The Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Florida Panthers in their home-opener Tuesday night.
The Penguins (2-0-1) took five out of a possible six points on their three-game trip to western Canada to start the season. All in all, I’d call that a successful road trip.
On Sunday, the Edmonton Oilers got a late third period goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to tie the game. Nugent-Hopkins was making his NHL debut after being the top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Edmonton also killed off a five-minute major penalty to Ryan Smyth that extended into overtime in order to fore a shootout.
Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky scored, while Devan Dubnyk denied two of the Penguins’ shooters to lock up the extra point in the standings.
As for tonight’s opponent, it was a summer of change and writing checks.
The Panthers’ roster boasts several new faces including, Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg.
Goaltending was never a question mark over the past few seasons. However, Tomas Vokoun’s departure has left the Panthers to rely on a veteran hoping to recapture his MVP form from a decade ago.
It may come as a surprise to think Jose Theodore won the Hart and Vezina trophies for his play during the 2001-02 season.
At one point, he was among the league’s top goaltenders, but has been on the decline for the past few years and has become somewhat of a journeyman.
However, Theodore has enjoyed success against the Penguins over his career with a 19-4-1-2 record to go along with a 2.32 GAA and .917 save percentage. He has also shut the Penguins out four times.
In his Panther debut, Theodore stopped all 27 shots the New York Islanders sent his way in a 2-0 win.
The Panthers as a whole will be looking for revenge on the Penguins after losing all four games between the clubs last season.
According to the Penguins’ website, Pittsburgh is 12-4 against the Panthers since the start of the 2007-08 season and have won five straight on home ice.
Evgeni Malkin was held out of Sunday’s game against the Oilers with what the team is calling a lower-body injury. However, it is not related to the knee injury which brought an abrupt end to his 2010-11 season.
He is listed as day-to-day and could be in the lineup against the Panthers. I’ll update his status as information becomes available today.
UPDATE: 11:05 a.m.
Malkin is on the ice for the morning skate, but is not skating with a line. More details to come shortly.
UPDATE: 11:45 a.m.
According to the Penguins’ official Twitter page, Malkin is still experiencing soreness and will not play tonight.
KEYS TO VICTORY
Feed Off The Crowd
Tonight’s home opener should seem fairly routine for the first time in three years. From raising banners to the rafters, to opening up the CONSOL Energy Center, the last few openers have been pretty intense.
Penguins fans have been waiting for opening night since the Game 7 loss against the Lightning. The CEC should be rocking tonight, which will only aid the Penguins.
Get To Theodore Early
An early goal by the Penguins will go a long way tonight. These teams always tend to play close games, so getting the early advantage will better their chances for success.
Harness The Killer Instinct
This is assuming the Penguins have a lead in the third period, but it needs to be said.
We’re three games into the season and the third period has been anything but kind to the Penguins.
Vancouver was able to force overtime after erasing a one-goal deficit, Calgary nearly erased a three-goal lead and Edmonton scored in the final five minutes to force overtime.
You can’t give a team a shred of hope. Stay on the attack and continue to do the things that got you the lead in the first place.
Safe is death.
The power play looked great through the first two games and appeared to still be on a roll with an early goal against the Oilers.
However, the Penguins failed on their next seven power plays, which allowed Edmonton to hang around and steal two points.
Just keep it simple and put pucks on net. It worked with great results through the first two games, so there’s no reason it can’t continue to work.
The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. and you can watch the game on Versus or Root Sports.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaseySheaPens.
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