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September 23, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Lineup at Columbus Tuesday


Here’s a look at which Penguins will play Tuesday at Columbus:

1 Thomas Greiss G
37 Jeff Zatkoff G

6 Scott Harrington D
8 Brian Dumoulin D
10 Christian Ehrhoff D
23 Steve Downie F
25 Andrew Ebbett F
27 Craig Adams F
32 Pierre-Luc Leblond F
36 Bryan Rust F
38 Zach Sill F
42 Kasperi Kapanen F
45 Adam Payerl F
46 Dominik Uher F
52 Harrison Ruopp D
53 Tom Kostopoulos F
54 Tom Kuhnhackl F
55 Philip Samuelsson D
57 Marcel Goc F
58 Kris Letang D
63 Conor Sheary F
65 Alex Boak D


September 22, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Previewing Red Wings at Penguins, 7 p.m., preseason


The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game at Consol Energy Center … alright, you all know how that ended.

Well, we’re here. With a new coach, a new general manager and plenty of new players. Oh, and a new beat reporter.

Three days of camp practices are over. A 7 o’clock game with Detroit looms tonight.

Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling were acquired from Nashville and will play against the Red Wings. Blake Comeau signed as a few agent and will also dress.

“It’s good to get it going again,” Hornqvist said. “We have a new coach, a new GM, and I’m one of the new players. There are a lot of new situations out there that you try to get better at and get a game plan of how we want to play in certain situations. That’s what preseason is all about: get in shape and do the right things out there.”

“It’ll be good,” Spaling said. “It’s nice to get to a real game. I think everybody has been waiting all summer to start back up. It’s go-time tonight.”

It’s tough to predict line combinations for tonight because there were none at the morning skate. Only winger Beau Bennett playing with center Brandon Sutter seems like a lock.

Because of the need to dress a certain amount of veterans for preseason games — and with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz out because of injuries — the third member of that line, Steve Downie, will likely play tomorrow, head coach Johnston said.

Marc-Andre Fleury
will start in goal. His backup is Matt Murray.

“We’ll decide as we go through the game if Murray is going to get some action,” Johnston said.

By now, you should know a little bit about Johnston’s system: puck-possession, speed, pace, all the usuals.

Defenseman Rob Scuderi was asked what differences fans will see between what the Penguins will do tonight versus what they did under former coach Dan Bylsma, and I found his response interesting:

“I think we might be slightly more aggressive in the neutral zone,” Scuderi said. “Where I thought we might sit back a little bit, which a lot of teams do, to kind of wait and see what happens, I think we’re going to try and dictate the pace a little more in the neutral zone.

“Besides that, there are a few wrinkles that are different. It’ll be up to us to adjust and figure it out.”

About Detroit
Pittsburgh won two of three meetings against Detroit last season, including the only meeting at Consol. Two of the three required overtime. … Tonight Detroit will dress notables F Pavel Datsyuk, F Riley Sheahan, F Dan Cleary, F Tomas Tatar, F Darren Helm, D Niklas Kronwall and G Jimmy Howard.

The 2013-14 series:
Dec. 14 4-1 Penguins at at Joe Louis Arena
March 20 5-4 Red Wings (OT) at Joe Louis Arena
April 9 4-3 Penguins (SO) at Consol Energy Center


To our #TribHKY Penguins page
To the box score, which includes rosters
To the Red Wings page of the Detroit Free Press

>>Josh Yohe and I will have you covered tonight. If there’s one person in Pittsburgh left who doesn’t follow Josh, his Twitter handle is @JoshYohe_Trib. Mine is @Mackey_Trib.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 22, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Extras from Sunday, five things to watch


A busy week for the Penguins starts with a Monday night preseason home game against Detroit. Tuesday they’re at Columbus, then Minnesota and Columbus are here on Thursday and Saturday.

Head coach Mike Johnston said Sunday that he expects defenseman Olli Maatta to miss all of those games. If they’re lucky, they’ll have him back to test his surgically repaired shoulder for games at Minnesota on Sept. 29 and at Detroit on Oct. 1.

