Just a couple short months after the Penguins lost in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, a redesigned Pittsburgh Penguins’ team starts the long haul again as they open the season against the Ottawa Senators in Sockholm, Sweden, on Saturday afternoon. While some of the faces have changed from last season, the desire to win hockey games and advance deep into the playoffs remains the same. But before the season even gets underway, the Penguins have been blessed with more adversity in losing their top-2 defensemen for an extended period to injury and surgery. Will it serve as a handicap to the team, or a catalyst for other players to step up and take on the mantle of responsibility? Only time will tell, but if recent Penguins’ history is any guide, watch out!
In accordance with modified league rules, the Penguins have trimmed their roster to 24-players for the first two games of the season which will be played in Sweden. Typically the team roster would need to be cut to 23 by the start of the season, but the league has permitted an extra player for the 4-teams opening their season in Europe. To get to 24, the Penguins announced today that forward Janne Pesonen has been assigned to the AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The development comes as a bit of surprise to some, as Pesonen put up 2-points (1G, 1A) in 3-preseason outings for the Penguins. All in all, I have to agree with the move as Pesonen did not distinguish himself well enough to earn a top-2 line position, and he is not the type of player you want on your lower lines in my opinion. Better to grow him in the AHL, and have him on ready call-up should one of the top-4 wingers get injured. After the weekend games in Sweden, the Penguins will have to make one final cut to their roster to get to 23-personnel.
So, to start the season, the Penguins currently have 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 3 goaltenders. The roster includes forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Saal, Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Eric Godard, Jeff Taffe, Bill Thomas and Paul Bissonnette. The current defensive corps consists of Mark Eaton, Darryl Sydor, Hal Gill, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. In net, the Penguins have kept goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury, Dany Sabourin, and John Curry. You can expect that the final cut next week will be a goaltender, likely John Curry.
What better way for the Penguins to start the season than a back-to-back matchup against the Ottawa Senators. Last season, the Penguins avenged their 1st round exit of 2-seasons ago by sweeping the Senators and eliminating them during the 1st round of the playoffs. As a result, a rivalry has developed between the two teams that the players are well aware of. Coach Therrien noted, “we can’t ask for a better situation than to play a team that we have a rivalry with to make sure you are ready.” The Senators will try to capitalize on the home town hero crowd advantage with native Swede Daniel Alfredsson. Coming off from a shortened training camp and a successful pre-season in which they went 4-0-1, the Penguins are hoping for a strong start to the season this weekend in Stockholm.
A new season, a new challenge, a new start……..it’s time for hockey! Let’s Go Pens!