Penguins notebook: Team keeps Despres, returns Bennett to AHL

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 1:16 p.m.

General manager Ray Shero has until 5 p.m. Friday to set the Penguins' active roster.

He need not make a move, though. The Penguins were at the 23-player maximum after moves Thursday.

The team returned wingers Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna to AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They will be joined by center Philippe Dupuis and defenseman Brian Strait if both clear waivers by noon Friday.

The moves leave the Penguins with 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies in training camp, which wraps up Friday after a practice at Consol Energy Center.

Shero has not said he will definitely keep 23 players to begin the season.

Delivering Despres

The departure of Strait clears a path for Simon Despres to play Saturday at Philadelphia in the opener.

Despres, 21, who is the organization's top prospect, has spent time during camp paired with top defenseman Kris Letang.

Shero said he could keep eight defensemen. The Penguins usually keep no fewer than seven.

Despres was one of nine defensemen in camp, but he was the only one without a one-way NHL contract or was ineligible to be placed on waivers.

Coach Dan Bylsma has hinted since the summer that he favors Despres playing with Letang, who Bylsma believes has matured into a player capable of helping bring along a younger defense partner. Mark Eaton and Brooks Orpik filled a similar role during Letang's first full season in 2007-08.

Bennett's future

Bennett is no lock to stay in the AHL, though management prefers he play a top-six spot wherever he ends up this season.

Bennett, 21, is the Penguins' top forward prospect, and he impressed coaches during camp with his demeanor and approach — not to mention his playmaking skill.

He arrived at camp about 10 pounds lighter than his 207-pound listing; he dropped weight while battling the flu last month.

The Penguins prefer Bennett play a full season of professional hockey before jumping to the NHL, though nobody has ruled out his joining the club if he continues his strong play in the AHL.

After multiple injuries limited him to 47 games at the University of Denver from 2010-12, Bennett led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 18 assists and tied for the lead with 24 points in 30 games before arriving at Penguins' camp.

Two for Malkin, Neal

Do not discount left wingers Eric Tangradi and Tanner Glass splitting time on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing James Neal.

Bylsma has said the left-wing spot on that line will be filled by a mix of players, but he specifically has targeted Tangradi and Glass because of their size.

Tangradi would play with Malkin and Neal mostly when the Penguins are tied or trailing. Glass would take his spot when the club is protecting a lead, especially in the third period.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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