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Penguins notebook: Winger Beau Bennett fine on either line

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 8:09 p.m.

Beau Bennett is a winger, and that is enough of a description for him.

Practiced since his youth hockey days on the right side, Bennett will play on the left with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal when the Penguins open their schedule of six exhibition games at Columbus on Sunday night.

The Penguins' 2010 first-round pick, Bennett impressed coaches and management in 26 games as a rookie last season. His three goals and 14 points left less of an impression than an overall maturity, quick processing of the system and strength on the puck.

All of that — along with an easy-going nature — has convinced coaches Bennett is a potential ideal complement for Malkin and Neal, who have shown chemistry with one another, but with only Chris Kunitz as the other player on their line.

Kunitz will remain the left winger for center Sidney Crosby.

Bennett, coach Dan Bylsma has said several times over three days of camp practices, could play the left side on Malkin's line or the right side on a third line centered by Brandon Sutter.

“People talk about it a lot more than I think about it,” Bennett said. “If it's (Malkin and Neal) or (Sutter and winger Matt D'Agostini), learning how to play with each combo is more important than my role.”

Still, Bennett's arrival at camp with more of a muscular build and growing confidence has not escaped the attention of Malkin or Neal.

He played with them occasionally before the Penguins' acquisition of Jarome Iginla last season and took away some tips for the future.

“With that line, it's not about what side you are playing but what you come into the (offensive) zone as,” Bennett said.

“(Malkin and Neal) are pretty freewheeling, so the best thing to do is read off them — and I'm fine with that. They know what they're doing.”

Crosby to play at home

Coach Dan Bylsma said Saturday that most of the Penguins' anticipated regulars will play in one of the two exhibition games over the next two nights.

Aside from the No. 2 scoring line, starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, checking-line forwards Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale, and defensemen Rob Scuderi and Matt Niskanen are the notables who will play at Columbus.

Crosby, the Penguins' captain, said he would play against Detroit at Consol Energy Center on Monday night.

Despres in good shape

Skating tests wrapped Saturday with Crosby's Group C, and right winger Pascal Dupuis — as predicted by Crosby — paced the grueling examinations.

The real winner over three days of skating tests may have been defenseman Simon Despres, who opted to participate despite an illness on Thursday. He lagged behind during the tests — a sight that appeared to indicate his lack of conditioning.

Not so, Bylsma said Saturday.

“When we started camp, Simon was in a situation where I would say almost 100 percent of the time during the regular season he would not have practiced,” Bylsma said. “He didn't want to take that out … to his credit, he battled through what was probably the toughest day.

“He got through Day 1, and I'm pretty happy he did do that.”

Third scrimmage

Fleury rebounded from a shaky Day 1 scrimmage — four goals on the first five shots faced Thursday — to pitch a first-half shutout on Saturday in front of several thousand fans at Consol Energy Center.

Group A, a squad led by defenseman Brooks Orpik, beat Malkin's Group C, 3-0.

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

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