“It’s about competing,” Johnston said of the preseason. “It’s about competing for spots and learning how to play the system. But I don’t want the system and the strategy and the style of play to overtake the compete and the energy in the game.”

Here are five things to watch early on in the preseason:

1. Pairings. Will Rob Scuderi play with Kris Letang? Paul Martin with Christian Ehrhoff?

2. Third line. Johnston really wants Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter together. Will it work?

3. Daniel Carcillo. Many have asked how he’s been doing. Fine. But you don’t toe the line — believe that’s what Johnston termed it — with your teammates in practices. Games will give Carcillo a forum to do what he does best, and that’s to be a pain and inflict it.

4. Goaltenders. How will Johnston use and evaluate Jeff Zatkoff and Thomas Greiss? Very doubtful they carry three goaltenders. Somebody has to prove something.

5. Simon Despres. His first game in the post-Dan Bylsma Era. Something tells me this will be quite a different year for Despres.

Tampa Bay all over again? Nah.
The Penguins have been working on a 1-3-1 neutral zone forecheck, but don’t expect Johnston to get too carried away with it.

He still wants to play with pace, tempo and a puck-possession style, the same things you’ve been hearing since he was hired.

“My feeling with the neutral zone forecheck is that it shouldn’t happen more than two or three times per game,” Johnston said. “If you’re really playing the right way, if you’re putting some pressure on the puck in the neutral zone … I don’t want to sit back and get into a forecheck.

“If a forecheck happens, it happens. Other than that, we’re going to try to push the puck a little bit and stay out of the neutral zone forecheck.”

Bennett’s take

As I wrote above, Johnston didn’t hide the fact that he’d love to have Steve Downie, Sutter and Bennett as his third line, specifically Sutter regularly paired with Bennett.

I got a chance Sunday to ask Bennett what he thought about that combination and whether he thinks it would be an effective third line.

“It’s a good mix,” Bennett said. “When you’re looking at piecing together lines, you look at three guys who complement each other. I think you can see that. ‘Sudsy’ is an all-around center. I try to be creative and make plays; sometimes I’ll be a little bit more risky than those guys. Downie will get in your face and be the guy around the net.”

‘They show up’

He’s yet to play a game here yet, but already the differences between Nashville and Pittsburgh are apparent to forward Patric Hornqvist.

Hornqvist was asked by TribLIVE Radio’s Ken Laird whether he felt comfortable in the city, and Hornqvist replied that he’s been enjoying himself. People notice him when he’s out, too, Hornqvist said.

Yes, even now.

Apparently this wasn’t the case before.

“That’s what people told me when I first got traded here,” Hornqvist explained. “They said, ‘It’s going to be a little different from Nashville, where nobody really cared about hockey.’ They show up. The fans were great (in Nashville), but you didn’t get recognized or anything like that. Here, it’s a sports city and you get recognized. It’s fun.”

Monday’s #TribHKY links

Penguins forward Megna’s skill set might be perfect fit
Notebook: Carcillo hopes to give Penguins a physical edge
Inside the glass: Ehrhoff, Martin look comfortable together
A look at Monday night’s lineup

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 21, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Penguins release lineup for Monday


The Penguins have released their lineup for Monday night’s preseason home game against Detroit.

Here’s what it looks like:

29 Marc-Andre Fleury G
60 Matt Murray G

4 Rob Scuderi D
7 Paul Martin D
13 Nick Spaling F
16 Brandon Sutter F
17 Blake Comeau F
19 Beau Bennett F
33 Reid McNeill D
34 Bobby Farnham F
39 Josh Archibald F
41 Robert Bortuzzo D
43 Scott Wilson F
44 Taylor Chorney D
47 Simon Despres D
48 Anton Zlobin F
49 Oskar Sundqvist F
50 Jean-Sebastien Dea F
59 Jayson Megna F
72 Patric Hornqvist F

Will have more on here later from today.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 20, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Special day ahead


Sunday’s Penguins practices will be special. Promise.

OK, special because head coach Mike Johnston said they’re going to work a lot on special teams, but special nonetheless.

I asked defenseman Kris Letang whether he was excited to get a look at what the team will be doing on the power play under Johnston.

