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Penguins notebook: Defenseman Pouliot sets tone in scrimmage

| Saturday, July 18, 2015, 7:36 p.m.

With strong amateur credentials and 34 NHL games to his credit, defenseman Derrick Pouliot had nothing to prove in the scrimmage that ended the Penguins' annual development camp Saturday afternoon at Consol Energy Center.

He would have been well within his rights to expect to breeze through a few shifts in the intrasquad exhibition, then head back to Toronto to resume his offseason training with Gary Roberts.

Instead, late in the scrimmage, Pouliot took an accidental stick to the face from 6-foot-7 forward Nikita Pavlychev and had to be tended to by trainers. Afterward, a tiny drop of blood trickled from a welt on the bridge of his nose.

“It happens. It's OK. No big deal,” Pouliot said. “I'll have a little bump on my nose maybe for a bit. It'll be fine.”

Pouliot's team won the scrimmage 6-0, and his play was a big reason why. Not because he dangled through a gaggle of unsuspecting 18-year-olds and scored a bunch of goals, but because he set a tone for the rest of his team's defensemen.

Under coach Mike Johnston, the Penguins want their defensemen to kick-start the offense by moving the puck through the neutral zone with speed. Defensemen Jeff Taylor, Matt Murphy, Patrick Sexton and Clark Seymour followed Pouliot's lead and were the catalysts for an offense that struck six times.

“We got some chemistry going as the game went on,” Pouliot said. “The forwards were starting to swing a little bit, get open for us. Things actually looked pretty good.”

Another zero

Goalie prospect Matt Murray and shutouts go together like pickles and Pittsburgh, so it was no surprise when he and Penn State goalie Matt Skoff teamed up to stop all 18 shots they faced in the scrimmage.

Murray, who set an AHL rookie record with 12 shutouts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, said he's not going to add this one to his total.

“No, no, no. This one didn't count,” Murray said with a laugh. “This is just a fun game.”

Skoff, a McKees Rocks native who made nine saves including a Blaine Byron penalty shot, agreed. He isn't crowing about his half of the shutout. He did, however, savor the development camp experience.

“Seeing these guys like Mark Recchi and Billy Guerin, guys you saw growing up on the other side of the glass, it's cool to meet them face-to-face,” Skoff said. “It's been a great experience. I enjoyed every second of it.”

Sprong answer

Daniel Sprong, the team's top pick in last month's draft, made an impression with his high-end skill and dangerous shot in development camp.

Now, other than getting him signed to an entry-level contact, it's time to pump the brakes and let Sprong continue the development process, Penguins assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald said.

“There's no rush,” Fitzgerald said. “He'll go back and play for his junior team. He'll get the same experience all our other 18-year-olds have got in the past. Go back, understand what he needs to do and the mindset to develop.”

Odds and ends

Center Matia Marcantuoni had his left ankle wrapped and didn't play. Fitzgerald said Marcantuoni wanted to skate, but the team kept him out as a precaution. … Sexton had the hit of the scrimmage, leveling Sprong with an open-ice shot to the midsection. … The Penguins estimated attendance at 5,000.

Jonathan Bombulie is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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