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Penguins at Blackhawks preview

Niemi expected to start for Pittsburgh; Saad, Sharp set for Chicago return

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

PENGUINS (0-0-1) at BLACKHAWKS (0-0-0)

8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, ATTSN-PT, SN1, SN360, NHL.TV


The Game

The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to win the second half of back-to-back games to begin the season when they face the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Thursday.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions hope to spoil the season-opener for the Blackhawks after starting their season with a 5-4 overtime loss against the St. Louis Blues at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday.

The Blackhawks are eager to take the ice after exiting the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference First Round the past two seasons. The Nashville Predators swept against Chicago last season.

"It certainly got your attention to a different level, where all of a sudden it's almost like we have so much to prove," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You can say you won the Western Conference, which at the end of it meant nothing in the way we exited. We can't look in the rear-view mirror at what we've accomplished in the past. This is a new group, and we've got everything to prove."

Chicago will have several new faces in the lineup, including defenseman Connor Murphy, forward Tommy Wingels, rookie forward Alex DeBrincat and rookie defenseman Jan Rutta. The Blackhawks also will have two familiar names rejoining them; forwards Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp return to the city where each won the Stanley Cup multiple times. Saad was a member of Chicago's championship teams in 2013 and 2015, and Sharp won the Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

Pittsburgh did not hold a morning skate but is expected to start goalie Antti Niemi, who helped the Blackhawks win the 2010 championship. Corey Crawford will start in net for Chicago.

Players to watch

Penguins forward Jake Guentzel got off to a good start with two assists against St. Louis after finishing second in the NHL in the preseason with nine points (three goals, six assists). Guentzel led all goal-scorers in the playoffs last season with 13 to help power Pittsburgh to the Cup.

Sharp needs one point to reach 600 in his NHL career; he has 599 points (277 goals, 322 assists) in 869 games.


They said it

"We'll have a film session in the morning. We'll try to learn from this one. These guys understand how to win. They know what the details are. We're going to try to remind them." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, following the loss to the Blues on Wednesday

"We don't want to look back into the past, but we feel good about the three Stanley Cups we've won [here]. You've got to credit Pittsburgh for winning three in a short period of time, as well. It's not the biggest game of the year, but it feels like it is now." -- Sharp, who signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks on July 1, after spending the past two years with the Dallas Stars

Penguins projected lineup

Conor Sheary -- Sidney Crosby -- Jake Guentzel

Bryan Rust -- Evgeni Malkin -- Phil Kessel

Carl Hagelin -- Greg McKegg -- Tom Kuhnhackl

Scott Wilson -- Carter Rowney -- Ryan Reaves

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang

Matt Hunwick -- Ian Cole

Antti Niemi

Matt Murray

Scratched: Chad Ruhwedel, Josh Archibald

Injured: Patric Hornqvist (hand)


Blackhawks projected lineup

Brandon Saad -- Jonathan Toews -- Richard Panik

Ryan Hartman -- Nick Schmaltz -- Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp -- Artem Anisimov -- Alex DeBrincat

Lance Bouma -- Tanner Kero -- John Hayden

Duncan Keith -- Brent Seabrook

Michal Kempny -- Connor Murphy

Gustav Forsling -- Jan Rutta

Corey Crawford

Anton Forsberg

Scratched: Tommy Wingels, Cody Franson, Jordan Oesterle

Injured: None


Status report

The Blackhawks will start the season with three veterans on long-term injured reserve: defenseman Michal Rozsival (upper body), forward Jordin Tootoo (upper body) and forward Marian Hossa (skin disorder), who will miss the season. … Chicago acquired forward Andreas Martinsen from the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday for forward Kyle Baun, and assigned him to Rockford of the American Hockey League.


Stat pack

The Penguins are looking for their first win at United Center since Feb. 27, 2009, and haven't defeated Chicago since Mar. 30, 2014, a 4-1 win at PPG Paints Arena; The Blackhawks are 3-2-0 in their past five season-openers.

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