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Insider Only Quick Hits: Thiessen outperforming Zatkoff of late; Need for left handed defenseman a plus for Despres going into camp?

SOME FRIDAY NIGHT PENS QUICK HITS
*Brad Thiessen posted his second shutout in his last three games, leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 1-0 win over the Hershey Bears at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night.
Thiessen made 23 saves in the win and his game has really picked up of late. The first couple months of the season, goaltender Jeff Zatkoff emerged as the clear No. 3 goaltender in the Penguins organization but Thiessen has had something to say about that of late.
The lone goal came from Brian Dumoulin who scored a power play marker in the first period, his 3rd of the season. Beau Bennett (6G-18A-24Pts) picked up his 18th assist of the season on the goal and Dylan Reese added an assist. Reese’s 13 points lead all defensemen on the team.
*Who’s Heading to Camp?*
Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait and Beau Bennett we’re all in the lineup tonight but don’t read much into that. The Penguins planned to play most of their key players tonight and Bortuzzo, Strait will be heading to Pittsburgh this weekend for camp and all indications remain that the Penguins still plan to bring Bennett into camp for a look. Dylan Reese might also be joining them.
Two healthy scratches, though, were Eric Tangradi and Simon Despres who are heading to Pittsburgh for camp. Due to the numbers game on the blueline, there was some debate this week about not bringing Despres to camp and only taking 8 defensemen into camp, but head coach Dan Bylsma continues to be a very strong advocate of Despres, sources say, and Despres might get a serious look in the top-6.

One thing that helps Despres going into camp is the Penguins have a need for a left handed defensemen.
While the Penguins practices this week have been informal workouts with no personnel members allowed to participate in the practices, word has been brought down for Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik to work together as a pair this week and that’s been the case.
It’s a pairing Bylsma appears intrigued about but would be problematic as the Penguins don’t have left handed defenseman among their regulars on one-way contracts. That could open the door for Despres getting a serious look as I was told Bylsma see’s him as a top-6 defenseman on this team and I’m told the Penguins have one projected scenario with Despres opening the year in the top-6, but team sources continue to believe the safe bet is the team starting the year with a top-7 of Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin, Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy and Robert Bortuzzo.
PENGUINS TO START YEAR WITH FOUR OF FIRST FIVE GAMES ON THE ROAD
The leaks have come out for the Penguins schedule and, as expected, the team will open the season in Philadelphia on January 19th with a 3:00 p.m. start. The team will then face the Rangers Sunday night at MSG, 7:00 p.m, opening the year with back to back road games. The Penguins home opener is scheduled for Wednesday, January 23rd vs Toronto. The Tribune-Review reports the Penguins will start the year with four of their first five games on the road, facing Winnipeg on Jan. 25 and Ottawa Jan 27. Pittsburgh will play 18 games in the division, five each against the Islanders and Rangers…….Word I was getting this evening is the Penguins first on-ice session might not take place till Monday due to lack of available ice on Sunday.

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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