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NHL Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins: 5 Things That Must Happen On Florida Road Trip

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5 Things The Penguins Must Do On Florida Road Trip

Penguins Florida Roadtrip
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins are taking their annual Florida road trip, taking on both Florida teams on back-to-back nights starting with the Florida Panthers on Friday night, and finishing up with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

After a 3-0 start, there hasn’t been much that has gone wrong for the Penguins thus far. They have received sparkling goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was just named the third star of the week for only allowing one goal in his first two games played.

Captain Sidney Crosby and his line of Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have started where they left last regular season off, as Crosby currently leads the team with four points (two goals, two assists). Jussi Jokinen scored a hat trick against the Carolina Hurricanes, and while the results haven’t fully shown on the stat sheet yet, young Beau Bennett looks like he is taking a giant leap in his progression.

The biggest surprise so far has been the play of 19-year old Olli Maatta, who can be argued as being the best all-around defender on the Penguins thus far after getting his first and second assists of his career against the Hurricanes. He has shown maturity not usually seen in a teenager, and will only get better the more comfortable he gets.

But even with the great start, the Penguins still have a lot of kinks to work out while playing in the Sunshine State. Here are five things that have to happen while the Penguins are playing in Florida.

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5. A Decision Should Be Made On Olli Maatta

Olli Maatta
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins have until before their 10th game of the season to decide whether or not they will keep Maatta for the entire season, as it will potentially burn a year off his entry level contract. Maatta has been one of, if not the best defenseman for the Pens this year, but an abundant of riches at that position means that the Pens don’t have to rush him this season and he could be returned to Juniors to keep that first year intact. The smart, safe bet is to expect Maatta to be sent back to the juniors, and the road trip in Florida could give a good indication of whether or not they will.

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4. Jeff Zatkoff Needs To Get Off To A Good Start

Jeff Zatkoff
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After years of playing in the AHL, Jeff Zatkoff will get his first NHL start at the age of 26. For the sake of keeping Fleury fresh, Zatkoff needs to show he can handle starting more back-to-back games in his first bit of NHL action.

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3. Evgeni Malkin Needs To Get Going

Evgeni Malkin
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early, but one thing that has stuck out has been the Evgeni Malkin’s overall quietness. With only two assist to his credit, this isn’t likely the start that he wanted to get off to. The great thing for the Penguins is that if Malkin struggles, they've got that Crosby guy as well. If there was ever any pair of games for Malkin to break loose, it would be against these two, and his current linemates are hot enough for it to be a real possibility.

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2. Stop Tampa Bay's Power Play

Tampa Bay
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay got their first five power play opportunities of the season in their fourth game of the year and put them to good use, scoring twice. With Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis among others, the Lighting power play will be a perfect test that the Penguins will want to avoid.

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1. Come Out With Four Points

Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early in the season, and unlike last year, this year will be more on the marathon side than sprint, but no matter how long the season, points always matter and these are games where the Pens should expect to leave with the maximum of four points in the standings. With games against the Edmonton Oilers, arch rival Philadelphia Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks, it will be important to come out of this road trip with as many points as possible.