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Penguins

Bennett feels pain of sitting out games

| Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, 10:18 p.m.
The Penguins' Beau Bennett celebrates with Nick Spaling after Spaling scored a first-period goal against the Jets on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
The Penguins' Beau Bennett celebrates with Nick Spaling after Spaling scored a first-period goal against the Jets on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.

Beau knows rejection.

He knows what it's like to feel tentative after an injury, too, and it has become a problem.

Winger Beau Bennett, a healthy scratch in four of the Penguins' past five games, suggested his “battle level” is keeping him out of the lineup.

There's a reason.

“I have to get better at one-on-one battles, for sure,” Bennett said after being the last man off the ice at practice Monday.

“It's not like I haven't been there before with injuries. Mentally, it's tough to overcome that you're going to be alright when you go into a battle. I've had some bad luck. I just have to get over the hump.”

Bennett, the team's first-round pick in 2010, has been bombarded by injuries in his young career. He has twice undergone major wrist surgery, the most recent coming in November 2013.

After enjoying a superb start to training camp, Bennett sustained a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for six weeks. Two weeks later, he sustained another knee injury in Boston.

Coach Mike Johnston hasn't liked Bennett's lack of willingness to play in front of the net and in the “dirty areas.”

“I think he'll be fine,” said center Brandon Sutter, Bennett's frequent linemate. “He just needs to get some confidence. We all know how talented he is. This is just something he needs to deal with right now. We all know he's had some crappy luck with injuries.”

Johnston said last week that he intended Bennett to play during the road trip to Western Canada.

Plans changed.

“The way we played in the first two games,” Johnston said, “we played so well, we didn't want to make a lineup adjustment.”

Bennett did not take the pregame skate in Vancouver, which is unusual. Healthy scratches ordinarily do participate in those warm-ups.

However, Johnston instructed Bennett to work out on his own before the pregame skate.

“That's because I wanted him to watch the game,” Johnston said. “I wanted him to watch certain players. Things like that can help his game.”

The Penguins possess mixed feelings about the effect of a healthy scratch.

“My first year (with Carolina), I played the first 50 games of the season,” Sutter said. “Didn't play the rest of the season and had to watch the playoffs. Trust me, that wasn't easy. Being a healthy scratch motivates you. You never want to be a scratch again.”

Right wing Craig Adams views it differently.

“I know people say it can be good for you,” Adams said. “I probably have more healthy scratches than most guys in the league, and rarely is it a good thing. It (stinks). You want to play. I suppose it can get your attention if you didn't see it coming. The longer you sit out, the tougher it is to stay sharp. I'm not a big believer that it's good for you.”

When at his best, Bennett is a gifted playmaker who could provide the Penguins with a jolt of secondary scoring, something they'll surely need in the postseason.

“Everybody sees the talent he has,” left wing Chris Kunitz said. “As teammates, we need to pick him up right now. He's had a rough go. I think he just needs to have a different mindset. He'll get it going. He's just got to get through the adversity, and I think he will.”

Johnston said Bennett will be in the lineup “before too long.”

“It's tough,” Bennett said. “I'm trying to do things the right way, work hard and listen to the coaches.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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