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Penguins hire Gonchar, Bennett close to returning

By Seth Rorabaugh 4 years ago

 

 Former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar was hired as a coach.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Former Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar was hired as a coach.

The Penguins have hired former defenseman Sergei Gonchar as a defenseman development coach.

Gonchar, 41, attended the team’s training camp on a tryout basis in September. A member of the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup championship, Gonchar spent 20 seasons in the NHL. In addition to the Penguins, Gonchar played for the Capitals, Bruins, Senators, Stars and Canadiens. Appearing in 1,301 career games, Gonchar scored 811 points, the most by a Russian-born defenseman in NHL history.

A native of Chelyabinsk, Gonchar will also scout European tournaments for the Penguins.

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Right winger Beau Bennett was a full participant in practice today in Cranberry. He has been sidelined since Oct. 13 due to an undisclosed injury. Bennett suggested he is well enough to play but said the decision is out of his hands.

“It's all up to the coaches now,” Bennett said. “I've gone through the protocol of pushing, shoving and battling out there. The shot feels good. My hands feel good. Just got to see what happens tomorrow.

Head coach Mike Johnston seemed optimistic on Bennett’s availability for Wednesday’s road game against the Capitals.

”He practiced two days ago,“ Johnston said. ”He practiced today. So he's had two good practices. We'll get a skate tomorrow morning. I would expect right now, the way he looked out there today, he's pretty close.“

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Right winger Bryan Rust did not participate in practice. He was injured in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime road win against the Predators after being hit by a puck on the right hand or arm. Johnston did not have a precise update on him.

”He's still out right now,” Johnston said. “I would expect from the reports that I heard yesterday … it's going to be a couple weeks.”

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The Penguins had some slightly different lines at practice today.

Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Chris Kunitz - Nick Bonino - Daniel Sprong
Sergei Plotnikov - Matt Cullen - Beau Bennett

Center Eric Fehr served as an extra forward.

The defensive pairings were status quo:

Ian Cole - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Ben Lovejoy
Olli Maatta - Rob Scuderi

Adam Clendening served as an extra forward.

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The power play was worked on quite a bit today. There was a slight change with the first power play unit which as composed of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang and Hornqvist.

Hornqvist replaced Kunitz who has primarily been on the top unit for the past three games.

A “grab-bag” of players composed the second unit. The included, Bennett, Bonino, Kunitz, Sprong, Dupuis, Perron, Cole and Maatta.

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Bonino has been elected as the Penguins’ player representative to the NHLPA.