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Penguins notebook: Playoff newcomers eager to settle into postseason

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, April 12, 2016 3:00 p.m
ptrsheary01010916
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Conor Sheary plays against the Blue Jackets on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.

Penguins winger Conor Sheary has thought about his first Stanley Cup playoff shift and doesn’t want to look like a rookie out there.

“I think it’s going to kind of be like playing your first NHL game, with the nerves and stuff,” Sheary said.

“But once you get in there for your first shift, your first step on the ice, I think it’s just going to be a game. You use that excitement toward positive energy.”

Sheary isn’t alone with anticipation.

When the first-round series with the New York Rangers starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Consol Energy Center, the Penguins could have nine players on their roster without any previous NHL postseason experience.

Like Sheary, most were promoted from the AHL and brought with them youthful energy. Forwards Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust and Oskar Sundqvist; defensemen Derrick Pouliot; and goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry were called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at various times this season.

All are between ages 20 and 24.

“That’s one of the greatest things about being a young player, is having the opportunity to participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s exciting. I think it’s what we all grow up aspiring to do at some point in your hockey life.

“These guys are going to get a great opportunity. I think they’re thrilled about it. They also think they’re surrounded by a veteran group of players that will help them along the way.”

Defenseman Justin Schultz, who played three seasons in Edmonton, and backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff also can experience the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time.

“We want to go a long way (in the playoffs), so we don’t want it to be a learning process,” Sheary said. “We want it to be good hockey and play our best.”

Crosby on concussions

Asked if there’s any fear teammates could rush back from a concussion, Sidney Crosby said: “You trust that everyone’s smart, they’ll listen to the right people and make sure they’re ready before they come back. I think everybody is well aware of symptoms you need to watch for.”

Crosby was asked Tuesday in reference to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who suffered a concussion March 31 and returned to practice Monday.

“The main thing is you come back when you’re ready, so you can deal with anything that might come your way,” Crosby said. “That’s all you can do, is trust that you’re doing the right things to get back to where you need to be healthwise.”

Bennett’s status uncertain

Beau Bennett said he’s “feeling better every day” but expressed concern his shoulder injury might make him a liability in the playoffs.

“This time of year, you’ve got to put guys in there who are able to do the job and not be tentative,” said the 24-year-old winger, who rejoined practice Tuesday. “I think those last two games, Tom Sestito did a great job. If that’s who’s going to get it done, that’s who should play.”

Bennett sat out the final two regular-season contests and missed 42 games earlier this season to injury.

“Obviously, I want to play,” Bennett said. “But it’s a team sport. Especially in the playoffs, you don’t want to be a liability out there. You don’t want to hurt your team at any time. Right now it’s all about who’s going to get the job done.”

Bennett has six goals and six assists in 33 games. He was injured Dec. 14 on a hit from Washington’s T.J. Oshie.

“Hopefully everything’s going to clear up here in a day or two,” Bennett said, “and we’ll see what happens.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

Categories: Penguins
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