The Pittsburgh Penguins begin what they hope will be a run to the NHL's first three-peat in more than three decades when they host the St. Louis Blues in the first of this season's Wednesday Night Rivalry games (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).
The Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup championship last season to become the NHL's first repeat champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. No team has won three consecutive Cups since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83.
Here are five reasons to watch this season's first edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry:
It will be a festive night at PPG Paints Arena. That's because the Penguins will begin their season by raising a banner to celebrate the championship they won last spring, when they defeated the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. It's the fifth championship in Penguins history; all have come since 1991. This is the second straight year the Penguins have opened their season by raising a championship banner.
Video: Can the Penguins win a third consecutive Stanley Cup
It's hard to imagine Pittsburgh's captain topping what he did last season, when he was named most valuable player at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, led the NHL in goals (44) during the regular season, then captained the Penguins to their second straight Cup and repeated as winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Crosby reaffirmed his status as the best player in hockey; the Penguins need him to continue to play at that level to avoid any drop-off in the Metropolitan Division, arguably the best in the League.
Video: Sidney Crosby comes in at No. 2 on the list
The Penguins won the Cup last season without their best defenseman. Kris Letang had neck surgery on April 13 and missed the postseason. He made his return to game action on Sept. 24 and is eager to reclaim his spot as the quarterback on the top power-play unit. A healthy Letang makes the Penguins even more dangerous.
Video: Kris Letang lands at No. 28 on the list
Seeing old friends
The Penguins and Blues aren't in the same conference, meaning they play twice a season. But Penguins forward Ryan Reaves knows the Blues extremely well; he spent the past seven seasons with them before being traded to Pittsburgh on June 23. Reaves had NHL career highs in goals (seven) and points (13) last season, but the Penguins are more interested in having him as a physical presence who can keep opponents from trying to take liberties with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
St. Louis has its own championship aspirations after a strong regular-season finish in 2016-17. But the Blues enter the season missing several key players because of injuries. Forward Robby Fabbri (knee) won't play in 2017-18 and forward Zach Sanford (shoulder surgery) will miss 5-6 months. Forward Alexander Steen (hand) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder), and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) are also out. Coach Mike Yeo will need some of his young players to step up quickly.