Penguins’ Bennett aiming for camp


Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett expects to be ready for training camp after undergoing a second wrist surgery on May 22.

Bennett, 22, tells Michelle Crechiolo of the Penguins that the wrist is getting progressively better.

“Playing it by ear right now,” he said. “Everyday it’s feeling a little bit better and we’re increasing a little bit in the weight training and on-ice stuff. It’s still early and I’m glad that I’m here (in Pittsburgh) early enough where I can really see where I’m at.”

Following his spring surgery, the second in six months, a four-month window was expected for recovery, which would take the Gardena, Calif. native into September.

Bennett underwent surgery on the wrist for the first time in November 2013. At that time, a recovery period of 8-10 weeks was expected.

Following the surgery, Bennett returned in March to play nine regular season games scoring two goals and two assists.

This time around, Bennett feels the process is moving a long better.

“So far, it’s been a lot better,” Bennett said. “I was only in the cast for two weeks as opposed to six weeks the last time. It’s a work in progress.”

Bennett added one goal and four assists in 12 playoff games as the Penguins were eliminated by the New York Rangers in the second round.

The 6-foot-2, 196-pounder had three goals and four assists in 21 NHL games last season, Bennett also appeared in three games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL on a conditioning assignment where he had an assist.

Entering his third NHL season, Bennett could be prime for a bigger role this year following the departures of James Neal, who was dealt to the Nashville Predators and unrestricted free agent Jussi Jokinen signing with the Florida Panthers.

“It’s tough because I didn’t have a real full season last year,” said Bennett. “It’s hard to gauge where I’ll be at coming into this year. But I’m excited for the opportunity to play top-six.

“Even if you play top-nine, we have (Brandon) Sutter as the third-line center and he’s an unbelievable guy to play with. Then you have (Marcel) Goc, who I played with a lot in the playoffs and we were familiar with each other. It’s kind of an embarrassment of riches down the middle and we’re pretty lucky as wingers to play with any of the guys.”

Related: Crosby expects to be ready for training camp, says wrist is healing nicely

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.