Penguins notebook: For Bennett, no better place to make debut
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Beau Bennett's NHL debut came in a place that has meant more to him than one might think for a kid born and raised in the sunshine of southern California.
Bennett's grandmother and aunt were born in Winnipeg, and as Bennett put it, “That's kind of how the whole hockey thing got introduced to my family. They're Canadian, and I can tell you my grandma's excited that the first game's in Winnipeg.”
Alas, no family or friends were able to attend on short notice.
• Bennett opened his career on the third line alongside Brandon Sutter and Tyler Kennedy. Coach Dan Bylsma explained that, although Bennett projects more as a top-six forward, the staff wants to keep Matt Cooke with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal because that line was effective Wednesday in a 4-2 win over Ottawa.
• The game was a first, too, for Eric Tangradi, making his Winnipeg debut against the team that traded him Wednesday for a seventh-round draft pick. “It's kind of like seeing your ex-girlfriend at the bar the next night,” Tangradi said with a laugh.
Tangradi was assigned to a line with Olli Jokinen and Kyle Wellwood, and Winnipeg coach Claude Noel made clear he'll get a long look. “It's up to me whether I stay there or not,” Tangradi said. “That's an opportunity that I feel that I haven't been given in the past, so I'm just looking forward to it.” Reminded that he only recently skated with Malkin and Neal, Tangradi replied, “You know, sometimes I felt like I had a short leash out there. I felt like I was playing just not to make a mistake instead of getting to my game. I think that's what held me back and, really, prevented me from doing the things that got me to the NHL.”
• Bylsma, when asked if Tangradi had a short leash under his staff, responded, “I don't feel that way, no.” Tangradi had one goal and four assists in 45 career games with the Penguins, including five scoreless games this season.
• The Penguins scratched left winger Zach Boychuk for the first time since he was claimed off waivers from Carolina. Boychuk was scoreless through six games, but management remains upbeat about his future.
• Last time the Penguins visited one of the world's coldest cities, Sidney Crosby made the four-block walk through sub-zero temperatures while most of his teammates took the bus. This time, he hopped aboard like everyone else. His reason: “We lost last time. Gotta change it up.” The Penguins lost to the Jets, 4-2, on Jan. 25.