103 days removed from Pittsburgh's Game Six loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Pens took the ice at Mellon Arena for their first day of training camp Wednesday morning.
There were the familiar faces of Crosby, Malkin, Talbot, Fleury, Orpik, Gonchar, and Staal—who are all very familiar with coach Michel Therrien's system and exactly what playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins entails.
Then, there were the newcomers—Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Eric Godard, and Matt Cooke.
There has been a lot of speculation about the line combinations that Therrien will implement. During scrimmages this morning, Crosby skated on a line alongside Pascal Dupuis and Miroslav Satan, while Evgeni Malkin centered Jordan Staal and Petr Sykora.
While the first day of practice hardly provides a set-in-stone outlook on what the opening night—or opening afternoon, in Sweden—lineup will look like, it did give Sidney Crosby his first chance to play alongside Satan, who was brought in to replace Marian Jokessa as the Penguins' top line scoring winger.
Crosby told pittsburghpenguins.com reporters that "Satan’s a goal scorer. He is going to find the spots. It’s pretty much what I expected. I knew that, around the net, he is going to find ways to get open. He usually doesn’t need too many opportunities to score. He’s sharp around the net and it’s pretty much what I expected.”
Crosby also told reporters that his ankle is back to 100 percent after the injury that sidelined him for over three months of the 2007-08 season.
Crosby indicated that the experience that the young Penguins corps gained during the 2008 postseason will benefit them in the long run.
“We gained experience pretty fast. We’re pretty young, but we gained a lot of experience through that whole season, especially the playoff run. With what we went through as a group and the character we saw from each other in poise throughout the season, that will definitely go a long way", Crosby said.
Miroslav Satan, on the other hand, seemed a little apprehensive about making any predictions about his personal performance during the upcoming season, when he will have a chance to play alongside the best playmaker in the game.
"I'll be happy to tell you more after [I skate or play with him some], but there's not too many players like him. I don't think I've had the chance to play with a center of that quality," Satan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
This coming from a guy who has occupied the wing beside Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie for the past few seasons with the Islanders—quite a significant downgrade from skating with Crosby.
Satan has been criticized for his "inability to backcheck" by many in the sports' media. However, during his days as a Buffalo Sabre, defensive responsibility was surely instilled in Satan by Lindy Ruff.
Prior to last season, Satan registered nine consecutive seasons of 25 or more goals and 45 or more points. Last season Satan posted a mere 16 goals and 41 points. Perhaps it was due to a nagging knee injury, or the fact that he played for the team which posted the league low of 189 goals during the regular season.
Whatever the reason, Satan knows that he had an off year, and hopes to turn things around in Pittsburgh. "Last year was last year. It wasn't my good year, and I'm looking forward to turning the page and playing with this team. Hopefully, this style here is going to fit me more", Satan told the Post-Gazette.
The Penguins have a shorter-than-usual training camp this season, consisting of only three full days and a morning skate before their pre-season opener Saturday night against Tampa Bay.
It has been a long and grueling summer, so it is with great pleasure that I am finishing the first article of the new season consisting of something other than trade talk or contract extensions.
Let's Go Pens.