The Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Montreal Canadiens in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, October 10, 2007. The two teams will face off at the Mellon Arena with game time set for 7:30PM. It will be the third game of the season for each organization, both having recorded a win and a loss. Montreal’s loss came in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night by a final score of 4-3. Their win was a 3-2 regulation decision against the Hurricanes on October 3rd.
There was some question as to whether team Captain Sidney Crosby would be in the lineup against the Canadiens after he sustained a nasty bruise from a Francois Beauchemin slapshot to his right foot in Saturday night’s win against the Ducks. Speculation was fueled by his absence from team practice on Monday, October 8th. However, he returned to practice today and is expected be in the lineup for Wednesday’s game. Crosby commented that it felt like he could have broken a bone, as the pain was similar to a break he sustained last year. However, X-rays were negative, and the pain and swelling have subsided. “The swelling has gone down and I felt pretty good,” said Crosby, after Tuesday’s practice. Despite the bruise, Crosby does not plan to wear protective padding in his skate.
The Penguins will be looking for their star players to deliver in the game against Montreal. Held without a point in Pittsburgh’s season-opening 4-1 loss to Carolina, Crosby had one assist in the win over the Ducks and will be looking to put a few points on the board. In his short history, Crosby has delivered some of his most memorable performances while playing Montreal. He has accumulated fourteen points (5G, 9A) in just 8 games, with the Penguins sporting a 5-2-1 record against the Canadiens in the Crosby era. A healthy Crosby should not bode well for the Canadiens.
Other top forwards will be looking to pick up where they left off over the weekend. Petr Sykora gave the home crowd something to cheer about by scoring two goals and an assist in Saturday’s game against the Ducks. Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist in that game, adding to an assist he picked up in game one against the Hurricanes. Sykora and Malkin share the Penguins point lead at 3. Jordan Staal has yet to register a point, but will likely be hard to keep off the board much longer.
Key areas that the Penguins need to show improvement in are their defensive game, goaltending and faceoffs. In two games, the Penguins have given up 8 goals and Marc-Andre Fleury is carrying a 4.80 goals-against average. Fluery was responsible in game one for giving up too many juicy rebounds. Several of the goals scored against the Penguins should have been stopped by Fleury, or (better yet) cleared out of the crease by the Pens defense. This will be an area that they will hopefully improve for game 3. The current team also continues to struggle on the face-off, with only Adam Hall (53.8%) above the 50% mark on the face-off (on just a few chances). Crosby (46.9%), Christensen (45.8%), Talbot (40,9%), Malkin (35.3%) and Staal (33.3%) all need to improve to help the Penguins puck possession and control time.
Montreal (1-0-1) will be playing its third consecutive road game, having picked up three of four available points in the first two games. Montreal went 0-6 on the power-play against Toronto after converting three times in the season-opener against Carolina. Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet is 3-0-0 with a 1.46 GAA lifetime against Pittsburgh, but in a surprise move Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau is reportedly starting backup goalie Carey Price. Price, the 5th overall draft pick in 2005, will make his NHL debut against one of the league’s most dangerous offensive teams. Price went 15-6 with a 2.06 GAA and led Hamilton (AHL) to the Calder Cup championship last season. Be on the lookout for Montreal’s top scorers in Saku Koivu (2G, 1A), Andrei Markov (1G, 2A), Christopher Higgins (0G, 2A) and Alexei Kovalev (0G, 2A).
Game Forecast: With rookie netminder Carey Price in goal on the road for the Habs against the potent scoring talent of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Pens should have a good offensive outing. Furthermore, Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins defense will be working hard to shore up their game which should contribute to a low scoring affair for the Canadiens. Based on these factors, NHLPens is predicting a Penguins win by a margin of 3 goals with a final projected score of 5-2. Likely goal-scorers for the Penguins include Sidney Crosby (2), Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin and Maxime Talbot.
With a couple hundred tickets still available, the rink will be giving out a free Highmark Penguins Baseball Cap to all fans in attendance. The Penguins will also be showing an encore pre-game presentation from last weekend’s home opener at 7:25PM. Be sure to check back here for in-game live chat, and the post game analysis and game recap. If you would like to receive NHLPens.com articles by e-mail, please provide your e-mail address below (you may unsubscribe at any time).