“Obviously we want to know what’s going to be the system for power play and PK and the way that we’re going to play,” Letang said. “Special teams is something that teams take pride in being good at. Obviously I’m a guy who likes to act on both of those units. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Penguins ranked first (23.4 percent) and fifth (85.0) on the power play and penalty kill, but there was plenty of turnover there.

No more Dan Bylsma.

No more James Neal.

No more Brooks Orpik.

No more Jussi Jokinen.

Our first peak at what Johnston will do comes Sunday. Here’s his teaser from Saturday’s presser:

“The first 45 minutes will be a practice. We’re going to work on our defensive zone coverage, which we haven’t worked on yet. The scrimmage situation will be five-on-four. … Five-on-four breakout to a zone. That will be a little bit controlled, then it will be a full ice five-on-four.

“The key things for me are that our players understand our power play breakout and our end zone setup, how we’re set. Not people in certain spots but how we set up and a couple options.

“From a penalty killing perspective, (assistant coach) Gary Agnew will go over forecheck on the penalty kill and some of end zone reads and how we’re reacting to it.
“It should also give our goaltenders a fairly good evaluations. Once you five on four, they’re going to get some high-end shots, some high-quality shots, a little bit more than you saw in the scrimmage (Saturday).”

>>Line combinations were a hot topic Saturday, as Johnston paired Brandon Sutter with Beau Bennett and Steve Downie, a line he seemingly hopes sticks together.

What also happened — and what may be much more of a hot-button topic — is Johnston pairing Letang with Rob Scuderi and not Paul Martin.

Letang said he and Scuderi — whom management wanted him to play with last season — are trying to work it out here in the early stages.

“It’s a new system. It’s going to be different for both of us on the ice,” Letang said. “Maybe it’s better for (Scuderi) when we stay a little bit more back. We’re trying to work together. We’re trying to make sure we feel comfortable. Training camp is all about getting comfortable out there, getting loose. For sure we’re trying to work it out.”

Links to Sunday’s #TribHKY coverage:

GM Jim Rutherford wants to raise Cup again
Inside the glass: Sutter takes puck to face
Sidney Crosby was back for a day Friday … and that’s all it was

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 19, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Maatta a pleasant surprise


Olli Maatta wasn’t wearing a red jersey, as the Penguins opened training camp at Consol Energy Center Friday.

But Maatta was wearing an ear-to-ear smile, his surgically repaired shoulder causing him no pain or limiting him in any way.

“Shoulder’s feeling good,” Maatta said. “It’s getting better. When I got the surgery, I wouldn’t have thought it would be this good. It hasn’t bothered me as much as I was expecting it to. I had a pretty good summer, even though I had the sling on for two months.”

Maatta had shoulder labral repair surgery on May 22, and the timetable he was given was 4-6 months.

First-year coach Mike Johnston said Thursday that Maatta would wear a red jersey and absorb “limited or controlled contact” to open camp, though Maatta didn’t appear limited in any way; when the team closed practice with a three-on-three scrimmage between the blue lines, Maatta was a full participant.

“I was good for that,” Maatta said. “We just got to do some drills that I can do.
“I’m trying to be out there with the team as much as I can.”

Maatta enjoyed a breakout rookie season last year, totaling nine goals and 20 assists in 78 games. At times, especially now, Maatta admitted he was nervous. Not so much anymore.

“I’m not as nervous, for sure, but still excited about the season,” Maatta said. “I still come here to earn my spot. I want to show the new coaching staff that I can play big minutes on this team.”

Maatta said he’s a little bit ahead of schedule but wants to remain cautious in his return. No word on his plans for the first preseason game Monday at home against Detroit or Oct. 9 at home against Anaheim. Still way too early for that.

“With this, you don’t want to rush it,” Maatta said. “You want to make sure it’s full prepared when I get back. I’d rather miss a couple games now than lose another four months.”


>>Count Kris Letang among those who enjoyed what he saw so far of Mike Johnston’s system, even if it was a bit heavy on the skating.

“High-pace. I was surprised,” Letang said. “I don’t think you can get faster and harder than that. It was fun to see that. He bangs everything quick. He relies on us to be mature and make things right.”


