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Insider Only Day 2 Penguins Training Camp: Vitale eyes opportunity on PK; Despres out of shape? Fleury upbeat

photo (42) DAY 2 PENGUINS TRAINING CAMP
VITALE EXPECTED TO GET SOME LOOKS ON PK
The Penguins penalty kill was up and down in the 2013 regular season, ranking 25th in the NHL at 79.6%. In the post-season, the PK took off, giving up just 4 power play goals in 52 opportunities (92.3%) over 15 games. The Penguins feel part of the reason for their success in the post-season was the adjustments the team made coming into the regular season that took some time to produce results. The addition of Douglas Murray also played a big part as Murray established a strong presence on the PK.
Over the summer the Penguins lost two very important penalty killers in Murray and Matt Cooke. Murray averaged 2:38 of ice time shorthanded in the regular season with the Penguins and 2:25 in the post-season. Behind Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik, he ate up the third most minutes among defensemen. The Penguins will replace Murray this season with Rob Scuderi who will have no problem filling that void.
When it comes to replacing Matt Cooke’s ability on the penalty kill, there’s no sure answer.
One ideal player could be Joe Vitale filling that void. Vitale has a lot of traits that makes him potentially a very strong penalty killer, which he was as a player coming up through the system. At the NHL level, though, he’s been given no chance, averaging 0:07 of ice time per game shorthanded last season. That’s likely to change this season as I’m told the coaches intend to give Vitale an opportunity there.
“I penalty killed a lot {in Wilkes Barre},” Vitale said. “Coming in here, PK was one of my huge foundations as a player. We have had a lot of great “PKers” so I’ve always thought just be patient and wait your turn. With a spot opening up here this year, I’d like to think I’ll have the opportunity to prove myself.”
Another thought for a while has been the coaching staff getting more aggressive with using Crosby and even Malkin on the penalty kill.
photo (41)
DESPRES STRUGGLES MIGHTILY WITH CONDITIONING TESTING

A storyline emerging for the Penguins is Simon Despres likely starting the season in the minors. From Despres opening camp on a No. 4 pairing, it just seems that’s where things are headed as the chatter has been there for a few weeks leading up to camp.
If Despres does start the season in the minors, look for talk to come out of the organization that the Penguins weren’t happy with the shape he came to camp in. While I haven’t heard anything directly from team sources yet, Despres looked to be majorly out of shape today during the Penguins conditioning testing.
The players did suicides back and fourth about four to five times and Despres couldn’t keep up for any of it. He was significantly behind the group during the entire testing, failing to come anywhere close to keeping up with the likes of Derek Engelland who’s no speed demon. Despres was consistently lagging 50 to 60 feet behind the group. Maybe he’s been dealing with something but if not, I can’t imagine management is happy and this wouldn’t be the first time that Despres showed up to camp out of shape.
FLEURY UPBEAT
Marc Andre Fleury spoke after today’s scrimmage and he remains a very upbeat goaltender.
“My goal every year is try to get to 40 wins a season,” Fleury said. “Season was good…..A couple rocky games in the playoffs. I’m not going to stop playing hockey because of that. You learn from it. I’m looking forward to getting going again.”
“I love the game. I love to play,” Fleury said.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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