Bubble players and those fighting for jobs have one more chance to coaches and management they belong in the big show. The Pittsburgh Penguins host the Buffalo Sabres in their final preseason game Saturday at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins currently do not have a roster decision to make at forward, but they could create instant headlines with personnel decisions on their blue line.
According to head coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins coaches won’t be making a snap decision based on one game but a good performance sure won’t hurt, either.
“Every time you step on the ice, there is an opportunity to improve your position on the team. I don’t think our coaching staff or management makes spontaneous decisions based on short term instances,” Sullivan scoffed slightly. “I think we try to utilize the body of work when we’re trying to make decisions for the hockey team.”
Penguins goalie Matt Murray will start and play the full game as his final tuneup before the regular season.
The Penguins biggest decision will come on defense. Juuso Riikola has received a long look beside Erik Gudbranson as the third pairing defenseman. John Marino, the 22-year-old rookie from Harvard, Chad Ruhwedel and Jack Johnson are the other three defensemen. The Penguins will likely keep two of the four because of salary cap constraints.
And based on pre-game PA rehearsals, it appears Riikola will start the game beside Justin Schultz Saturday.
Update: The Penguins third pairing will be Jack Johnson and John Marino. Neither Riikola or Gudbranson will play.
Forward Alex Galchenyuk continued to rehab from a lower body injury and skated on his own Saturday morning. The Penguins June acquisition for Phil Kessel also missed the previous preseason game, too. He skated primarily with Evgeni Malkin during training camp and in the first several preseason games.
Sidney Crosby will play Saturday after having his Rimouski Oceanic No. 87 retired Friday night. the QMJHL also followed suit and no player will again wear No. 87 in the Q.
Beyond Murray, Sullivan did not divulge the lineup. However, based on the previous game, and the Pittsburgh Penguins 12 healthy forwards, we can guess at the Penguins lines.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines: