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Trade Fallout Rushes in With Guentzel, Bunting Squaring Off



Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger, Jake Guentzel
Jake Guentzel

There was no reunion Monday night – the Carolina Hurricanes had a team dinner, so their players weren’t available to hang out with Pittsburgh Penguins players.

There was no reunion Tuesday morning at PPG Paints Arena – while the Penguins had a full morning skate, the Hurricanes did not hold one at all.

So everything will happen Tuesday night. Longtime top-line winger Jake Guentzel will face the Penguins for the first time since he was traded away to Carolina nearly three weeks ago, and winger Michael Bunting will face the Hurricanes after coming over to the Penguins in the deal.

Of all the Penguins who could get emotional or find the reunion as opponents meaningful, Sidney Crosby surely tops the list.

Crosby was asked about the bond between him and Guentzel.

“Pretty strong. We sat next to each other. Played together. Obviously, winning a Stanley Cup, there’s always a unique bond when you do that together,” Crosby said. “Besides that, just the length of time and some of the memories over the years, definitely a strong (bond) there.”

Bryan Rust, who also had often been part of the top line with Crosby and Guentzel, also lost a friend from the Penguins locker room.

“It’s going to be different,” Rust said of facing Guentzel. “He’s a guy I came up with as a younger guy, and now we’re older veterans with kids and such.

“It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him across the ice. He’s a guy who I became really good friends with. Our families are close. But for 2 ½ hours tonight, we’re not going to be friends.”

With no Hurricanes morning skate, Guentzel was off the hook as far as speaking with Pittsburgh reporters. Eyes will be on him when the Penguins no doubt play a tribute video during a game timeout.

He did address his return briefly with reporters following a Carolina practice on Monday.

“It’s obviously really exciting,” said Guentzel, who has two goals, 12 points in eight games with the Hurricanes, who are 6-1-1 in that stretch. “Family is still there so I’ll get to see them (Monday night). It’ll be nice to see some of the guys. But it’s just going to be a fun game and, hopefully, get the two points.

“It’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be fun. It’s a special place in our family’s hearts. It’ll be a cool experience. I think in warmup you’ll soak it in — it’s a new experience — but once the puck drops it’s just back to hockey and just playing, doing what you’ve been doing your whole life. It’s going to be different, but it’ll be fun.”

Bunting cracked that he told his new teammates “all the secrets” behind Carolina’s success – under certain circumstances, the red-hot Hurricanes can clinch a playoff spot Tuesday night with a win.

In reality, Bunting said he’s simply going to try to be ready to face Carolina’s pressure game and added, “I’m just going to go into it like any other game and play my game and bring that energy every single shift.”

Bunting did allow that the situation “is weird. … I’ve never been through something like this.”