A few quick thoughts on what we saw at tonight's scrimmage.
-First, never put too much weight into these situations. This was hardly NHL-caliber action in terms of the intensity or speed. There was relatively little hitting.
-The established players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal didn't exactly go full bore, but they don't really need to.
-The stars of the night were the players on the new third line: Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and Brandon Sutter. Granted, it was a scrimmage, but Kennedy played with a ton of confidence. He was creative with the puck and as we've come to expect from him, not shy about shooting it. Cooke and Sutter combined on two snazzy goals and appeared to have some instant chemistry.
-Sutter looked sharp. He's not Jordan Staal, but he's not far off. If this was an 82-game season, he'd have 20-25 goals.
-Eric Tangradi didn't show a great deal of promise playing with Malkin or Neal. He had one nice play down low on the boards which created a shot for Neal, but beyond that, he was not very noticeable.
-Beau Bennett showed off his considerable skill set. We're still concerned with how well he can take the abuse of a compacted NHL season.
-There were mixed results with the Simon Despres-Kris Letang defensive pairing. They were badly out of place on the first goal of the game by Cooke but other times, they seemed comfortable with one another. The Penguins appear set to give Despres every chance to work with Letang this season.
-Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik looked very comfortable with one another. We're eager to see what those two do as a defensive pairing.
-Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait had quiet nights. Given their skill sets and their potential roles on this team, that's probably a good thing.
-Ben Lovejoy had one ugly turnover but beyond that, was not very noticeable.
-It's tough to gauge the performances of Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun in this situation. That said, Vokoun was a bit off the near pipe on a goal by Kennedy.
-Dustin Jeffrey was used in a variety of roles tonight and seemed to play okay in all of them. Interestingly enough, he manned the point occasionally on the power play and seemed comfortable.
-The first power-play unite of Crosby, Letang, Chris Kunitz, Malkin, Neal had a lot of movement. Letang and Neal were basically the points on the unit, but all five players moved around the zone quite a bit. We're concerned that group could give up more than a few short-handed goals.
-The second power-play was some combination of Martin, Niskanen, Cooke, Kennedy, Sutter and Pascal Dupuis primarily. It's had a more traditional structure with Niskanen and Martin at the points. Sutter appeared to have some success in front of the crease.
-The turnout of fans for this scrimmage was very impressive. Yes, it was free, but did anyone really expect a full house to watch Sidney Crosby challenge the likes of Jayson Megna or Philip Samuelsson?
(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)