Share This Page

Rookie Bennett's role with Penguins in flux

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins forward Beau Bennett plays against the Lightning on Feb. 2013 at Consol Energy Center.

Beau Bennett is sticking around.

That does not mean he is staying put.

“He certainly could add skill to a third-line position,” coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday. “He could add skill to a fourth-line position depending how you go forward into the playoffs.”

Those words do not read like a vote of confidence for Bennett, a 21-year-old rookie.

However, Bylsma offered those words four days after acknowledging that Bennett would remain with the Penguins the remainder of this season.

Saturday morning provided the first indication Bennett had won the confidence of the coaching staff. Bylsma said then that Bennett could play with either center Evgeni Malkin on the second line or center Brandon Sutter on the third line.

General managers recently have been informed Bennett is not available on the trade market — also a sign he has won over Penguins management.

Ray Shero spent Wednesday at the NHL's annual general managers meetings, and no trades were made.

However, the trade deadline is two weeks away, and Shero is targeting to upgrade several aspects of the Penguins despite their 10-game winning streak.

A top-four defenseman, preferably a partner for Kris Letang, is a priority. A notch below on the wish list is a top-six winger. The Penguins also would benefit from an infusion of skill — and productivity — on their third and fourth lines, Shero has concluded.

Bennett could fill that role if Shero is able to bolster the top six.

That development also would allow Shero to focus on adding another bottom-six forward with acumen to contribute on a penalty kill, which, though showing signs of improvement — two goals allowed on the last 17 changes — ranked 20th as of Wednesday.

The 20th overall pick in 2010 and coming off two injury-shortened collegiate seasons, his reputable playmaking has been noted less by Bylsma than Bennett's surprising success winning puck battles and his attention to defensive assignments.

“The way he's played — he's added some offense to our lineup, added some playmaking ability, added that skill,” Bylsma said, “but he's also been very good on the other side of the puck as well, very good defensively and managing the puck.”

Managing weight is a focus of Bennett's during the grind of the truncated schedule. He played in 35 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL before joining the Penguins, and a bout with influenza melted 10 to 15 pounds from his 6-foot-2 frame.

Bennett weighs 185 pounds, roughly 10 less than his ideal. His diet may consist of too many Subway sandwiches, but Bennett said he does not anticipate adding weight the rest of this season.

Bylsma said Bennett could add right-wing responsibilities even though Bennett appeared ticketed to work the opposite side on a line with Malkin and right winger James Neal.

Right wing is Bennett's natural position. He played the right side in all but five AHL games. He is a right-handed shot.

On the left wing, Bennett said he loses strength on faceoffs, and making plays exiting the defensive zone is more difficult because he is forced to use his backhand.

He may have to learn to forget all of that pending moves by Shero. He can count on being part of the Penguins' playoff push if Bylsma is to be believed.

“He's been a good, responsible winger,” Bylsma said. “He's not a young kid who you have to overlook some liabilities on the ice in terms of defense.”

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.