Welcome back, Pens fans.
Who: Chicago Blackhawks (0-0-0, 0 points, Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0, 0 points, Metropolitan Division)
When: 8:00pm E.T.
How to Watch: ESPN+, ESPN, SN, TVAS
Opponent track: The “next Sidney Crosby” is facing off against the Original in his NHL debut. It’s an introduction to a new Chicago Blackhawks, with both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane now free agents (and Toews saying he’s taking time away from hockey again this season.) The Hawks are opening the era with an untested mix of new players with very little NHL experience and players nearing their second decade in the league. Only a few familiar faces, such as Seth Jones and Petr Mrazek, are returning from last season.
Pens’ path ahead: The first game of the season will present the first glimpse of answers to many questions percolating over the offseason: What will the Penguins’ bottom six look like? Will Erik Karlsson’s offensive prowess outshine his defensive flaws? How do Reilly Smith and Evgeni Malkin work together? Is the power play good yet? Can Tristan Jarry be relied on? Is Jake Guentzel healthy? Who is John Ludvig?
Season Series: The last matchup between these two teams was arguably the worst loss of last season, when the Penguins lost 5-2 in a must-win game to the heavily tanking Blackhawks.
Getting to know the Blackhawks
Projected Game Lines
(As seen in Chicago’s Monday practice)
Taylor Hall - Connor Bedard - Ryan Donato
Tyler Johnson - Lukas Reichel - Taylor Raddysh
Boris Katchouk - Cole Guttman - Andreas Athanasiou
Nick Foligno - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry
Alex Vlasic - Seth Jones
Kevin Korchinski - Connor Murphy
Jarred Tinordi - Wyatt Kaiser
Goalies: Petr Mrazek / Arvid Soderblom
Possible scratches: Mackenzie Entwistle, Reese Johnson, Joey Anderson
IR: Philipp Kurashev (left wrist), Colin Blackwell (lower body), Colton Dach (right ankle),
- Beyond a first line featuring Bedard flanked by two veteran wingers, this is a center lineup full of giant question marks. Reichel and Guttman have a combined 48 games of NHL experience.
- The fourth line, on the other hand, features a couple of names familiar to anyone who’s been watching the league for the last decade. Corey Perry could be skating in his 1,300th NHL game this season, and Nick Foligno is nearing 1,100.
- Mrazek started 38 games last season and posted an uninspiring stat line of .894 SV% and 3.66 GAA behind one of the worst teams in the league. One of his 10 wins, of course, ended the Penguins’ 16-season postseason streak.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
(As seen in Pittsburgh’s Monday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Jansen Harkins - Lars Eller - Drew O’Connor
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Erik Karlsson
P.O. Joseph - Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Alex Nedeljkovic
Potential scratches: John Ludvig, Ryan Shea
IR: Will Butcher
- Jake Guentzel, who underwent ankle surgery in August and first joined a full practice with the team one week ago, will likely a game-time decision.
Kyle Dubas on Jake Guentzel's health: "With the level of competitor that he is, it’s not a true surprise that he's at this point and trying to push his way to be ready to go for tomorrow. We'll see how it goes today and tomorrow morning."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 9, 2023
Mike Sullivan said Jake Guentzel's status hasn't changed. "He obviously participated again in a full capacity. I told you guys yesterday he would more than like be a game-time decision tomorrow, and that will be the case."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 9, 2023
- The Penguins showed off a new-look power play setup in Monday’s practice that put Letang on the second pairing, per the Tribune-Review’s Seth Rorabaugh. That leaves the two units as:
PP1: Crosby, Guentzel, Karlsson, Malkin, Rakell
PP2: Carter, Harkins, Letang, Rust, Smith
Whether they go with this setup in Game 1 will likely depend on Guentzel’s status.
- You already know Karlsson is No. 65, but here’s a quick primer as to the other newbies: we’ll likely be seeing Smith (No. 19), Harkins (No. 43), Eller (No. 20), Nieto (No. 83), Acciari (No. 55) and Graves (No. 27) for the first time Tuesday night.