PITTSBURGH -- Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, natives Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon will face each other for the first time at Consol Energy Center on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2).
More importantly, two of the NHL's top teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, will meet for the first time this season in a measuring-stick game for both teams.
Each team enters with a 7-1-0 record. The Avalanche are one point behind the San Jose Sharks at the top of the Western Conference standings, while the Penguins stand alone atop the Eastern Conference.
Forward Matt Duchene
, who leads Colorado with nine points (three goals, six assists), said the game will be about more than Crosby vs. MacKinnon.
"This [Pittsburgh] has been one of the premier teams in the NHL," Duchene said. "They get a lot of media attention and a lot of attention from fans. We're a team that hasn't been good for the past few years and has previously been forgotten about until recently. We're starting to hopefully bring the glory days back to the Avalanche and we want to be one of those teams.
"I think if we can come out and have a win, everyone's going to sit back and say, 'Whoa, the Avs are for real.'"
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he doesn't think Colorado is on the same level as the Penguins yet, but thinks a win will open eyes.
"We're happy to be where we are, we appreciate where we are and we're very humble," Roy said. "We take it one day at a time and our objective at the start of the year was to surprise the world of hockey."
For Pittsburgh, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz are having another successful season playing alongside Crosby. The duo has combined for six goals and 19 points through eight games, and Dupuis said they will need to continue that pace to match up with a deep Colorado team.
"They're a young bunch that skate well and are fired up to play every night," Dupuis said. "It will be a challenge for us. At the same time our record shows we have been playing some good hockey this year and we just have to keep it going."
Beyond its offensive skill, Colorado's defense has surrendered 1.5 goals per game this season and is ranked second behind the Boston Bruins. The Avalanche defense will be tested against Pittsburgh's offense, which is averaging 3.75 goals per game (second behind the San Jose Sharks).
"We've watched a few of their games and have seen, for a supposedly young team, how well defensively they play," Kunitz said. "They have barely given up any goals. Their goaltending depth is really strong, but they also have that explosive offensive output that they can generate speed up the ice and have a lot of skill and they've been finding ways to win games.
"That's an entertaining team and we know we're going to have our work cut out for us."
The Penguins soon will have to make a decision on their defense. Olli Maatta will play his ninth game Monday. After the game the Penguins will have to decide whether to keep Maatta or return him to his junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. If Maatta plays in a 10th game, it activates the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract. If Maatta is returned to his junior team, it delays the start of the contract but the Penguins only could recall him due to emergency conditions.
Here are the expected lineups for both teams Monday:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - Chuck Kobasew
Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Chris Conner
Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Harry Zolnierczyk
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta - Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Dustin Jeffrey, Deryk Engelland
Injured: Matt D'Agostini (lower body), James Neal (upper body), Kris Letang (knee), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis), Beau Bennett (lower body)
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Alex Tanguay
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Steve Downie
Jamie McGinn - Nathan MacKinnon - PA Parenteau
Marc-Andre Cliche - John Mitchell - Patrick Bordeleau
Erik Johnson - Jan Hejda
Ryan Wilson - Nate Guenin
Andre Benoit - Cory Sarich
Scratched: Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden
Suspended: Cody McLeod