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Penguins training camp preview

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Tribune-Review
Penguins left winger Tanner Glass says defense and officiating are factors why goal scoring is down in the NHL.
Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin skates during the team's development camp on Tuesday, July 10, 2012, at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

Players reported to training camp Wednesday, but the first practices are Thursday.

Beat reporter Rob Rossi sets the table with the stories and players to watch as the Penguins get ready for their next chase of the Stanley Cup:

Camp Concerns

Third-line shift

Coach Dan Bylsma has never helmed a Penguins squad without a shutdown third line. He will this season, as Bylsma lacks options to fill holes created by the departures of wingers Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy.

Expect a transition from shutdown to scoring for the third liners.

Center Brandon Sutter, a defensive darling in terms of advanced metrics, will get a shot to develop offensive chemistry with several wingers. Beau Bennett, impressive at protecting the puck as rookie, is viewed as a potential primary offensive weapon from his natural right-wing position. Free-agent winger Matt D'Agostini once scored 21 goals, and he is only 26.

Coaching changes

The Penguins' comfort among the coaching core is a strength, but with three consecutive disappointing postseasons on their resumes, head coach Dan Bylsma and Co. are welcoming of change.

Jacques Martin brings experience as a former head coach and general manager, a reputation for defensive soundness and – most intriguing – an older perspective. He is 60. Bylsma and assistants Todd Reirden and Tony Granato are each in his 40s.

So is Mike Bales, replacing the well-liked Gilles Meloche as goaltending coach. He inherits anointed starter Marc-Andre Fleury, whom Meloche often had to pull from the depths of despair. Fleury was benched last postseason, so he is pretty deep.

The Question:

DO THEY HAVE ENOUGH GRIT UP FRONT?

Management may have wondered similarly – hence the try-out offer extended to forward Chuck Kobasew, who on Wednesday pledged to “bring some energy, be physical… kill some penalties if that's the need.”

Gone from the previous Penguins are the blurred lines of Matt Cooke's open-ice hits, the tenacity of Tyler Kennedy's forecheck and the punishing force of Brenden Morrow's work along the boards. The returning forwards play with a collective speed that nearly matches their enviable skill. However, but for a few exceptions – Chris Kunitz and Craig Adams – none among the up-front regulars are reputable for making opponents' pay a physical price.

The Penguins preach being “hard to play against.” A roster spot may go to somebody that shows such hardness during camp.

Name to Know

ANDREW EBBETT

A center that spent half of last season with Vancouver, he could push Joe Vitale for fourth-line work. Ebbett, 30, was credited with 15 blocked shots in 28 games, and the Canucks trusted him to take 267 draws (though he won only 106).

A Hot Shot

BRIAN DUMOULIN

Dumoulin projects as a second-unit defenseman on the power play and penalty kill, and many within the organization believe he is close to being NHL-ready. His performance during the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs (2 goals, 6 assists) impressed management last season.

A Cool Daddy

TANNER GLASS

Glass led the team with 125 hits and 62 penalty minutes, and proved durable by playing in all 48 games. Still, he never consistently established a presence as an imposing winger upon which coaches could feel comfortable in various situations.

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