CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP (93-7 The Fan) – The Penguins took their first morning skate of the 2017-2018 season Tuesday morning at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in preparation for the preseason opener against Buffalo at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena in State College.
A former collegiate player himself, winger Carl Hagelin will play competitively for the first time since scoring the empty net, Stanley Cup clinching goal in Nashville three months ago when the puck drops just after 7:00 p.m.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Penn State arena and obviously they put a lot of money into it,” said Hagelin, who competed at the University of Michigan. “So obviously I’m looking forward to going there and playing a fun game in front of some fun fans.”
It will be a significantly watered-down Penguins preseason lineup, missing star players in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray, among others.
However, defenseman Olli Maatta will be on the blueline.
“I know it’s not going to be perfect,” Maatta said. “There’s a lot of new guys just getting back to it so you have to talk a lot. The least we can do is compete and you’ve got to have a competitive mindset just to get back into it.”
Without Murray in goal, the Pens will turn to Antti Niemi, who was a free agent signee in July. Casey DeSmith, who performed admirably in Wilkes-Barre last season, will see time as well.
Other notable Penguins who will be on the ice include defensemen Chad Ruhwedel, Derrick Pouliot and newly acquired Matt Hunwick. The forwards group will include more experienced NHL players in Bryan Rust and Josh Archibald.
Still though, Mike Sullivan’s team will have a fresh face look tonight.
“We’re going to try as a coach staff to put them in positions to play to their strengths,” Sullivan said. “All of these guys are here for a reason, because our hockey Ops department believe that these guys are the types of players who can be Pittsburgh Penguins.”