On roster alignment and why we should all be happy this is about to begin

It's been five days since the Penguins have played and four since they found out that the Carolina Hurricanes would be their next opponent. Since then we've heard ad naesuem all the series keys, the most critical matchups, things to watch for and series previews to last a life-time.

Is there anything new game morning that hasn't been beaten into the ground? Not really.

About the best I can find from the Penguins is that 4th line-forward Pascal Dupuis is a game-time decision. The Pens are going to dress the normal 12 forwards but an extra defenseman (that would make 7) for their pre-game warmup. Sergei Gonchar, fingers crossed, seems like he should be good to go for Game 1. If Sarge is playing, coach Dan Bylsma's decision then becomes: does he dress an extra defenseman -- presumably Philippe Boucher -- to take some of the even-strength minutes that Gonchar might not be able to play? If so, that would mean Dupuis sits and more ice-time responsibility for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to double shift with the 4th line.

If Bylsma is going to rock with the usual 12F / 6D format, that means that Boucher is back to the press-box and Dupuis is in. That would be welcome for the penalty kill situation. The Pens lean heavily on a 4 man PK rotation for their forwards. It's Jordan Staal - Matt Cooke and then Max Talbot - Craig Adams. Dupuis regularly killed penalties before Adams' arrival in the regular season and fits in well, giving the Pens an extra option there, especially if one of the regular PK'ers (like Cooke) takes a penalty.

So in a perfect world, the Pens get away with dressing six defensemen. This would mean that Gonchar is relatively healthy and can handle his usual hefty workload. If the Pens have to dress seven defensemen, it's definitely a sign that Gonchar isn't close to full strength and the unusual 11 F / 7 D roster alignment could eventually wear down the Pens forwards.

Either way, it's a good thing we'll finally have some hockey on tonight, as we can all stop reading and thinking about these scenarios and actually, you know, enjoy the game.

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