The Penguins first road game of the season is tomorrow (Friday) up in Buffalo. Pittsburgh has announced the players that they will be taking up there.
In net, it will be the preseason debut for Casey DeSmith, his first game action since offseason core surgery.
On defense it’s not a very strong group, with only one expected NHL player (Marcus Pettersson) going on the trip. Early in preseason teams tend not to bring a strong crew, especially when going on the road, and most of the veterans usually aren’t making many trips.
That’s largely the case with the forwards too, with Kasperi Kapanen dressing for the second game of the preseason, but again most of the biggest guns are staying behind in Pittsburgh.
That doesn’t mean the game is without interest — Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare get a second game, which makes a lot of sense. These guys should be playing a ton of the exhibition games, the more the merrier to see what they might be able to offer, but also to give instructional moments from NHL coaching on what areas or instances they can improve in order to grow their games.
Also up front, it could be a big game for names like Drew O’Connor, Anthony Angello and Dominik Simon. All are placed with the “Team 1” at the moment, which is the Pens’ NHL group. They will need solid individual performances to help solidify their spots.
It’s also a big game for Radim Zohorna, who was with the mostly AHL level Team 2 for practice, but don’t read too much into that. Zohorna has been knocked a bit off schedule by a (non-COVID related) illness this week.
Sullivan said that having Zohorna with Team 2 is more illness-related than performance-related. "We're hopeful now that he's back in practice, we can get him into some exhibition games here, and we'll see how it all plays out. But he's a real intriguing player for us."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) September 30, 2021
The Pens have not yet released their lines for the game, but clearly a player like Zohorna will be getting a look with the top talent they’re bringing like Kapanen, Simon, O’Connor, names like that. It’s a big game for Zohorna to keep intriguing the Pittsburgh coaching staff with his size and skills.
After a few days of practice, the Pens have game action every-other-day starting tomorrow until October 9th. At that point, the preseason is basically over, with the team soon to travel to Tampa to kick off the season on October 12th.
The preseason is about to ramp up, and this lineup will get their chance to see what they can do. There might not be a lot of preseason opportunities for players like Kasper Bjorkqvist, Jordy Bellerive, Jonathan Gruden and Valtteri Puustinen. But showing out and having a great performance can often push the door open a little further and perhaps even earn an extra look or two. One of the more interesting notes of the NHL preseason (which is pretty lowkey as the teams slowly amp up in roster strength) is seeing names or young players get a chance and watching if they are able to parlay that into anything more.
Every game is a chance and a bunch of youngsters will get that shot on Friday.