Now that a new CBA is in place the teams are getting prepared for training camp which starts January 19. The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a plethora of talent playing over seas which should highly benefit them in the short but busy season.
I bet Kris Letang is excited to not be on a plane towards Russia right now after signing a deal with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL a couple of days ago, unless he was really looking forward to the peanuts on the flight, then all bets are off. Many fans are wondering what the lines are going to be looking like this year and if Sidney Crosby can return to his prime like he was before this nasty concussion injury.
The scoring line of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz is sure to return to dominance and point production while the Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis line will be a mix of grit and finesse. It’ll be interesting to see what the bottom six looks like on the offense but one thing for certain is that Brandon Sutter will be centering the 3rd line. My bet is that Dustin Jeffrey will finally get his moment to shine in a full playing time role alongside Sutter and Matt Cooke.
As for the fourth line, Joe Vitale will continue his grinding role alongside Craig Adams and either Eric Tangradi or free agent signee Tanner Glass. Tangradi has split time between Wilkes/Barre and Pittsburgh and although his stats in the NHL aren’t impressive, he will be counted on to lay the body and be more of a power forward. Glass has had more experience in the NHL though and the Penguins may want to give Tangradi an extra season to hone his skills in the AHL.
As for the defense Letang and Paul Martin are looking to be the number one pairing while Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen round out the top 4. I would like to see Simon Despres given an opportunity to play with either Ben Lovejoy or Deryk Engelland but there is no need to rush the young promising prospect. The Penguins have one of the best 1-2 punch in net with Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun who will be an excellent backup. Although this season is a short one, there is no doubt in my mind that the Penguins are ready for the demanding season. Let’s just hope the injury bug doesn’t bite them.
Follow Rant Sports writer Taylor Hodges on Twitter: @THodges71