Credit Seth at Empty Netters for digging up tonight's expected lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Montreal. The game is on television here in the States on the NHL Network, and I'll have a recap of the game up afterwards. This might be a lot of folks' first chance to see this incarnation of the Penguins on TV and with roster cuts looming either Wednesday or Friday, for some of these guys it could be their last game wearing Pittsburgh's crest for a while.
So let's take a look at what we'll see, featuring the Mega Powers both in the lineup tonight...
Luca Caputi-Sidney Crosby-Bill Guerin
Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-Eric Tangradi
Pascal Dupuis-Craig Adams-Tim Wallace
Ryan Bayda-Dustin Jeffrey-Eric Godard
--Big, big chances for Caputi and Tangradi to show what they've got. Caputi's seemed to have a quiet camp and most reports have him getting scoring chances but then either getting robbed by the goalie, shooting just wide or hitting a post...There's no better chance for him to turn it around and start burying them than on the top line with Crosby and Guerin and in the hockey hotbed on Montreal.
--Tangradi has gotten to play with Crosby, and has had success. Tonight the big winger gets a go with the other franchise center. It's also interesting that Geno gets a chance to play with "Crosby's winger" in Kunitz, someone he hasn't played much with. Might the Pens think about putting Kunitz on the 2nd line (presumably with Fedotenko) and then giving Caputi or Tangradi the big shoes to fill in the regular season with Crosby/Guerin? It's an interesting thought. The young players can give the front office that possibility if they acquit themselves well in this game.
--The 3rd and 4th lines are mixes of what Pittsburgh may use as a 4th line at the beginning of the season. Dupuis, Adams and Godard are safe in making the 23 man roster, but getting a jersey for each game might prove to be difficult if young players like Wallace and Jeffrey continue to shine. Bayda is clawing for a contract, so watch him try very hard to make an impression on management.
Ben Lovejoy-Deryk Engelland
Simon Despres-Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik-Sergei Gonchar
--Despres, who's impressed seemingly all observers all camp, gets to play with an NHL caliber defenseman in Kris Letang. It also should be noted that this is Despres' first pro game in Montreal (even if it is an exhibition) it'll be interesting to see if the hometown kid has any early jitters or if he buckles down and jumps right in.
--Orpik/Gonchar has worked together all camp and are back tonight, so it appears Orpik will start on the top pairing, and not form a replacement "shutdown" defensive pair with Mark Eaton or Jay McKee as was tossed around earlier in the summer. In actuality, it's likely that Gonchar/Orpik would be the duo to match team's top scoring threats, so Brooks may be on that unit anyhow.
--Lovejoy and Engelland are both in the dogfight for a roster spot as an NHL defenseman, but tonight they're partners. Neither needs to play a flashy game with the puck, both need to be solid in their positioning and would do well by not "standing out". Kind of like an offensive lineman in football, if you hear too much about either player tonight, chances are it won't be for good reasons.
Marc-Andre Fleury, John Curry
--Fleury sure has gotten a lot of pre-season work, hasn't he? The Penguins certainly want to have their Stanley Cup winning goalie in top form for the beginning of the season and are giving him a lot of time in the nets to see a lot of pucks. That figures to pay off and hopefully he can get off to a better start then season's past where it looks like MAF doesn't round into form until February/March.
Also from EN, here's Montreal's roster which features a similiar mix of established NHL'ers and young players to the Penguins unit.
Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Matt D'Agostini, Scott Gomez, Andrei Kostitsyn, Ian Lapierre, Guillame Latendresse, Ben Maxwell, Eric Neilson, Max Pacioretty, Tom Pyatt, Gregory Stewart
Shawn Belle, Mathieu Carle, Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek, Yannick Weber
Carey Price, Curtis Sanford
There'll be no Georges Laraque v. Eric Godard heavyweight bout tonight, but I'm sure that someone amongst the Habs lineup will be interested in dropping gloves at some point. The Habs will have their three biggest summer acquisitions in Cammalleri, Gionta and Gomez out there, will they try them on the same line? No Hal Gill against his old mates, so those of us waiting to see what happened when #87 or #71 went one-on-one with the big guy will have to wait until the regular season.