Optional morning skate today for the team, so no definitive look at expected lines and pairings. Based on yesterday’s practice, the forward lines are expected to be:
The back-end remains a mystery up until game time. Jack Johnson and Juuso Riikola took turns next to Gudbranson yesterday in practice, and Pettersson was back with Justin Schultz, as he had been all pre-season. Will Sullivan have the guys to play Riikola over Johnson, or does he somehow think a Johnson-Gudbranson pairing is going to help them generate offense?
Matt Murray was the first goalie off the ice and will be in net. Elvis Merzlikins is expected to make his NHL debut for the Jackets tonight.
Columbus played and lost last night to Toronto. Pittsburgh should be the fresher team. I watched a good portion of that game and, while Pittsburgh should have the upper hand being the fresher team, Columbus is a hard working team. If the Penguins are going to sit back and half-ass it to pucks along the boards, the team may quickly find itself off to an 0-2 start.
The Penguins need to play hard to the puck every shift of every game, and they need to avoid pinching the defenseman, giving up repeated odd-man breaks. Let’s see if any of that has sunk in yet.