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Penguins notebook: Kris Letang passes another on-ice test

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 5:54 p.m.
The Penguins' Kris Letang during the first day of practice Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla
The Penguins' Kris Letang during the first day of practice Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Early in an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday morning, Kris Letang went into the right-wing corner of his team's defensive zone to recover a loose puck, took a bump from forechecking winger Tom Kuhnhackl and went about his business.

It's the kind of play that happens literally dozens of times in any hockey game, but it was more significant in this case for obvious reasons.

The scrimmage marked the first time Letang played in a game-like situation since April neck surgery.

Coach Mike Sullivan said it was a significant milepost in Letang's recovery.

“It allows him to get into some of the belligerence of the game, the pushing and shoving, the body checks, the tight-area battles and the timing,” Sullivan said. “When a player misses as much time Tanger as missed and you go back to a game scenario, it seems like the game is going on 100 mph around you. As you start to get more acclimated to game scenarios, the game slows down for you.”

Keeping up

At the end of practice sessions during the first few days of training camp, players split up into groups of three, four or five and skate laps around the ice for conditioning purposes.

Depending on how the groups are split, it can be a humbling experience for some players.

Imagine, for example, trying to keep up with winger Carl Hagelin, widely considered one of the fastest players in the world, three times around the ice.

That's what defenseman Frankie Corrado had to do Saturday.

He wasn't complaining.

“I think it's good to have someone fast in your group,” Corrado said. “It forces you to keep up with them and you watch how they take the turns and what their stride is like.”

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is one of the fastest skaters in the drills every year in camp. Chad Ruhwedel, an excellent skater himself, said he enjoyed trying to keep up with his 6-foot-4 teammate.

“He gets really good glide out of those turns,” Ruhwedel said. “After a long practice like that, the ice gets pretty chewed up. He seems to glide through those things. It's fun to watch.”

Available scorer

Denis Zaripov, 36, is a scoring winger who led the KHL with 15 playoff goals last season. He was suspended for two years by the IIHF for testing positive for pseudoephedrine and a masking agent, but because those substances aren't banned by the NHL, he's looking for a team to hook on with in North America.

According to his agent, the Penguins are one of the teams that have shown interest in Zaripov. On Saturday, Evgeni Malkin gave an endorsement of his countryman.

“If coach talks to me a little bit more, I'll say more about him,” Malkin said. “I like him so much. Of course I want to see his face in the locker room.”

Scrimmage details

Bryan Rust scored a couple of highlight-reel goals in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, roofing a backhand on a penalty shot and burying a one-timer from the slot off a feed from Kris Letang.

It wasn't enough for a win, though. Malkin had a goal, an assist and a successful shootout attempt to lead his team to a 4-3 win.

Rookie signed

Fresh off an eye-opening performance in the Buffalo rookie tournament last weekend, center Jordy Bellerive received a three-year entry level contract from the Penguins.

Bellerive scored 27 goals as a 17-year-old with Lethbridge of the WHL last season but went undrafted. He had multiple points in all three games of the rookie tournament, scoring a hat trick against New Jersey.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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