The Pittsburgh Penguins kick off the 2007-08 Regular Season tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC, at 7PM. The Hurricanes will be playing their 2nd game of the season after losing their home opener in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, Oct 3rd, by a score of 3-2.
Pittsburgh kicks of the season with the goal of picking up where they left off last season, making the fourth-biggest year-to-year improvement in NHL history by going 47-24-11 after recording just 22 wins in the prior season. Most of the team is intact from last year with some key additions made in the off-season that include forward Petr Sykora and defensman Darryl Sydor. If the team chemistry that was formed last year can be maintained, and the deep Pittsburgh talent pool remains healthy, this could be another great season for the Penguins.
The Hurricanes are returning after being ranked 25th in the league last season with a scant 15.0 percent conversion rate on the power play. Their penalty kill was well above average, killing off 84.6 percent of their opponents’ chances with the man advantage, tying them for sixth in the NHL. The Carolina Hurricanes roster is largely unchanged in the last two years. The same team that hoisted the cup in 2006, fell to 25th place in 2007. Over the summer they did add forwards Matt Cullen and Jeff Hamilton, and are hoping to make a return to the playoffs this year.
Against the Hurricanes last season, the Penguins were 1-3-0, having lost both games in Raleigh. Sidney Crosby had three goals and an assist in the series last year. Carolina’s Scott Walker had four goals and an assist in the four games against Pittsburgh last season.
The Penguins will be looking to put an end to their current streak in Raleigh by utilizing their strong offensive talents, and sticking to their defensive system put in place by Coach Therrien. The Penguins need to focus on winning the faceoff and establishing good puck possession. I would anticipate a fair amount of penalties given the early nature of the season, however, if last year’s special team performance is any indicator, it should not provide a large advantage to either team.
Predictions: NHLPens.com is predicting that the Penguins will win the opening game by a 1-goal margin in regulation play, by a final score of 4-3. Most likely goal scorers for the Penguins are projected to include Talbot, Crosby, Malkin, and Roberts.
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Go Pens Go!