Well, it’s finally here. After waiting a whole summer for this moment, it has arrived. Opening night. The Pittsburgh Penguins welcome the New Jersey Devils to Pittsburgh to open each of their seasons. The Penguins return to the ice with a similar roster that they had in June, minus Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. The Devils enter the season without Ilya Kovalchuk, who bolted for Russia, and with the seed planted in replacing Martin Brodeur in net with Cory Schneider.
When and where: Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA); 7:00 pm/et (Root Sports, MSG Plus)
Records: Penguins (0-0-0, 0 pts.); Devils (0-0-0, 0 pts.)
Last meeting: The Penguins and Devils last met on April 25 of last season. The Penguins got goals from Matt Cooke and Jussi Jokinen, but New Jersey game away with the 3-2 victory with goals from Travis Zajac, David Clarkson, and Ilya Kovalchuk. Marc-Andre Fleury made twenty-nine saves in the loss, while ex-Penguin, Johan Hedberg stopped sixteen of eighteen Pittsburgh shots for his sixth win of the season.
Players to keep an eye on:
1. Marc-Andre Fleury: After being benched in the playoffs due to his poor performance, Fleury comes into the season looking to quiet his critics and regain the starting job as his own. You can say there is more pressure on him now with the injury to Tomas Vokoun, but you can also say there is less because he won’t be looking over his shoulder. Time will tell if Fleury is back to his 2009 form, or if we will see last year’s Fleury again.
2. Travis Zajac: The twenty-eight year old center of the Devils has been a thorn in the side of the Penguins. In thirty-nine career games, Zajac has scored twenty-three points, including eleven goals and twelve assists. His eleven goals are the most scored against one team in his seven year career.
Penguins: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), D Kris Letang (lower body), RW Matt D’Agostini (lower body), LW James Neal (upper body)
-So Jaromir Jagr returns to Pittsburgh yet again (getting old, isn’t it?). Jagr may be there in person, but the Penguins have are making moves to remove the mullet-ed one from their past.
-Kovalchuk and David Clarkson out, Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Ryane Clowe, and Jagr in: David Clarkson left the Garden State for Toronto for a boatload of cash, and Kovalchuk decided to go home to Russia. But, the Devils made moves to replace them by bringing in Brunner, Ryder, Clowe, and Jagr. Out of these four, Brunner is the one to keep an eye on. With Detroit last season, Brunner had twenty-six points in forty-four games, and is a shootout extraordinaire.
-Olli Maatta is expected to make his NHL debut tonight on defense.
Penguins (via penguins.nhl.com)
14 Chris Kunitz (A)-87 Sidney Crosby (C)-9 Pascal Dupuis
36 Jussi Jokinen-71 Evgeni Malkin (A)-18 James Neal
19 Beau Bennett-16 Brandon Sutter-12 Chuck Kobasew
15 Tanner Glass-46 Joe Vitale-27 Craig Adams
44 Brooks Orpik-7 Paul Martin
4 Rob Scuderi-2 Matt Niskanen
3 Olli Maatta-41 Robert Bortuzzo
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
Devils (via Rich Chere)
29 Ryane Clowe-26 Patrik Elias (A)-12 Damien Brunner
14 Adam Henrique-19 Travis Zajac-68 Jaromir Jagr
8 Dainius Zubrus-21 Andrei Loktionov-17 Michael Ryder
20 Ryan Carter-11 Stephen Gionta-18 Steve Bernier
24 Bryce Salvador (C)-2 Marek Zidlicky
6 Andy Greene (A)-5 Adam Larsson
28 Anton Volchenkov-7 Mark Fayne
35 Cory Schneider