Last updated: September 14. 2013 12:49AM - 1902 Views
By - tvenesky@civitasmedia.com

Pittsburgh Penguins' Joe Vitale skates in a scrimmage during training camp Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Penguins' Joe Vitale skates in a scrimmage during training camp Thursday in Pittsburgh.
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Sidney Crosby can relate to what players such as Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher are going through as they begin their first NHL training camp this week in Pittsburgh.

Both players were rookies last season and the lockout robbed them off a chance to experience their first NHL training camp. Now that they are both in Pittsburgh participating in camp with NHL stars, it’s like a whole new world.

That’s why it helps to have a little encouragement from veterans such as Crosby.

“You’re not nervous anymore. When the older guys come up to you, you kind of calm down and settle into things,” Uher said. “That means a lot to us.”

Crosby said even though the first days of training camp are extremely busy, he always tries to make some time for the new guys. Even if it’s just a brief introduction or a short chat in the locker room, Crosby knows it helps.

“We’ve all been in that position of coming into camp for the first time and there were certain guys that helped us out,” he said. “It’s something we all can relate to and I had guys do the same thing for me.

“Guys coming in are eager and want to learn, and if you spend some time with them that makes a big difference.”

Veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi came to his first NHL training camp with Pittsburgh more than 10 years ago. Although it would take a few seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before Scuderi would become a full-time NHL player, he remembers what it’s like to attend camp for the first time.

Scuderi also knows how important it is when a veteran takes a young player under his wing.

“I’ve been on the other side of it where I show up to a training camp and I know I have no chance of making the team. You respect the fact that guys who have been in the NHL for 10 years still come up and say hi and give you some time,” he said. “I remember guys doing that for me and it’s something you try to pass on.”

Scuderi remembers veterans such as Mike Eastwood and Alexei Morozov taking the time to show him the ropes in the early stages of his career.

Now, Scuderi enjoys the fact that he can do the same for this year’s first-timers.

“You just try to be a decent player and a nice person,” he said.

After he spent four years playing in college, Joe Vitale came to his first NHL camp in 2009 as he began his rookie season with the Pittsburgh organization. He came into camp wide-eyed at all the NHL talent that surrounded him, but Vitale quickly felt welcome thanks to some attention from Pittsburgh’s top star.

“Crosby knew my name and asked how my summer went. I was a rookie and he didn’t need to pull me aside and chat with me, but he did,” Vitale said. “You look at the caliber of guys here and the fact they did that for me is something you try to pay forward.”

Crosby was glad to hear that Vitale remembered that first meeting years ago and is happy to see him doing the same thing for today’s first-time camp participants.

That’s what’s happening now to players like Uher and Farnham. During Friday’s scrimmage, veteran Tanner Glass gave Farnham a pat with his stick after he nearly connected on a wrist shot.

For Farnham — a player who began last season in Hamilton’s training camp without a contract — the small gesture meant a lot.

“All the veteran guys have been great to us and it definitely helps ease the transition into an NHL training camp,” he said. “You can learn a lot from the guys who have been here before.”

Around the room

• Jayson Megna has been practicing with Group B in training camp. It’s a list stockpiled with NHL talent such as Crosby, Scuderi, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. “Sid and that whole line are on a whole other level. It’s pretty incredible getting to watch them,” Megna said. “I’m glad I’m not playing against them or my plus-minus would not be looking so hot right now.”

• Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff said he won’t be affected by the new rule change shortening the length of leg pads for the upcoming season. Zatkoff said he didn’t wear over-sized pads to begin with so the change won’t be an issue. As far as if the shorter leg pads will result in more five-hole goals, Zatkoff said, “We’ll see. I think there’s ways around it they haven’t fixed yet. Guys could go for bigger knee pads.”

• As Beau Bennett prepares to enter his first full NHL season, he has already entrenched himself with his Pittsburgh Penguin teammates. During Friday’s scrimmage he skated on a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, and in the locker room Bennett has formed a bond with Vitale. The two have locker stalls next to each other and last season they shared the same row on the airplane while flying to road games.

“We shadow each other. With being young and still trying to find your way in this league, there can be some down days,” Vitale said. “We have each other’s backs.”

Bennet said the friendship grew last season when both he and Vitale bounced in and out of the lineup. They supported each other during the trying time, he said, and Vitale has also impressed him off the ice as well.

“He’s such a good guy with how he treats everyone away from the rink. He has a family, he’s a dad and he’s someone to look up to,” Bennett said. “If I can be half the man as he is, I’d be happy.”

• During Friday’s scrimmage, the Black team defeated the White squad 4-1. Kris Letang had two goals while Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis had the other tallies. Tryout Jean-Sebastien Dea scored for the White team.

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