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'There's a lot of hunger:' Penguins return to camp motivated to put last season in rearview

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CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) - Friday was the first official day of fall and that means hockey season is one day closer. 

For the Penguins, it means they're back to work as it was their second day of training camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex as the 2022-23 season looms. 

The team is coming back with Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, and Evgeni Malkin re-signed on new deals. Captain Sidney Crosby returns and the trio of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang has set the NHL record for the longest active trio and longest trio to play for one team consecutively. 

However, for the team, this year isn't one of nostalgia, it's one of unfinished business. 

"I'm really excited about where we are right now as a team," General Manager Ron Hextall said. "The feeling around the room, there's a lot of hunger. There's going to be some good fights for jobs. I like where we're at."  

As there should be since the team was eliminated in the first round again, this time at the hands of the New York Rangers. 

Despite the loss, there's a belief this team has fallen victim to bad luck. They were without starting goalie Tristan Jarry, who hurt his foot and missed the first six games of the series, but came back to play in the game seven overtime loss. 

Jarry battled through the injury as he told reporters he was unable to put his foot in a put for weeks after the loss. 

"It was something that didn't heal as quickly as I expected," Jarry said. "It was something that I had to take really good care of, do a lot of treatment on, and a lot of therapy. I think it'll help me this year, and make me stronger."  

Meanwhile, the team was also without backup goaltender Casey DeSmith who was also injured, but late in game one of the Rangers' series. 

The Penguins were forced to turn to third-string goaltender Louis Domingue. 

Domingue did not return this offseason, ultimately signing a deal with the Rangers. 

Meanwhile, the team has remained mostly unchanged and for its leaders, that's for the better as they told reporters they feel there is still a championship-caliber team in the room. 

"There is a feeling in the dressing room that this was a team that could win it all," Letang told The Athletic's Josh Yohe.

A big focus of the offseason was center Evgeni Malkin, who was ultimately re-signed but it came right down to the wire, including reports from his camp that he was going to test free agency. Ultimately, Hextall was able to get Malkin re-signed and now his focus is on camp. 

"I see Geno right now, and he's a hungry guy, it's like 'wow, that's pretty good,'" Hextall said. "We just signed him to a four-year deal, and I think he's been here for a month. He looks like a beast. Tanger, the same. And obviously, we all know Sid. They're hungry guys."  

Also this offseason, Hextall extended the contract of Head Coach Mike Sullivan, who like his players, believes there's more to be done and that despite the Penguins possessing the NHL's oldest roster, they can still win a championship. 

"I'm excited we were able to retain the guys that we did," Sullivan said. "I thought Hexy did a real good job of keeping the team together. Like I've told you guys, I believe in this group."  

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