It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve seen NHL hockey.
Finally, after nearly three weeks, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in action tonight against the Canadiens at Consol Energy Center.
Anytime the bulk of your roster goes three weeks without playing competitively, chances are the first game back is going to be pretty sloppy. Couple that with yet another wave of injuries, and I’d be willing to be that the pace of play in tonights tilt against the Habs is going to be pretty painful to watch, at least for the first period or two.
Having said that, the matchup does pose some interesting story lines that many have been talking about leading up to tonight’s game.
Geno went to Sochi with the collective weight of an entire nation, at least somewhat on his shoulders. Expectations for the Russian national team were extremely high, however Malkin and his comrades failed miserably, losing to the Finns’s in the elimination round. Malkin scored only one goal the entire tournament.
Since coming back to the States, many close to him have reported that Malkin is clearly still in a very dark place, leaving many to worry about how his disappoitment in Sochi will carry over to his level of play in Pittsburgh.
It could go one of two ways with Geno, both of them drastic. Either he slides into a total slump, similar to what Alex Ovechkin experienced after the 2010 games, or, motivated by his failure, gets hot and goes on an absolute tear. Obviously, both the fans and the Pens themselves are hoping for the latter, however every player handles failure differently, so we will just have to wait and see for ourselves.
Long named as the target for a potential trade, the injury to Paul Martin means that Despres will once again be given a chance to make his impact with the big club. Despres has a ton of upside, but has yet to show the maturity level necessary for Penguins management to trust him long term. Rumors have swirled about his lack of work ethic and attitude problems, however any plans Pittsburgh had to deal him had a wrench thrown into them when it was revealed that both Martin as well as Kris Letang would be out long term.
Given that the deadline is less than a week away, the Pens have been at the center of some pretty juicy trade rumors. Names like Vancouver’s Ryan Kessler and Buffalo’s Matt Moulson have been floated out as potential targets, and Pittsburgh’s desire to get back to the three center form they had when Jordan Staal was here is one of the team main goal’s. It’s anyone’s guess who could be going the other way, but one would have to guess a blue-chip prospect like Derrick Pouliot would almost certainly be in the mix.