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Game 1 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers

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The puck drops on a new, unique, uncertain season for the Penguins today in Philadelphia

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0) at Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-0)

When: 5:30 p.m. eastern (the very first game of the season for the whole league!)

How to Watch: A nationally televised game on NBCSN in America. Check out NHL.tv for the league’s official online way to watch. SN1 in Canada.

Opponent Track: This is also first game for the Flyers. Due to the scheduling, these two teams will meet on Friday at 7:00pm, also still in Philadelphia.

Pens path ahead: After the Wednesday/Friday set in Philly, the Penguins go back home for the next four games where they will see the Capitals on Sunday afternoon and again on next Tuesday (1/17), then the Rangers come to town for two games next Friday (1/22) and then on Sunday 1/24.

SBN Team Counterpart: Philly’s repped by our friends at Broad Street Hockey.

Possible Lines

Forwards

Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny

Claude Giroux - Kevin Hayes - Joel Farabee

James van Riemsdyk - Nolan Patrick - Jakub Voracek

Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Defense

Ivan Provorov / Justin Braun

Travis Sanheim / Phil Myers

Robert Hagg / Erik Gustafsson

Expected starting goalie: Carter Hart

Scratches: Morgan Frost (healthy), Shayne Gostisbehere (undisclosed), Mark Friedman (healthy).

Taxi Squad: Connor Bunnaman, Andy Andreoff, Sam Morin, Nate Prosser, Alex Lyon, Carsen Twarynski

—A hearty and sincere “welcome back” to Lindbolm who returns for his first regular season games since going through a battle with a rare cancer in 2020. Lindbolm did play two games in the bubble in Toronto for the Flyers in early September.

—It will be another welcome back for Nolan Patrick, who will be competing in his first game since April 2019, due to lingering migraine issues that held him out for the entire 2019-20 season.

—Add Joel Farabee in with Lindbolm and Patrick, and that’s three young players on three different lines that could help make the Flyers go.

—One player who won’t be in the lineup is the defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere who has been simply deemed “unfit to play” and hasn’t been with the team in about a week. He has been ruled out for the opener tonight.

He said it..

Giroux, now 33, only had one goal in 16 bubble playoff games for the Flyers. Last season’s 53 points was the lowest in a season for him since 2009-10.

And now for the Pens..

Trivia and facts, via Pens PR:

-The Penguins are facing the Flyers in their season opener for the eighth time in team history, and first since Jan. 19, 2013 (3-1 win in Philadelphia). Pittsburgh is 3-3-1 (win-loss-tie) in those contests.

-The Penguins picked up points in 11 of 17 games against Metropolitan Division last season (8-6-3).

-Pittsburgh has points in five of its last six games against Philadelphia (3-1-2).

-Going back further, the Penguins have points in nine of their last 11 games (7-2-2) against the Flyers.

Lines:

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues

Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Jared McCann - Mark Jankowski - Brandon Tanev

Colton Sceviour - Teddy Blueger -Sam Lafferty

Defense

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Mike Matheson / John Marino

Marcus Pettersson / Cody Ceci

Scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy)

Expected starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

IR: Zach Aston-Reese

NHL Non-Roster: Kasperi Kapanen (covid-quarantine)

Taxi Squad: Anthony Angello, Frederick Gaudreau, Drew O’Connor, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Alex D’Orio, Maxime Lagace

He said it...

Malkin sounded confident and almost forceful yesterday noting how much he has missed playing and is excited for the start of another season. Geno also pointed out one more Stanley Cup gives him four, which would be a record for a Russian player, which is a motivating factor for him. Gotta love it.

Three things to watch for

#1: Sid’s biggest fans absent

—The lovely denizens of Philadelphia have been privy to some of Sidney Crosby’s best moments. And yet, this game, there will be nary a “Crosby sucks” to be heard in the building. It’s going to be weird in general to see fan-less buildings in the NHL. Better than nothing, but still such an unusual environment for NHL hockey. I guess we all kinda know what to expect since it has happened before over the summer, but it’s just one of those glaring things I can never really get over.

#2: Wide open play?

—With no real preseason or exhibition games, this will be an unusual start to the season for the players as well. Will the offenses be able to take advantage of potentially out of sync defensive groups and goaltending that hasn’t faced real game situations in such a long time? Or will the attackers be sloppy themselves and unable to convert chances? Not really sure what to expect, but it will be very interesting to see if the opening week or two might have a higher than typical amount of goals being scored.

#3: Opportunity is knocking

—As widely anticipated in a long off-season, Evan Rodrigues will be the third wheel on the Guentzel-Crosby line. Oh yeah, no one figured that would happen until about a week ago, but it’s still a huge (if only temporary) chance for Rodrigues to start Part 2 of his stint with the Penguins on a good note. The ripple effects of Kasperi Kapanen’s absence means Brandon Tanev is playing up a line and that Sam Lafferty gets a a jersey for the opener.

Mike Matheson has by all accounts enjoyed a strong training camp and will be slotted to play with John Marino. Mark Jankowski was shuffled to the fringes in Calgary, he’s now in a very meaningful role. Tristan Jarry gets his first NHL opening night start. Cody Ceci will be...there.

Lots of new chances and opportunities for some players to step up and get out the gate the right way. In a short season, the start will be critical. How some of these new(er) faces showing up in new or unexpected places on tonight’s lineup card will go a long way towards determining just how this one goes.