Crosby with Guentzel, Sprong as Camp Begins

Pens captain impressed by Sprong’s offensive talent

Josh Rowntree
September 14, 2018 - 12:41 pm
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby at a practice in September 2018

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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The Penguins are going to give Daniel Sprong the early shot. 

Sprong, the offensively explosive winger with a heavy release, skated on a line with captain Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel as Pittsburgh began training camp Friday. 

“He’s skilled, he’s got a great shot, so that, with a lot of youth and energy, I think it’s a good combination,” Crosby said of Sprong’s addition. “He’s got a great shot, he knows how to use it. He showed it today, making some plays out there.”

“He’s just really skilled,” Guentzel added. “He skates well and can shoot the puck well. You see what kind of vision he has and what he can do with the puck.”

Sprong scored at a blistering pace last year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, racking up 32 goals and 65 points in 65 games. He appeared in just eight games with Pittsburgh, scoring twice.

“I’ve just got to play my game, make sure I’m responsible defensively and make sure I support the puck,” Spring said. “When I get the chances to shoot, I’ve got to shoot and hopefully they go in.”

Sure, he can shoot. But the knock on the 21-year old has been his defensive play, or lack thereof. 

“I think there’s always going to be criticism,” he said. “Every player gets criticized for something they do. But we just try to take those things out of our mind and just play the game we know how to play.”

“The main thing is just him playing his game and being confident in what he needs to do,” Crosby added. “If there’s things we need to work out or iron out, we’ll do it. We have time to do it. You just try to let him play as much as you can.”

Training camp is the time for just that. But, once the season begins, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan likely won’t tolerate relaxed defensive play on the top line.

“You’ve got to try to be good in all areas of the ice,” Crosby said. “It’s always an important part of the game, especially as a young player, showing that you’re aware of that area and that you’re making sure you’re doing the little things to help out defensively.”

On the other side of Crosby may be Guentzel, who was one of the streakiest players in the NHL a year ago. Despite putting up 22 goals and 48 points in the regular season, Guentzel did have a stretch in which he scored one goal in 19 games.

“I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned over the last year,” Guentzel said. “You’ve got to be confident and play through all of the 82 games and you can’t take days off.”

Guentzel has the ability to play at a high level with Crosby. He did, after all, finish the 2018 postseason as the League’s fifth-leading scorer, despite appearing in just two series. 

“You’ve just got to play as yourself,” he said of skating on Crosby’s wing. “You know what kind of player he is and what he can do. You try to get him the puck as much as you can.”

Ultimately, the Penguins have until October 4, the home opener against defending Stanley Cup champion Washington, to iron out the top line. Even at that, it make take some time during the season to get the chemistry flowing.

“Whatever the combinations are, I think we’re just looking to make things happen out there, create offensively, make sure we get our timing and are aware of each other out there on the ice,” Crosby said. “But there’s no specific thing. Whatever the combinations that are put together, I think you just go out there and make it work.”

Hear more from Sidney Crosby below. 

Notes: Penguins forward Derrick Brassard missed the first day of camp with an illness, the team reported. Center Riley Sheahan and defenseman Kevin Czuczman both were absent as well. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that Sheahan has a lower-body injury and Czuczman underwent offseason shoulder surgery and is out until December.