>>>Believe it if you want, but Johnston said he found out about 30 minutes before Friday’s practice that Sidney Crosby would participate.

What Johnston saw of Crosby impressed him, along with pretty much anybody else watching.

“I was kind of surprised,” Johnston said. “I found out about a half-hour before practice that he was going to work his way through some drills. He stayed on basically until the last drill. I was kind of excited by that, to see that he was able to handle the drills.”


Links from Friday’s #TribHKY coverage
Our early story on Sidney Crosby rejoining the team for part of practice
Those third jerseys are, as forward Patric Hornqvist said, pretty “sick”
The rosters you’ll want to print and bring to Saturday’s open practices
Inside the glass: Johnston’s opening practice grueling
Notebook: Crosby practices, feels better
Finally healthy, Letang wants to make his presence felt as a leader


Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 19, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Penguins training camp groups


Here’s how the Penguins have split the team for practices through Sunday.
Today, Group A will practice from 9-10:15 a.m., Group B from 10:30-11:45.
On Saturday — which is free and open to the public — Group B will practice from 9-9:45 a.m. and scrimmage from 10-10:45 a.m. Group A will practice from 11-11:45 a.m. and scrimmage from 12-12:45 p.m.
On Sunday, Group A will practice from 9-9:45 a.m. and scrimmage from 10-10:30 a.m. Group B will practice from 11:15 a.m.-12 p.m. and scrimmage from 12:15-12:45 p.m.

Group A
4    Rob Scuderi    D
6    Scott Harrington    D
9    Pascal Dupuis    F
13    Nick Spaling    F
14    Chris Kunitz    F
17    Blake Comeau    F
27    Craig Adams    F
36    Bryan Rust    F
41    Robert Bortuzzo    D
42    Kasperi Kapanen    F
45    Adam Payerl    F
47    Simon Despres    D
49    Oskar Sundqvist    F
53    Tom Kostopoulos    F
54    Tom Kuhnhackl    F
55    Philip Samuelsson    D
57    Marcel Goc    F
58    Kris Letang    D
59    Jayson Megna    F
61    Matia Marcantuoni    F
63    Conor Sheary    F
64    Clark Seymour    D
65    Alex Boak    D

1    Thomas Greiss    G
31    Eric Hartzell    G
37    Jeff Zatkoff    G

Group B
3    Olli Maatta    D
7    Paul Martin    D
8    Brian Dumoulin    D
10    Christian Ehrhoff    D
12    Daniel Carcillo    F
16    Brandon Sutter    C
19    Beau Bennett    F
23    Steve Downie    F
25    Andrew Ebbett    F
32    Pierre-Luc Leblond    F
33    Reid McNeill    D
34    Bobby Farnham    F
38    Zach Sill    F
39    Josh Archibald    F
43    Scott Wilson    F
44    Taylor Chorney    D
46    Dominick Uher    F
48    Anton Zlobin    F
50    Jean-Sebastien Dea    F
52    Harrison Ruopp    D
56    Nick D’Agostino    D
72    Patric Hornqvist    F

29    Marc-Andre Fleury    G
30    Matt Murray    G
60    Tristan Jarry    G


September 18, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Some web extras from Thursday


Forward Chris Kunitz has played 659 NHL games for three teams — the Ducks, Thrashers and Penguins.

Not once, however, has he seen an offseason like the Penguins recently experienced.

“It’s the first time in my career I’ve had coaches and the general manager fired. That part is tough,” Kunitz said. “I think the tough part is the change in the locker room, too. You build a lot of good friendships with guys who aren’t here anymore. Your family was adapted to being with each other when you guys are gone.

“It’s tough for the family, but no season is ever the same. You always have different personnel, different players here. It’s something we have to pick up quick — get that chemistry and rhythm together.”

Kunitz is coming off a 35-goal season, but he’s the only one on the team’s presumed top line who’s completely healthy. Captain Sidney Crosby, along with fellow center Evgeni Malkin, is being held out of the start of training camp. Winger Pascal Dupuis will sit out contact drills.

