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Pens using Bennett with Sutter, Kennedy

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:57 p.m.
Penguins forward Beau Bennett played in the Black and Gold game at Consol Energy Center Jan. 16, 2013. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Beau Bennett will make his NHL debut Friday night for the Penguins, Eric Tangradi will make his debut for the Winnipeg Jets, and more darts were aimed at Matt Cooke.

That was the fallout from a couple of busy morning skates at the MTS Centre, in advance of the Penguins and Jets facing off at 7:08 p.m.

Bennett will skate on the third line alongside Brandon Sutter and Tyler Kennedy. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma explained that, although Bennett projects more as a top-six forward, the staff wants to keep Cooke with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal because that line was effective Wednesday in the 4-2 win over Ottawa.

Bennett, the organization's top forward prospect, said he plans to keep a level head.

“First couple shifts, you might have your hands shaking a little bit from all the excitement,” he said. “But you've got to go out there and be smart and play the right way.”

Tangradi, surrounded by more than 20 reporters in a scene more befitting Sidney Crosby, acknowledged it would be unusual to face his former team in his first game since the Wednesday trade that sent him to the Jets 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. It's a little bit different feeling. But I've got a mindset: No friends tonight. I've got new teammates on my side. I'm just going to try to play my game and be physical.”

He'll skate on a line with Olli Jokinen and Kyle Wellwood.

“It's up to me whether I stay there or not. 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.”

Tangradi had one goal and four assists in 45 career games with the Penguins, including five scoreless games this season.

Winnipeg coach Claude Noel shuffled most of his forward lines in what he called an attempt “to get people going a little” and emerge from a 2-5 slide.

Elsewhere in Canada, the Ottawa Sun reported Friday morning that Eugene Melnyk, the Senators' owner, ripped Cooke for the skate-to-ankle collision that tore the tendon of Ottawa star Erik Karlsson on Wednesday.

“I'm very upset,” Melnyk told the Sun. “Actually, I'm more than upset. I'm outraged that in this day and age this continues. Whether it's accidental or not, that's not our job to judge. That's why the NHL is there to assess it. This guy should be kicked ... he doesn't belong in the league. He belongs somewhere where the goons play. Get him in the Central League. He can be a $60,000-a-year guy playing pick-up hockey there.”

Bylsma reiterated that he empathized with the Senators' frustration but said of Melnyk's remarks, “Some people are making comments without having seen the changes Matt's made to his game over the past two seasons. He's a different player.”

Cooke answered more questions from reporters on the topic.

“I'm sorry Mr. Melnyk feels that way,” he said. “I understand the position he's in, and it's not easy.”

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