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Penguins notebook: Sullivan still pushing Pouliot

| Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, 12:57 p.m.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan during practice Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan during practice Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Rather than plug a few of the Penguins defensemen who have yet to play this preseason into the lineup for Friday's exhibition against Chicago at Consol Energy Center, coach Mike Sullivan and his staff will examine more closely several of the blue liners who competed in games earlier this week.

Sullivan's due diligence affords Derrick Pouliot a chance to absolve himself after a performance Tuesday in Detroit that the Penguins coach deemed “OK.”

Pouliot, who earned rave reviews from general manager Jim Rutherford this summer for his commitment to conditioning, seemingly continues to climb uphill as he vies for a top-six spot on the depth chart. Trevor Daley, Justin Schultz and David Warsofsky present the Penguins with other offensive-oriented, puck-moving options, and all three likely will join Pouliot in the lineup against the Blackhawks, according to the roster released by the team Thursday.

It's unclear whether Pouliot, 22, the No. 8 pick in the 2012 draft, made the kind of impression Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings that improved his chances of cracking the top six or even solidifying his place above Warsofsky, who signed as a free agent July 1 after spending part of last season with the Penguins.

“Moving forward, we'd like to see a little bit more conviction with his decision making,” Sullivan said of Pouliot after the exhibition in Detroit. “I think that will come in time. It was the first game, so obviously there's a lot of rust with all of the players involved out there. But we tried to put him in a lot of situations. We gave him a lot of power-play time. We had him on the penalty kill. We tried to use him in as many situations as we could to get him in the game.”

Statistically, nothing about Pouliot's performance stood out as a glaring error. Detroit scored its final goal in a 4-2 win with Pouliot on the ice, but the defenseman otherwise proved effective compared to the team's other blue liners. The Penguins generated 14 shot attempts and allowed eight during five-on-five play with Pouliot on the ice — that plus-6 differential ranked second among the team's defensemen, according to www.hockeystats.ca. Pouliot also tallied four shots on goal, five shot attempts and one takeaway.

During Wednesday's 2-0 win over Chicago, Warsofsky delivered what resembled a modestly effective performance. The Penguins generated seven shot attempts and allowed 14 with Warsofsky on the ice during five-on-five action. Warsofsky also put two shots on goal and had a giveaway and takeaway.

Sullivan's assessment of the 26-year-old, who appeared in 12 games last season and also played in 17 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, differed in tone from the one he gave on Pouliot.

“I thought David had a strong game,” Sullivan said. “He skates really well. He's a mobile guy. He sees the ice. He's a good puck mover. And he's brave. He'll go back and take hits to make plays and help us get out of our end zone. We can use him on the power play. I thought he had a solid game.”

It's unfair to assume numbers from one preseason game indicate anything concrete. Pouliot and Warsofsky have much to prove. But Sullivan's impressions on each as well as Schultz will remain something to study as the preseason progresses.

Minding the net

Marc-Andre Fleury and Tristan Jarry are listed on the roster for Friday's exhibition. Because the Penguins did not practice Thursday, Sullivan did not get a chance to name his starter.

Fleury stopped 16 of 19 shots he faced during two periods against Detroit. Jarry made 30 saves in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Chicago.

Cuts made

The Penguins made a second round of cuts Thursday, sending nine players to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

That leaves 49 players on the NHL roster, which will have to be trimmed to 23 players by opening night Oct. 13.

Forwards Tom Kostopoulos, Milos Bubela, Gage Quinney, Jarrett Burton, Christian Hilbrich and Reid Gardiner and defensemen Barry Goers, Michael Webster and Ryan Segalla were sent down.

Kostopoulos, Burton, Hilbrich, Goers and Webster have AHL contracts. Bubela, Quinney and Gardiner are in camp on tryout contracts. Segalla is an unsigned draft choice.

A 37-year-old winger with more than 600 NHL game appearances, Kostopoulos bolsters the Penguins development staff's ability to shape Baby Pens prospects.

“I keep considering these last few years my last camp, so it's great for me,” Kostopoulos said. “There's no pressure. Have fun and take it all in.

“I feel like (younger players) have a lot more speed and talent than I ever had, so there's not a whole lot I can do for them on the offensive side, but I feel like I can help them defensively and playing a two-way game. Pittsburgh does a good job of always bringing in good older guys who can help them be professional off the ice.”

Staff writer Jonathan Bombulie contributed. Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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