New Jersey Devils
7:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Last Penguins Game:
June 7, 2013 - Boston 1, Pittsburgh 0
The Penguins have been lost in the shuffle a bit with what the Pirates have been doing and even with how awful the Steelers have been. There are still stories about the Penguins but for the most part this team is about the same as it has been in the past couple of years. The huge story lines aren't there outside of the tough Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season and with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the team you are always going to have a chance.
The injury bug has hit the Penguins a little bit as they will be without the services of Kris Letang for at least the first week of the season with a lower body injury and backup/playoff starter goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be out for 3-6 month with a blood clot that might have been life threatening. Not good stuff but the Penguins still have a good bit of talent on the ice on a night-to-night basis to be competitive with any team in the league.
I guess if you are going to look for a story line in the season it has to start and end with Marc-Andre Fleury. MAF has been roasted in Pittsburgh for much of the last four seasons ever since that Stanley Cup run and I think most fans would have like to have shipped him away this off season without blinking. I think I have made it clear I am more of a MAF fan than most are but this is really a make or break year for him. When he is on he is amazingly fun to watch but when the game gets into his head then I think I could put on skates and get one by him. Having Vokoun on the team gave you a little more comfort but with him possibly not playing for the entire season, or ever again, the Penguins are going to go with rookie Jeff Zatkoff who has never played in the NHL before. This could be interesting.
Also something that was a mild surprise was that Olli Maatta will be on the roster and will be playing in the absence of Letang. He has a handful of games he can play before he has to be sent down (or lose a year of his entry level deal) which is what Jordan Staal went through in his first season. I don't expect Maatta to be up for very long but it will be interesting to see how he handles the NHL speed of play and at 19 years old this is going to be a big time experience for him. He was the first round pick in 2012 and I guess the team wants to see what he has on the big stage in order to see where he might fit into the future.
Rob Scuderi is also back for the Penguins. He will be pair with Letang when he is ready but he will be another shutdown type guy in the back end. Scuds is 34 years old so his best years are behind him but the Penguins feel as if he has enough in the tank to be a big time player back there.
The forwards are much the same. With Crosby and Malkin you have two of the best in the world and the trio of Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, and James Neal you really have a lot of fire power to get things going. Guys like Brandon Sutter and Beau Bennett are going to be the key for this team as the third and fourth lines are a little thing and really will tell you a lot about this team. Dan Bylsma loves to roll four lines and grind teams down but if the third and fourth lines aren't strong then it makes the Penguisn a lot easier to defend and play.
Penguins (0-0-0) (via Penguins website)
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
James Neal - Evgeni Malkin - Jussi Jokinen
Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Chuck Kobasew
Tanner Glass - Dustin Jeffrey - Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta - Robert Bortuzzo
Devils (0-0-0) (via Devils website)
Ryane Clowe - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner
Adam Henrique - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Dainius Zubrus - Andrei Loktionov - Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold