Despite some roster uncertainty hanging over the team before the 2 p.m. waiver deadline when players will clear, players may be claimed, and others become available, the Pittsburgh Penguins began their 2023-24 NHL regular season Monday with a spirited practice on their home ice at PPG Paints Arena.
Seemingly miles away from the work being done in the president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas’s office to finalize the roster. Coach Mike Sullivan settled into what might be the Penguins lines and roster for the next few weeks, if not longer.
There remains a bit of intrigue regarding the Penguins’ afternoon plans. Dubas didn’t dispel wonders that the Penguins may put waiver claims this afternoon or that Radim Zohorna could be claimed, as he was last season.
Zohorna remained with the team and cycled on the fourth line with Jeff Carter, Noel Acciari, and Matt Nieto. However, his future remains uncertain.
“We have until today at 5 p.m. to do so,” Dubas said. “We’re going to take all of our time, see what happens on the waiver at 2 o’clock, and then submit our final roster by 5.”
The Penguins’ lines seemed to have settled and recently claimed Jansen Harkins could be getting a primetime shot. Harkins joined the third line with Lars Eller and Drew O’Connor.
It also surely seems that Jake Guentzel will play Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks in the regular season opener, but Guentzel’s inclusion isn’t yet official.
“No, nothing official. I wanted to get through today, talk to (coaches),” Guentzel said.
Further removing doubt if he’ll play, Guentzel also took his customary spot on the Penguins’ top power-play unit.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith-Evgeni Malkin-Bryan Rust
Jansen Harkins-Lars Eller-Drew O’Connor
Matt Nieto-Noel Acciari-Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves-Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson-Erik Karlsson
P.O Joseph-Chad Ruhwedel
Lars Eller & Drew O’Connor Breakaways
One of the quiet new additions to the Penguins this summer, Eller could also be the second most important behind Erik Karlsson. The Penguins’ third line has been spotty on both ends of the ice over the last couple of seasons. A stabilizing center and some offensive contributions might do wonders for the scoring depth.
O’Connor had a few breakaways in the preseason. Eller quickly praised O’Connor for creating them rather than conceding it was preseason hockey.
“I think it’s just good awareness to see plays develop. It’s anticipation and knowing what the other guy will do and see the play develop,” said Eller. “Drew had a good eye for seeing those plays develop and see, ‘Okay, this is going to happen.’ –get into this space with speed, and that’s all it is. It’s the anticipation. Just being one step ahead of the other defensemen, and he’s using his speed really well.”
Penguins Power Plays
The units remained the same as Sunday, with defenseman Kris Letang atop the second unit.
PP1: Karlsson, Malkin, Crosby, Rakell, Guentzel.
PP2: Letang, Rust, Carter, Harkins, Smith.