Let's see, over-hyped preseason game against the 2009 Stanley Cup runner-up Red Wings? Check.
Regular season rematch (and win) against the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal losing Philadelphia Flyers? Check.
Regular season rematch against the Eastern Conference Finals losing Carolina Hurricanes? Ah, there we are.
Every time the Penguins go up against a team they faced in the 08-09 playoff this season you can only begin to imagine that some may perceive it as a chance for revenge. While this does in some way set the stage for tonight's game (and I'm sure the respective broadcasts will help fuel that fire as well) this is hardly the case. Let it be known this is not necessarily a dig speared towards Carolina fans, just more like the reality of it. Take it from me, a fan of the 2008 second place finishers - it doesn't feel right until you hit the playoffs. Nothing justified that 2008 loss to the Wings until the Pens won the Cup in Game 7 after a very long up-and-down season.
Yet here we are, Pens and Canes fans, pinned against one another for tonight's 7:00 start (on NHL Network FYI). I think many hockey fans would agree that Carolina was not in its prime for the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Cam Ward, easily the biggest factor on the team, was playing hurt. Eric Staal didn't look like himself and the Canes offense really couldn't get anything rolling. Ward let in a few soft goals that perhaps allowed the Pens to get away quickly in the series sweep and the team just looked battered from a rough series against Boston.
But there's also the Malkin Factor to consider. During the 08-09 regular season Geno posted 2 goals and 3 assists, a respectable 5-point performance over four games. However once the playoffs hit, as Bill Guerin would say on the Stanley Cup DVD, he got it in his head that he was going to dominate. It's hard to forget that whirling, backhand goal that capped the hat trick.
Keep your eyes on Eric Staal, Jussi Jokinen and Cam Ward. Jokinen leads the team with two goals and three assists, while Staal has two goals of his own. Ward is 2-3 after starting all 5 games for the Canes.
Do the Pens take it tonight?