Another hockey season is upon us, and the action for the Penguins will be fast and furious from the beginning. The Washington Capitals are in town and eager to get a crack at the team that eliminated them last season.
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov -T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Andre Burakovsky
Zach Sanford -Lars Eller- Justin Williams
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - Nate Schmidt
Braden Holtby (starter)
(via Washington Post)
The Caps come in ready to go with the usual cast of characters. Their 3rd line has a bit of a makeover with trade addition Lars Eller and 2013 2nd rounder Zach Sanford as the pleasant surprise of training camp earning a spot in the lineup. Other than that, pretty much the same group from last spring.
A bit of a mystery since today's practice was informal. HBK has remained together and Kunitz-Malkin-Wilson have worked together recently, leaving Matt Cullen to step in Crosby's line between Sheary and Hornqvist.
Bryan Rust is getting closer to a return but won't play tonight. Sidney Crosby skated again for the 3rd straight day, which is somewhat encouraging, but he's still within the concussion protocol with an unknown return date.
Without a roster move before the game, Tom Sestito is one of 12 healthy Penguin forwards.
Keys to the game
Stay out of the penalty box
The ultimate compliment to the strengths of Ovechkin and Backstrom is everyone knows exactly where they're going to operate, and exactly what they're going to do. And no NHL level coaches or players or goaltenders can stop it anyways.
Best way to stop the Caps dangerous power play would be to limit as many of the self-imposed mistakes as possible to keep that unit off the ice.
Holt-be giving up goals to Pittsburgh
Holtby, last year's Vezina winner, has been just average playing against the Pens in his career with a 5-7-1 regular season record and a 2.79 GAA and .914 save %. Other than Tampa, Holtby has allowed the most goals/game to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference. Add in the 2-4 playoffs too and Pittsburgh has had quite a bit of success against a top goalie.
With the Caps high-powered offense sure to hit the scoreboard in their own right, Pittsburgh will need to touch Holtby up for their own as they traditionally have.
Cracking the defense
Washington didn't make any personnel upgrades to their defense, and this is an opportunity for the Pens to continue what they did in May and make their weaker players pay for mistakes. For the Caps part, their deep batch of forwards will generate opportunities and it will be up to players like Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley and Ian Cole to step up and keep the puck out of the net.
The Road Ahead
Tonight starts a stretch of 6 games in 10 days for Pittsburgh, without even a 2-day inactive stretch until Oct 23-24. Luckily, 6 of the first 8 games of the season will be played at home in the friendly confines of the PPG Paints Arena, because the caliber of opponents are pretty high early; 7 of the 9 teams the Penguins play in October were playoff teams last season.