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What to watch at Penguins' camp

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Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009

Three camp battles that intrigue Penguins beat reporter Rob Rossi:


Max Talbot scored seven of his eight Stanley Cup playoff goals after replacing Petr Sykora as the right wing on a line with left wing Ruslan Fedotenko and center Evgeni Malkin. However, Talbot will miss all of camp and at least the first month of the regular season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. His presumed replacement is winger Pascal Dupuis, whom the Penguins believe can contribute beyond 12 goals and 28 points (regular season), but right-handed shot Tyler Kennedy, a third-line staple the past two seasons, is more Talbot-like in terms of speed and grit.


Rugged right wing Eric Godard didn't play in the postseason, though he served his purpose in 71 regular-season games as a feared enforcer who was willing to fight players who took liberties against the Penguins' stars. Still, coach Dan Bylsma favors an up-tempo style, and the strong impression made by gritty forward prospect Dustin Jeffrey in 14 games last season could pave the way for him to compete with Godard for a spot on a checking line that likely will include free-agent acquisition Mike Rupp and winger Craig Adams. Remember, Bylsma knows Jeffrey well from their time together in the first half of last season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


Entering his third full season, defenseman Kris Letang is seeking a long-term contract extension of at least $3 million annually. Management would like to see him become more of a dominant offensive player. Translation: Letang, who scored big goals in the playoffs against the Capitals and Red Wings, can't go stretches of 26 and 16 regular-season games between tallies - not if he wants to stay at the left point on the power play where second-year defenseman Alex Goligoski played in only 45 regular-season games but scored four of his six goals and recorded eight of his 20 points.


Three things Penguins beat reporter Rob Rossi wants to see during training camp:


From winger Luca Caputi. Arguably the organization's top offensive prospect, though the acquisition last season of winger Eric Tangradi has challenged that standing, according to some league scouts. Caputi was demoted from the AHL to the ECHL last season for disciplinary reasons. He is a dark-horse candidate to replace Max Talbot as the right wing on center Evgeni Makin's line and his approach toward camp will be closely monitored.


From center Jordan Staal. Head coach Dan Bylsma called him the Penguins' best player during the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final. Entering his fourth season, Staal must realize he can contribute offensively like he does defensively. He can be a force in the opponent's end every game. A 30-goal/75-point season with Selke Trophy consideration is not unthinkable.


Of the players' workload from the coaching staff. The Penguins have played in 208 games over the past 23 months, including 44 grueling playoff games and a 10-day European trip to start last season. Minutes-eaters Malkin and Staal have not missed a game, while defenseman Brooks Orpik missed only seven. Top-line winger Bill Guerin will turn 39 during the season. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, coming off an injury-plagued season, will turn 36 - and he, Orpik, Malkin and captain Sidney Crosby are locks to play at the Vancouver Olympics in February. Camp is no time to skate the boys ragged.




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