Pens' first training camp practice. Not only was it standing room only in the stands, but fans filled the restaurant overlooking the ice. To show their appreciation, the Pens players saluted the crowd at the end of the skate. The "Let's go Pens!" chants that ensued were just awesome.
"Acknowledging the fans and saluting to them was the players’ idea," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was not inspired by the coaches. It was the players’ acknowledgment. Pretty special to have a packed building. They were hanging out at the restaurant and all over the place. It added to the practice today, especially.
"I could have changed my schedule and ran a second practice after they went “go Pens go” there at the end. The guys were pretty excited about that."
“Pittsburgh is an unbelievable sports town and they really love their Pens," added forward James Neal. "It was great to see for us. We love it when the fans come out.”
Coach Dan Bylsma couldn't be happier to be back on the ice with his team running practice
Incredible pace to today's practice. The guys were moving!
The stands were packed!
Crosby was happy to have the coaches back running drills
Crosby lining up for a faceoff against asst. coach Tony Granato, one of the best
Bylsma instructing Strait and rookies Megna and Bennett
Liney discussion with Kunitz, Dupuis and Crosby
Fleury back in his usual pads (he was breaking in a new white pair on Saturday)
Fleury flashing the pad on fellow Frenchman Despres
Bortuzzo (left) got to Pittsburgh from Wilkes-Barre in time for training camp
--Michelle Crechiolo & Brooks Bratten PRACTICE INFO
Evgeni Malkin was the only player absent from Sunday's practice as he was on his way to Pittsburgh from Russia. He is expected to return Monday.
The Pens used the following line combinations:
NOTE: During coach Dan Bylsma's media scrum after practice, he said that on Monday, Malkin "will take Dustin Jeffrey's spot as center on that line. Eric Tangradi will be on the left and James Neal will be on the right."
Pens GM Ray Shero addressed the media before his team took the ice for practice. Here are some tidbits of what he had to say...
Evgeni Malkin should arrive in Pittsburgh today. But he won't practice. He'll be at practice Monday. Shero added he isn't concerned about Malkin playing too many games, saying "He's young and in great shape."
Rosters need to be set by 3 p.m. Friday.
There are no injuries. "Knock on wood. Everybody is healthy coming into camp."
Shero said it's possible the team could carry eight defensemen to start the season.
--Sam Kasan PAPARAZZI
Meesh went all paparazzi on the guys as they arrived at Southpointe.
The Penguins released a lot of training camp info this morning, including the roster and schedule. Twenty-six players will attend camp, including a few that have been playing with the WBS Penguins: forwards Eric Tangradi, Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna and defensemen Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait. Full roster details here.
Monday - noon
Tuesday - 11 a.m.
Wednesday - 7 p.m. (Black and Gold scrimmage)
Thursday - Day off
Friday - 11 a.m.
--Sam Kasan HOCKEY IS BACK
Hockey is back. And the season is nigh. In celebration of the beginning of the year, NHL.com put together a fantastic video piece. The best part of is the morphed Lemieux/Malkin bit at the 1:20 mark.
--Sam Kasan START THE DAY
Good morning Pens fans! It’s a great day for training camp! It’s a beautiful Sunday in Pittsburgh (high 60 degrees – that’s Fahrenheit for our Canadian fans). The weather couldn’t be nicer for the opening of camp – here’s hoping we hit 66 degrees.
The players will hit the ice at Southpointe at 3:10 p.m. for their first team practice with the coaching staff, and with only five days of camp there is a lot of work to be done. The players have been skating on their own the previous few weeks.
With camp officially beginning, and thus the 2012-13 campaign underway, we’ll begin the day with a little diddy by the legendary Rolling Stones called “Start Me Up.” An apropos way to begin the year.