Asked if he expected to continue to have Crosby and Dupuis as his regular linemates — there have been rumblings of moving Dupuis to the third line — Kunitz didn’t take the bait.

“I have no expectations,” Kunitz said. “I’m going to go out there and earn my spot, wherever they’re going to put me. That’s how you look at camp. You come in, do your job and make sure they put you where you want to be.”


>>The what-the-heck-just-happened-here summer the Penguins had produced some colorful and emotional responses, as the team held its first formal media availability session Thursday.

One of my favorites was defenseman Rob Scuderi, who’s about as honest of a quote as you’ll get in the Penguins room.

“Change is a little bit scary,” Scuderi said. “Plus, you hate to see good people lose their jobs or leave the team. But in this line of work, it’s inevitable. It’s up to us to get past it and move on. All the teammates we had are good people, and we wish them the best. Same thing to the coaches.

“We have to focus on what’s in here. The season’s not going to stop because some people left. If we want to make what’s best for the Pittsburgh Penguins, we have to focus on the now.”


>>Fellow beat man Josh Yohe wrote about the team bringing in forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling in an offseason trade that sent James Neal to Nashville. They’ll lead by example, Yohe says.

Spaling is a high-character guy: extremely likable, works his butt off, a solid third line presence. Hornqvist will get a long look on Malkin’s right wing.

Hornqvist didn’t need much of a sell on Pittsburgh — “You have great players around you. Crosby and Malkin can make things happen from nothing. We didn’t have that in Nashville,” he said — but that didn’t stop the Penguins from trying.

According to Hornqvist, they sent a gift basket for Hornqvist’s daughter, Isabella, who was born in March.

“From the day I was traded here, they’ve treated me really well,” Hornqvist said. “They sent a gift basket for my daughter. They really treat me well and take care of me. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”


>>Forward Daniel Carcillo, who’s here on a tryout contract, knows he needs to stay on the right side of the law in order to earn a roster spot.

Carcillo said Thursday that he and general manager Jim Rutherford “have had some really good talks” about what lies ahead — which, in this case, means remaining aggressive but legal.

“I might as well stop playing if they take (the aggressive part of his game) away,” Carcillo said. “You just have to walk a fine line.”


Plenty more to come from practice Friday morning. In the meantime …

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 17, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Some introspection from London


LONDON, Ontario — We’re all kids.

Yes, I know I’m only 30 years old, young for a beat guy, still a new parent, practically still a kid myself. I get it.

What I’m talking about here is, when it comes to hockey, we’re all still kids. Or at least the majority of us are.

We all love this game. We love watching it. We love being around it. Those playing love playing it. Those scouting love scouting it. I love writing about it.

If I ever forget this … well, I hope I don’t. I’m lucky. We’re all lucky.

Spending six days in London, Ontario provided me with a chance to think about such things, and I figured the eve of training camp was as good of a chance as any to share them.

I’ve mentioned the sticker books in the past. Used to collect them with my dad. I wish they still existed so I could do that with my son, who’s eerily drawn to the TV screen whenever there’s hockey on.

Other memories I have include a Wayne Gretzky-emblazoned — yeah, like he used it or something — red, plastic hockey stick that I covered in various sticker cards, one of my favorites a Hartford Whalers decal.

My dad and I used those sticks to play floor hockey in the dining room, which he had cleared of everything except for four helmets that served as goal posts.

Only now that I’m older and have a family of my own do I realize how truly awesome of a parenting move that was.

I remember going to games at the old Civic Arena, how the first period was for nachos and the second was a bathroom break.

How you got there early enough for warmups.

How every game meant the purchase of another puck that I kept arranged by divisions and conferences.

While many hockey players have fond memories of pond hockey, we here in Western Pennsylvania played street hockey.

We yelled “car” and begrudgingly pulled our nets to the sidewalk. We hit cars and didn’t tell anyone.

When we got older, we met at the park or (in my case) Elroy Elementary and played pickup games for hours.

In high school, we begged the gym teacher to change whatever we were supposed to do that day and let us play hockey — which actually, believe it or not, worked.

Thanks, Mr. Juriga.

One series, continued day after day, was so intense and left us so exhausted that we’d show up late for our next class, drenched in sweat.

