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Five Penguins players to watch

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 11:50 p.m.
 

Brandon Sutter

Sutter is considered one of the better third-line centers in hockey, but he will have to prove he can handle the job Jordan Staal did for several years. Training camp will mark his first opportunity to play in Dan Bylsma's system. The Penguins loved Staal but also were delighted to get Sutter in the June blockbuster. Goals are a bonus where Sutter is concerned. The Penguins need him to play a shutdown center role while quickly adapting to a new system.

Tomas Vokoun

There is no goaltender controversy as Marc-Andre Fleury is the starter. Vokoun is the most gifted backup to play behind him. If he is sharp in training camp, expect Vokoun to get plenty of starts once the short season begins. Vokoun is known for being one of the NHL's more personable players, and the Penguins believe he will fit in to the locker room nicely.

Robert Bortuzzo

It is becoming clear that Bortuzzo's stock is rising. Although he never figures to make an impact offensively and might not project as a top-four NHL defenseman, the Penguins like his defensive work. Bortuzzo likely will be given an opportunity to play in the NHL this season, but sticking around won't be easy because of the logjam of defensemen in the organization.

Beau Bennett

Without question the most talented forward in the Penguins' system, Bennett probably isn't quite ready for the NHL. But don't count him out. He leads Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in points and impressed Sidney Crosby this summer while the two skated together in Los Angeles. Bennett has NHL tools, and the Penguins could use one more skilled forward to play on the top two lines.

Eric Tangradi

Some things never change. Tangradi long has been a player the fan base has reserved high expectations for, and his hot start to the season in the AHL did nothing to silence that talk. Still, the big winger from Philadelphia has only one goal in 41 NHL games. Lately, he has not produced at Wilkes-Barre. He is expected to make the team. How long he remains in Pittsburgh depends on how much he produces.

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