PENS GAME #3: PENGUINS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The Penguins' highly anticipated 3rd game of the year vs. the Vegas Golden Knights is tonight. It's only the third ever meeting between these two teams. They meet twice last year in Vegas's inaugural season, with each team winning one game to split the series.
Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (1-3) at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA at 7PM (EST)
This meeting loses much of its luster as the line-ups will be missing goalies Matt Murray and former Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury. Their going head-to-head once again along seeing fan favorite Fleury back on Pittsburgh ice was one of the key early highlights to the Pens' schedule. But fate has changed those plans, leaving Murray out due to injury and Fleury sitting for a much needed rest after a tough start to the year for the Knights. We'll have to settle for the under-card of Sidney Crosby vs. Vegas hot-shot William Karlsson in a clash of top line centermen. And the returns of former Pens' Ryan Reaves and Deryk Engelland will be a popular draw as well.
Here's more on tonight's game...
PENS TALKING POINTS
KEY TOPICS RELATED TO THIS GAME
MARQUEE MATCH-UP NO LONGER
FLEURY SITTING OUT DIMS THE DRAW OF TONIGHT'S COMPETITION
Marc-Andre Fleury is sitting out tonight's game. What should have been his 2nd return to play in Pittsburgh since leaving here via the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft to the Knights. This development knocks a significant amount of hype out of the equation for the match-up, as the return of the Flower was certainly the biggest draw of Game #3, who is still immensely popular in Pittsburgh. A tough night in net yesterday vs. Washington sealed his fate of taking a breather and not suiting up to play in his Pittsburgh return, part two.
Matt Murray, meanwhile, sustained a concussion at some point either during Game #2 or in the next practice and is out of the line-up for the Penguins as well. Which doubly nixes this chapter of the Murray vs. Fleury personal saga before it could occur. Back-up Casey DeSmith will start in net for the Pens. As Tristan Jarry, the potential top dog in net with Murray sidelined, only just made it into town later on today after an emergency recall.
On Vegas' side, Malcolm Subban, who was drafted right here in Pittsburgh in 2012, will start in goal. This is the first ever appearance for Subban, 24, vs. the Penguins, so there's no history to recall in analyzing how he matches up. However several of the Pens younger players, like Dominik Simon, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust, are familiar with him from his many years as a regular starter in the AHL. Which will provide the Penguins with at least a few first-hand accounts of his in-game tendencies.
NEW YEAR, NEW KNIGHTS
ROSTER TURNOVER MAKES FOR DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT KNIGHTS TEAM
This is no longer the Stanley Cup Finals Knights team the Pens are facing. As summer player exits and entrances have made for big changes to the core of the team. Their most crucial departure was ex-Pen James Neal, the energizing force that helped drive the team so far into the post-season, who left as a free agent to sign with Calgary. David Perron, a fellow former Penguin, also exited in favor of once again signing with his prior long-time team the St. Louis Blues.
But with those key players gone, the Knights pressed on and brought in even more star power in return. They signed Paul Stastny as a free agent, and recently traded for the Montreal Canadien's star captain Max Pacioretty. Those moves give the team a tremendous new 1-2 punch at forward. Stastny, however, is out due to injury in a bit of luck for the Penguins.
The Pens still have one big worrisome factor vs. Vegas, specifically Pacioretty, who has had a particularly strong history playing against Pittsburgh. It's been a niche he's cultivated during his years in Montreal as Conference regular foes, and perfected through the 2009-10 playoff series vs. the Pens. The threat he brings is now combined with an already very strong Stanley Cup finalist team. So the black and gold will have their fair share of work cut out for them in order to win tonight.
EXTRA MISC. THOUGHTS & INFO
*We're swapping Finns! Finn Juuso Riikola is expected to make his NHL debut tonight in place of the struggling Olli Maatta. Riikola, the surprise off-season find, will be the 16th ever player from Finland to skate for the Pens. Unfortunately, for his country he'll be taking the 15th Finn out of the line-up to do so.
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