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Penguins

Penguins training camp preview Part 2: Ryan Reaves, newcomers pack punch

Jonathan Bombulie
| Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, 8:00 p.m.
Penguins forward Ryan Reaves works out with his new teammates Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla
Penguins forward Ryan Reaves works out with his new teammates Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Newly acquired Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Antti Niemi participates in an informal on-ice workout, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the team's practice facility in Cranberry.
Newly acquired Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Antti Niemi participates in an informal on-ice workout, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at the team's practice facility in Cranberry.
New Penguins right win Ryan Reaves
NHLI via Getty Images
New Penguins right win Ryan Reaves
New Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick
Getty Images
New Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick
Penguins player Jay McClement could have a role on the penalty kill.
NHLI via Getty Images
Penguins player Jay McClement could have a role on the penalty kill.

Never mind his first practice or his first game. Ryan Reaves realized from his first informal skate with some of his Penguins teammates last week that he was in a brave, new world.

The team he came from, the St. Louis Blues, had a lot of success because of their structure and physicality. His new team has a different approach.

“All I know is it's real fast over here,” Reaves said. “The pace of practice is definitely high tempo. Just from playing against these guys twice a year, I know they play a really fast game.”

Reaves will be one of a handful of new players getting used to the Penguins' preferred style of play when the team officially opens training camp Friday. Here's a look at what they bring and where they might fit in.

Ryan Reaves

What he does: Arguably the toughest player in hockey, Reaves uses his 225-pound frame to inflict punishment on the forecheck and rarely loses a fight. Last season, he added a career-high seven goals and 13 points. If those numbers continue to rise, he'll be a high-impact acquisition.

Where he fits in: It seems safe to write Reaves' name in pen in the right-wing slot on the fourth line, but he has the mobility to play a few shifts alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin if need be.

Matt Hunwick

What he does: The 32-year-old Hunwick isn't without his offensive gifts. Last year in Toronto, only 69 NHL defensemen had more assists than his 18. Still, he was acquired primarily to do the dirty work in the defensive zone. Hunwick was a short-handed standout for the Leafs, averaging 2 minutes, 39 seconds of penalty kill ice time per game.

Where he fits in: Hunwick will probably slot in on the third defense pair, likely with Olli Maatta, maybe with Ian Cole. Hunwick signed a three-year, $6.75 million in July, so perhaps he projects as the eventual replacement for Cole, who is in the last year of his contract.

Antti Niemi

What he does: Niemi, 34, was a high-end goalie from 2009-13 with Chicago and San Jose, winning 30 games four times and claiming the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010. The last two seasons, however, he's been far less effective with Dallas.

Where he fits in: If Niemi returns to form, the Penguins might use him liberally to give rising star Matt Murray some time off. After all, Murray has seen his share of injuries in his season-plus in the NHL.

Jay McClement

What he does: Looking for bottom-six center depth, the Penguins invited McClement, 34, to camp on a tryout deal. Should he earn a contract, his role is clear. He's a penalty killer. Since the 2004-05 lockout, no NHL forward has played more short-handed minutes.

Where he fits in: If Rutherford trades for a third-line center during camp, McClement will be fighting Carter Rowney for the fourth-line center job. If the GM waits to make a deal, McClement's path to pretty significant playing time is unblocked.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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