Sorry, Mr. McLaughlin.

There was a school lockout where we drafted teams and spent the next four days promoting — more trash-talking about — the game.

Good memories, all of them.

My point here is that somewhere around 100 “kids” took the ice for a four-team rookie tournament at Budweiser Gardens because they love this game.

Some will make it to the NHL. More will not.

I actually wound up eating lunch one day next to a player’s mom, who talked about what an up-and-down journey this can be, trying to make it in professional hockey.

Next time you think of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and other poor role models, think about some of the absurd sacrifices that hockey parents make.

At the root, of course, is a love for a rather strange game. One I was thankful I got the chance to think a little more about.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 16, 2014
by Jason Mackey

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Mackey: Kuhnhackl’s connection; Pens prospects drop finale


LONDON, Ontario — The Penguins have the market cornered on German hockey players.

Which is why it should come as no surprise that, at a retirement party for former NHL player Marco Sturm over the summer, Penguins prospect Tom Kuhnhackl got the opportunity to introduce himself to a few fellow Germans in the organization — forward Marcel Goc and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.

“I walked down to the locker room after the game,” Kuhnhackl explained. “It’s my hometown team. I know the coaches, so they let me go in. I introduced myself and talked to them. They’re great guys. They’ve played in the NHL and have a lot of experience.”

Kuhnhackl grew up in Landshut, which is about a 20-minute drive from Sturm’s hometown of Dingolfing. In addition to Goc and Ehrhoff, Kuhnhackl said he has also spoken with Penguins goaltender Thomas Greiss, who was born in Fussen.

Kuhnhackl is in the final year of his entry-level contract, and he knows he needs to give management a reason to sign him to a new deal.

After bouncing between Wheeling (ECHL) and Wilkes-Barre (AHL) last season, Kuhnhackl wants to get more consistent with his game and play a physical style, one befitting of his 6-foot-2, 196-pound frame.

“I started off real well last year, then I kind of fell in a hole,” said Kuhnhackl, who finished with 15 goals and 24 points in 64 games between the two leagues. “I couldn’t get out of it. That can’t happen this year. If I’m in a hole, I have to help the team in a different way, maybe with a fight or a big hit or something.”


>>Despite Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kuhnhackl was part of a forward group that exceeded expectations.

Kuhnhackl scored a power play goal during Saturday’s 4-3 win over Ottawa then struck again in the shootout Sunday. Jean-Sebastien Dea led all scorers with two goals and three assists. Anton Zlobin and Josh Archibald each added a pair of goals.

“We have a speedy team,” Kuhnhackl said. “I think a lot of people were surprised about our offense.”

Added prospects coach John Hynes: “(Tuesday) we didn’t score any goals, but I think when you look at the forward group in general, there was speed, hockey sense, and there was some offensive things that were created because of that.”


>>One of those was a shot by Bryan Rust about eight minutes into the game that Toronto goaltender Antoine Bibeau dove to his left to snare with his catch glove, an absolutely beautiful save.

“That was a momentum swing,” Hynes said. “They got some life from that.”

Brett Findlay tapped home a Jeremie Fraser point shot and Patrick Bowles buried a feed from Connor Brown to give the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead in the second period.

Penguins forward Adam Payerl fought Fraser in the third, trying to give the team some life, but Bibeau, who made 25 saves, wasn’t budging.

“He was good,” Payerl said. “He was hard to beat.”


>>With Brian Dumoulin a healthy scratch, fellow defenseman and London native Reid McNeill served as captain on Tuesday.

“He’s been around,” Hynes said of McNeill. “He’s played in the tournament for a little bit. He’s going into his third year pro. That’s how we evaluated the captains. This week is more about experience and guys we felt deserve it.”


>>The Penguins open camp with physicals Thursday, and Payerl will be there.

Expect him to challenge for a spot. After all, he had a two-game cameo last year and certainly didn’t look out of place with the big club.

“If you look at the lineup, there’s a couple spots there,” Payerl said. “It’s just a matter of who earns it in camp. I want to be one of those guys who makes a hard decision for the coaches.”


Be GRATEFUL to each other,


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