Kudos again to Seth for the lineup the Pens will use tonight in Toronto. Last night in Montreal we saw some examples of the Pens skill, with players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar in the lineup. Tonight we will see a decidely different Pittsburgh lineup.
Take the jump to see the lines or you might get beaten up...
Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy
Chris Conner-Dustin Jeffrey-Ruslan Fedotenko
Nick Johnson-Mike Rupp-Konstantin Pushkarev/Ryan Bayda
Paul Bissonnette-Wyatt Smith-Wade Brookbank
It's no secret that since Brian Burke has taken over the Maple Leafs, they've become more "truculent", I believe is the prefered word. To counter that the Pens are dressing Mike Rupp, Paul "Biz Nasty" Bissonnette and Wade Brookbank, basically three enforcers. Add the abrasive Matt Cooke and players who can get feisty like Tyler Kennedy and Ryan Bayda and you can see where this is headed.
It's a good chance for guys like Chris Conner, Nick Johnson and Dustin Jeffrey, who have a reasonable chance to get some power-play time, which can be a rare thing in Pittsburgh when guys like Crosby and Malkin eat up almost the whole shift sometimes. The blessing for those individual players could be a curse for the team, the Pens don't have much in the way of offensive skill and firepower. But "ugly" goals go up on the scoreboard just the same as "pretty" ones.
Jay McKee-Alex Goligoski
Mark Eaton-Robert Bortuzzo
Ben Lovejoy-Nate Guenin
Jay McKee said he's always played the left side of the ice, so watch how Alex Goligoski handles playing the right portion of the ice. Could be a lot for a young player, but Goligoski has had a wonderful camp so far.
Robert Bortuzzo is another youngster that has impressed and he's been rewarded with the opportunity to play with an NHL caliber defense partner tonight. Given the lack of elite skill players, this could be a "crash the net" mentality game, so a big shot by Bortuzzo or Goligoski could be a big part of the Penguins offense tonight.
Finally on the 3rd pair it looks like Ben Lovejoy gets a chance for redemption from last night's tough outing. Nate Guenin will get in the action too and look to establish himself, but given the Pens went back to Lovejoy (who's been in the organization for a while), you'd have to think he's still a leading candidate for an NHL roster spot.
Brent Johnson, John Curry
While I don't have official word of a starter, Curry played all 60 minutes last night and I see no reason to play him back-to-back nights. Brent Johnson, who gave up 3 goals on 7 shots in his first outing with the Pens, ought to get a chance to get back in the net and get some more playing time behind his new team.
Also, kind of cool the Penguins brought a Quebec flavored lineup (Caputi, Dupuis, Despres, Letang, Fleury, Crosby played in the Q etc) to Montreal last night and tonight they're letting a lot of their guys with Ontario ties get in a game against Toronto. Not a coincidence, to be sure, but something to keep it interesting and a nice treat for the players none the less. Little touches like that matter big time to the players, so I think the Pens organization was wise to set their rosters up the way they did.
We'll wait to see what roster Toronto comes with, but something tells me that tonight's game will have much more snarl (and a lot more penalties) than last night's relatively clean game against Montreal....Call it a hunch.