The Pittsburgh Penguins face-off against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks in the Penguins home opener tonight at 7:30PM. Both teams entered this season among the favorites to win their respective conferences. The Penguins are looking to rebound from the disappointing loss to Carolina last night, while the Ducks are looking to avoid their third loss of the season.
The Penguins didn’t get on the scoreboard until the final four minutes of their season-opener at Carolina on Friday, and league MVP Sidney Crosby was scoreless on only one shot in more than 19 minutes of ice time. “Just one game, but you want to start well – there’s no hiding that,” said Crosby, “You can’t blow your season in the opener by any means, but you have to make sure you get in good habits.” Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, benched after the second period, is looking for a strong recovery from last night’s juicy rebound-filled performance.
The Penguins will look to rebound with a strong performance back at home and put their first win on the board. The Ducks (1-2-1) hope to finish a five game stretch away from Anaheim on a positive note. The lengthy road stretch for the Ducks included two games against Los Angeles across the pond in London, England, as part of a league international promotion. The Ducks split the two games against L.A., before returning to North America for a shootout loss to Detroit and a 4-0 defeat to Columbus. With Friday’s defeat, the Ducks matched their number of regulation losses from the first two months of last season, which they opened 20-2-6 before suffering their third regulation loss on Dec. 3.
The Penguins and the Ducks only met one time in 2006-07, with the host Ducks winning by a score of 3-2. Sidney Crosby posted an assist in that game, his only career game against the Ducks. Be on the lookout for Ducks RW Corey Perry, who leads the Ducks with 4 points (2G, 2A), and C Andy McDonald who has picked up 3 assists in 4 games. Jonas Hiller will be in net for the Ducks, having played 1 game this season with a 1.0 Goals Against Average and a 0.957 Save Percentage.
Keys to the game for the Penguins after last night’s game include better positional play, less blind passing, improved performance on the faceoff, and better control of rebounds by the goaltender. They also need to do a better job of controlling the puck in the defensive zone, and supporting the play in the offensive zone.
NHLPens.com Prediction: This one will be a close game, with both teams trying to battle back for a win. I give the Penguins the edge being on home ice, and the Ducks being a bit weary after the lengthy road trip (including the overseas leg). I anticipate a 1-point spread with the Penguins winning by a score of 3-2. Likely goal scorers will be Crosby, Malkin and Sykora.
Go Pens Go!