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Blues at Penguins preview

Pittsburgh to raise Stanley Cup championship banner with Letang in lineup; Tarasenko eyes strong start

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

BLUES (0-0-0) at PENGUINS (0-0-0)

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV

 

The Game

The Pittsburgh Penguins will raise another Stanley Cup championship banner when they open the regular season against the St. Louis Blues at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday.

It would be difficult to find a Penguins player more excited to start the championship defense than defenseman Kris Letang, who last played Feb. 21 before undergoing season-ending neck surgery on April 13. He described himself as anxious Wednesday morning.

"Tonight, it's going to be fun," Letang said. "It's a special night. The opening is always special, but to be able to come back from that injury and that much time without playing, it's going to be special."

Pittsburgh enters the season relatively healthy, with injured forward Patric Hornqvist (hand) the lone exception.

Though they're without several key players because of injuries, the Blues will attempt to spoil the Penguins' celebration.

Forward Alexander Steen, who finished third on the Blues with 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) last season, won't play after sustaining a left-hand injury on Sept. 19. St. Louis is expected to re-evaluate him in a week.

St. Louis also will be without defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (left ankle, re-evaluated in a week), center Klim Kostin (lower body, out 7-10 days) and forwards Patrik Berglund (left shoulder, out three months), Robby Fabbri (left knee, out for the season) and Zach Sanford (left shoulder, out 4-5 months).

Because of those injuries, defenseman Vince Dunn and forward Tage Thompson each will make his NHL debut for the Blues.

 

Players to watch

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko will look for a strong start to the season after scoring a career-high 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists) last season.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby will play Wednesday after missing the 2016-17 season opener with a concussion. He led the NHL with 44 goals in 75 games last season.

 

They said it

"I think it's crystal clear what our identity is, and our players understand that. I think every team's a work in progress. I don't know that we've ever arrived. We're always striving to get better." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who has won the Stanley Cup in each of his two seasons in Pittsburgh

"We see what they got to celebrate all summer. It'll be an extra 10 minutes or so to wait, but other than that, it's a game." -- Blues goalie Jake Allen, who was 33-20-5 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 61 appearances (60 starts) last season

 

Blues projected lineup

Vladimir Sobotka -- Paul Stastny -- Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz -- Brayden Schenn -- Dmitrij Jaskin
Magnus Paajarvi -- Oskar Sundqvist -- Tage Thompson
Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak -- Chris Thorburn
Joel Edmundson -- Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson -- Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn -- Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen
Carter Hutton

Scratched: Ivan Barbashev, Wade Megan, Nate Prosser

Injured: Zach Sanford (left shoulder), Robby Fabbri (left knee), Alexander Steen (left hand), Patrik Berglund (left shoulder), Klim Kostin (lower body), Jay Bouwmeester (left ankle)

 

Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary
Bryan Rust -- Evgeni Malkin -- Phil Kessel
Carl Hagelin -- Greg McKegg -- Tom Kuhnhackl
Scott Wilson -- Carter Rowney -- Ryan Reaves
Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang
Olli Maatta -- Justin Schultz
Matt Hunwick -- Ian Cole
Matt Murray
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Josh Archibald, Chad Ruhwedel

Injured: Patric Hornqvist (hand)

 

Status report

Kostin was injured Sunday during the Blues' final preseason game. St. Louis selected the 18-year-old in the first round (No. 31) of the 2017 NHL Draft. … Reaves will make his debut for the Penguins against his former team after being acquired, along with the No. 51 pick in the 2017 draft, from the Blues for Sundqvist and the No. 31 pick on June 23. Sundqvist also will debut, at third-line center, for St. Louis.

 

Stat pack

The Blues are 4-1-0 in their past five season openers and 7-2-0 in their past nine; The Penguins also are 4-1-0 in their past five openers and are 8-3-0 in their past 11.

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