The Penguins stacked their practice group on Wednesday and then announced that was the pool of players who will go tomorrow night in a home pre-season game against Buffalo.
This should make the season debuts for all the big guns; Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, Rickard Rakell, Tristan Jarry, Kris Letang and other veterans like Marcus Petterson and Jeff Carter.
Thursday also figures to mark the first game in a Penguin jersey for Erik Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Ryan Graves in Penguin jerseys. Add in Lars Eller and Noel Acciari to that mix too.
The Pens practiced their power play for the first time today, and results were shaky. Jake Guentzel is still gone and Karlsson got in the mix in the same spot Kris Letang has held for over a decade. Letang shifted over to the left wall. The group wasn’t good but will have plenty of time and some game action to work on that aspect.
Thursday’s game also means a lot to the players attempting to make the team. If practice lines hold as expected, Alex Nylander gets to show his stuff on Malkin’s line. Radim Zohorna might dress. Austin Wagner could get a go with a lot of the grinders. One of Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Friedman will have a big opportunity too.
It makes for an interesting middle of the preseason time. Half the team is looking to knock the rust off and keep gearing up for the start of a marathon season. Another group within the same lineup will have a lot personally to play for and are in bigger needs of showing that they want to stick around for October 10th when the season truly begins.
The team also announced the training camp roster was trimmed by one today, sending 2023 first round pick Brayden Yager, who was sent back to his junior team. The WHL season began last weekend and after going through the Prospects Challenge and two NHL pre-season games, the time was right to get Yager back down for the season. It will be a very important year for him at the lower level and making a run for Team Canda’s World Junior team and now that more of the top NHL players are acclimating back into the lion-share of playing team, it makes sense that this was the end of a positive first impression and experience at NHL camp.
With Yager out of the way, the team is down to 46 players - about double what the final form will be by the time camp breaks. The bigger storyline for this point is the biggest names of the group getting primed and back in game action on Thursday.