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Bennett learning from Penguins' veterans

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The Penguins' Beau Bennett skates in a game against the Islanders on March 22, 2013, at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.

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On the Penguins' three-game road trip, Beau Bennett recorded three points. Here are some of his stats over the three games:

@ Hurricanes

Goals: 1

Assists: 0

Plus/minus: Even

Hits: 4

Ice time: 11:20

@ Lightning

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Plus/minus: Even

Hits: 0

Ice time: 12:30

@ Panthers

Goals: 0

Assists: 2

Plus/minus: +2

Hits: 1

Ice time: 11:44

'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
Sunday, April 14, 2013, 11:28 p.m.
 

SUNRISE, Fla. — It remains to be seen whether rookie Beau Bennett will make an impact for the Penguins during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The lessons he is learning, though, figure to pay off well into the future.

Bennett, the precocious winger who produced three points in the Penguins' 3-0 southern road trip, is surrounded by veterans who have willingly shown him the ropes.

“I'm not the kind of guy who says a lot,” Bennett said. “I just try to watch and learn. I mean, look around at all these guys. You can learn a lot.”

The Penguins already had a number of respected veterans when Bennett broke into the league earlier this season.

Now, they are oozing with wise, experienced players. Bennett believes their presence will expedite his NHL learning curve and make him a better person off the ice.

“The biggest thing is just how all the guys on this team are just such good people,” Bennett said. “Just the way they handle themselves off the ice, it's really impressive. You learn how to be a professional pretty quickly.”

When it was mentioned that a young player could learn much from recently acquired veterans like Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow — to say nothing of 30-something Stanley Cup champions like Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, Craig Adams, Brooks Orpik and Mark Eaton — coach Dan Bylsma agreed that Bennett's environment couldn't be much better.

“I think it's beneficial for him to be surrounded by guys like that,” Bylsma said. “There are a lot of experienced guys, character guys. It's an impressive group in there.”

And the veterans are impressed with the rookie.

Starting in the team's abbreviated training camp, many of the older Penguins have been blown away not only by Bennett's skill level but also by the tenacity in his game. The knock on Bennett when he was drafted in 2010 was that he wasn't especially physical or strong on the boards.

Those opinions suddenly have changed.

“He has been physical in his recent games,” Bylsma said. “He was one of our most physical guys in the Carolina game.”

The southern road trip, in fact, was Bennett's best showing during his brief NHL career. Along with being physical in Raleigh, he scored the game-tying goal of an eventual 5-3 victory that clinched the Atlantic Division title.

He was even better a few nights later in Florida, setting up the Penguins' first two goals while nearly scoring a couple of his own.

“There are a lot of guys who play the game the right way in this locker room,” Morrow said.

Bennett certainly has adapted his style, as evidenced by how he threw his body into a number of Panthers on Saturday. Playing limited minutes and often on the fourth line, Bennett knows his future role will probably be different. But he's learning how to play playoff-style hockey with some of the game's most respected veterans.

“I'm growing,” he said. “I'm learning the game.”

NOTE: The Penguins did not practice Sunday, choosing instead to spend Saturday night in Florida before returning home Sunday. They next play at home Wednesday against Montreal.

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