After tomorrow night the preseason schedule will be more than halfway done, so it’s now time for the top guys to dust off the skates and get into a game. Plenty of star power for the Pittsburgh Penguins for their game Sunday night against the Blues.
Penguins lineup for tomorrow pic.twitter.com/Rd4qYfzvJ0— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) September 23, 2017
Now that’s a good looking team and will be the debuts this season for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Plus Kris Letang who gets to compete in his first game action since February 21st.
Crosby is likely to be paired with his “kids” as Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel will be playing in their second preseason game of the year. Guentzel scored 5 points in his first game, so as always it will be fun to watch him play with Sid.
A bigger storyline is probably the second line though. Zach Aston-Reese has gotten considerable practice time this season, almost exclusive, with Malkin and Kessel. The Pens don’t have any good, skilled options on the team right now for that 2LW job and Aston-Reese has put on quite the display in camp so far. If he gets a chance here to play with the big guys that’s a heck of an audition and opportunity to stay in the role. He’s probably on a day-by-day basis to keep earning his spot, so it’ll be huge. Friday night ZAR scored a goal and added an assist against Columbus as probably the best forward on the team.
Also of note is that Teddy Blueger will be playing in his 4th game of the preseason, and if you’re keeping track you’ll note that Pittsburgh is only up to their 4th game on Sunday. The youngster is playing his way into quite a look at a vacant center job and the only one from the McClement/Johnson/McKegg combo from last game to get a jersey for the next. As we pointed out, Blueger did have a strong game despite 4th line usage and minutes, so we’ll see what happens again. Carter Rowney, arguably the incumbent for the 4th line center job will be playing in this game, so it’s an opportunity for the two to basically compete against each other within the context of the same game and opponent.
This game will also be interesting to watch who coach Mike Sullivan uses on the first power play unit between Letang and Justin Schultz. It seems a bit unsettled as to which talented right-handed defenseman they will deploy with the big guns, Saturday practice usage suggests Letang will rejoin them, but how much (if at all) they rotate will be an aspect to keep an eye on.
In all, the season’s definitely getting closer when all this talent is getting back into games, so Sunday’s game against St. Louis should be the best Pens preseason game of the year so far.