It has been a rough September for the Pittsburgh sports community. The Steelers lost their franchise Quarterback and the Pirates capped off another odious season, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Like the some Pittsburgh drivers, the Penguins may have slowed as they entered the Fort Pitt Tunnel as they meekly ended last season. The team and the Penguins lines are much different, now.
But hockey season is finally back and the Penguins have hit the gas out of that tunnel of darkness. The Pittsburgh Penguins play the Buffalo Sabres at PPG Paints Arena, Thursday night.
Matt Murray will guard the pipes for the Penguins. Murray has 97 career wins will soon join Marc-Andre Fleury, Tom Barrasso, and Ken Wregget as the only netminders in Penguins history to win 100 games. Carter Hutton will start for Buffalo.
The Penguins face the Sabres in their season opener for the first time since Oct. 4, 1991 (a 5-4 Penguins win in Buffalo), and for the third time in franchise history. They are 1-1 in the previous two games.
The Penguins begin their season with the Round One sweep by the New York Islanders in the rearview mirror. The Penguins and head coach Mike Sullivan have experimented with the new faces, schemes and the Penguins lines have changed over the past month of training camp. Among the casualties of the identity altering offseason trades were forward Phil Kessel and defenseman Olli Maatta. The team added Alex Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun, and Brandon Tanev to its supporting cast.
The Penguins have a 232-92-26 record at PPG Paints Arena and a 3-1-1 record in their previous five season-opening games.
Buffalo starts its 51st season with a lot to prove after their inability to capitalize on a historic start. Buffalo missed the playoffs last season. Despite a 33-39-10 final record, their roster remains capable of larger aspirations with a mix of veteran talent and young risers. Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin seek to charge their team to its first playoff birth since 2011 with the surrounding skills of Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary. Similar to the Penguins, Buffalo built around their strong core this offseason with the depth acquisitions of Marcus Johannsson, Jimmy Vesey, John Gilmour. Buffalo won the season series last year, 2-1-0.
After a strong showing in the preseason, defenseman John Marino has earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Penguins 23-man opening night roster after Bryan Rust starts the year on long-term injured reserve. The Penguins acquired Marino from the Edmonton Oilers this summer in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round draft pick. Despite playing collegiate hockey at Havard last season and having no other professional experience, Marino impressed in training camp and finished tied on the team in plus-minus (+5).
The Penguins lines could have a surprise addition. They have only 12 forwards, but Alex Galchenyuk is a game-time decision.
Jack Johnson will be paired with Justin Schultz on the Penguin’s second pairing. Coaches tried Juuso Riikola in that spot during the final preseason games but opted for Johnson to begin the season. Johnson has been the subject of intense trade speculation and a disputed chat with Penguins GM Jim Rutherford.
Alex Galchenyuk (Lower Body, Practicing)
Bryan Rust (Hand, IR)
Zach Trotman (Sports Hernia, IR)
Matt Hunwick (Neck, IR)
Zach Bogosian (Hip, IR)
Brandon Montour (Hand, IR)
Conor Sheary (Lower Body)
Jake McCabe (Upper Body)
Special Teams ( Preseason)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||20.3% (16th NHL)||82.4% (7th NHL)|
|New Jersey Devils||17.7% (22nd NHL)||82.0% (10th NHL)|
Penguins, -170, -1.5, (U 6.5)
*The Penguins currently maintain the 15th best odds to win their sixth Stanley cup at +2400. Tampa Bay is favorite with its odds at +700.
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jason Zucker||Sidney Crosby||Conor Sheary|
|Patrick Marleau||Evgeni Malkin||Bryan Rust|
|Evan Rodrigues||Jared McCann||Patric Hornqvist|
|Brandon Tanev||Teddy Blueger||Sam Lafferty|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|