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Camp log (Day 3): Examining Bennett-Tangradi dynamic, and, hey, hey, Zamboni Day!

Good morning, dear readers. The Penguins, a lot of them, are taking part in their fake morning skate, which is part of their fake game, also known as the Black & Gold scrimmage. Face off is tonight at 7 p.m., and the Trib Total Media gate opens at 6 p.m. Parking and admission is free. TV is Root Sports Pittsburgh, with the radio call on Penguins HD Radio.

And with all of that out of the way…

♦ Happy Zamboni Day:

♦ Something to watch for in the scrimmage is which intriguing prospect spends the most time with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Eric Tangradi and Beau Bennett are in a tight competition, seemingly – though, the guess, based off talks with folks in the organization, is that Bennett is going to have to go wow-gosh-bang to win a roster spot.

Tangradi, after all, must clear waivers if he does not make this roster. And there is likely no chance he would clear waivers.

Bennett is an intriguing prospect, but when considering his opportunity for this season, remember that he has not played a full season in two years. Injuries have limited him, and the Penguins do favor getting him scoring-line minutes, and if those minutes come in the AHL, so be it.

That said, skill like his is rare, and his strength is playmaking. Malkin and Neal combined for 90 goals last season, they probably don’t need a shooter.

They also probably need a physical presence, judging by the success Chris Kunitz had with that duo last season. Tangradi is not Kunitz in terms of those sling-shot hits in the corners to jar pucks loose, but he can mirror Kunitz’s net-front presence – and he will need to show that Wednesday in the scrimmage to convince coaches he is the man for that job.

Coach Dan Bylsma keeps talking about the left wing spot on the Malkin-Neal line being something that could rotate among several players. The question, perhaps, is whether that rotation could include Tangradi and Bennett. Unlikely, but who knows.

♦ A lot of stuff about “rover” when it comes to the Neal role on the power play. Fair enough, but that is not the term coaches will use. Bylsma said Neal is considered a “flanker,” not a rover. Also, in this setup, Malkin and center Sidney Crosby are “flankers,” too.

I’m not as down on the power play as most, but mostly because I know Bylsma has put many offseason and lockout hours into review tape of the 2006-07 Penguins, when defenseman Ryan Whitney was used in the “flanker” role and flourished.

If looking for a current NHL example of the “flanker” power-play that Bylsma envies, check out Dan Boyle in San Jose.



Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi has covered the Penguins for parts of every season that Sidney Crosby has played in Pittsburgh. So, since 2005. He has led the Trib's NHL coverage since 2007, when he became the primary Penguins beat reporter. He joined the Tribune-Review in November 2002. Rossi, 35, is local chapter president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He also dabbles in radio, as ClearChannel's "Penguins Insider," and TV, as "NHL Insider" for Root Sports Pittsburgh, and as a semi-regular contributor to The Final Word, a Sunday sports show that airs on WPXI. In 2012, Rossi was recognized nationally by Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism for his coverage of youth sports for a Trib series that investigated concussion protocol. In 2013, he teamed with Carl Prine for an investigative piece about athletes' charities what was honored regionally. A graduate of West Virginia University and Keystone Oaks High School, Rossi was raised in Crafton and Green Tree and currently resides in Brookline. He is currently working on the authorized biography of Evgeni Malkin. Follow him on Twitter: @RobRossi_Trib

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