Most or perhaps all of the Pittsburgh Penguins healthy NHL regulars will be in the lineup on Saturday night in Columbus. The Penguins will wrap one of their most unsettled and open training camps with a few surprises on the ice against their division rival Columbus Blue Jackets, who are struggling to put together a competitive team.
The puck drops at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m.
The Penguins trimmed their camp roster to 29 players on Friday. The team sent top prospects Nathan Legare, Sam Poulin, and P.O. Joseph to the WBS Penguins camp. Filip Hallander and Kasper Bjornqvist were also sent to the AHL camp.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan still has a few decisions to make. The Penguins can keep up to 23 players on their opening night roster.
It appears likely that center Brian Boyle will get a contract. The 6-foot-6 center signed a PTO to attend the Pittsburgh Penguins camp. Rookie Drew O’Connor has also made a splash, as has returning Penguins forward Dominic Simon, who is on a two-way deal.
Anthony Angello and Sam Lafferty are also battling for spots with the NHL team, and all will play on Saturday night.
Simon and Angello will have to clear waivers if the Penguins send him to the AHL.
“I think Anthony’s game is obvious to everyone,” Sullivan said. “He’s a big presence on the ice. He can really skate, brings a physical dimension, and brings a reliable, trustworthy game…”
After the Penguins’ 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, Sullivan specifically singled out Danton Heinen, Simon, and O’Connor as three players who excelled in camp.
The Penguins open the regular season on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so expect decisions this weekend.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
–Jake Guentzel’s status in the NHL COVID protocol is still day-to-day. Sullivan was unsure if he’d be ready for the season opener. Zach Aston-Reese began skating with skills coach Ty Hennes on Friday. His status for Tuesday is also uncertain.
–Kasperi Kapanen and Drew O’Connor lead the Penguins with three (3) preseason goals.
–Heinen and Kapanen lead the team with four (4) points.
–The game will be televised on AT&T Sportsnet and heard on the Penguins flagship radio station, 105.9 the X.
What to Watch:
It would seem Drew O’Connor has done everything he can to earn an NHL spot. The forward has played center and wing in camp, as well as scored three goals.
However, Dominik Simon has also played well and has earned players’ and coaches’ trust as someone who creates offense.
Boyle seemingly has the fourth-line center spot locked, which creates a competition between Simon, Angello and O’Connor. Not everyone can stay unless Guentzel and Aston-Reese are out. Can O’Connor keep his camp hot-streak going?
Chad Ruhwedel wasn’t at his best on Thursday in Detroit. However, Mike Matheson’s nagging injury creates a temporary opening for Mark Friedman. Can Friedman play well enough to give coaches the confidence to place him ahead of Ruhwedel? If Ruhwedel struggles again, will he yield the spot on the Penguins third pairing?
The Penguins PK has not been consistent or great in the preseason. The unit yielded another PPG-against on Thursday. The Penguins finished 27th last season and must get on the same page and must kill penalties at better than a 77% clip. Boyle may have a slot based on his PK work alone. O’Connor could win a spot based on his work.
It’s a long shot, but so, too, could Lafferty.
9 – Evan Rodrigues
10 – Drew O’Connor
11 – Brian Boyle
16 – Jason Zucker
18 – Sam Lafferty
17 – Bryan Rust
23 – Brock McGinn
42 – Kasperi Kapanen
43 – Danton Heinen
49 – Dominik Simon
53 – Teddy Blueger
57 – Anthony Angello
77 – Jeff Carter
2 – Chad Ruhwedel
6 – John Marino
8 – Brian Dumoulin
28 – Marcus Pettersson
52 – Mark Friedman
58 – Kris Letang
1 – Casey DeSmith
35 – Tristan Jarry