Those Penguins fans who will be attending the team’s preseason opener on Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings – the first-ever hockey game at beautiful new CONSOL Energy Center – will be in for quite the treat.
Head coach Dan Bylsma announced on Monday that many of the team’s marquee players, including Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin
and Brooks Orpik
, will be among the 20 players that will dress against the Red Wings. Click here to purchase tickets
“That the game on (Wednesday)is the first game in this building definitely played into some of the decision-making about the lineup,” Bylsma said. “I think Sidney Crosby
should be in that game, being the first game. And other guys like Evgeni Malkin
and Brooks Orpik
who have been with the organization for a long time, they are playing in that game because of that reason.”
Orpik, who is the longest-tenured member of the team, was happy to hear that he’ll be suiting up on Wednesday.
“Sometimes going into preseason, you want a couple extra days until you get your first game, but with the new building, I think there were more guys hoping they would be in the lineup than other years,” Orpik said.
What excites Orpik and Bylsma most about christening CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday is observing how the crowd is going to react to the new building.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the building full, and seeing a National Hockey League game in here and seeing the energy and excitement and what it will be like,” Bylsma added. “I just have a feeling that this game will different than a normal preseason game will be.”
Monday morning marked the conclusion of the Penguins’ training camp scrimmages at CONSOL Energy Center. With superstars Crosby and Malkin going head-to-head, and Marc-Andre Fleury
manning the crease for Team C, there was plenty of star-power on the ice.
But the brightest star turned out to be 5-foot-7 forward Brett Sterling, an offseason free agent signee from the Atlanta Thrashers organization.
Sterling scored twice in the two period, 40-minute scrimmage as Malkin and Team C pulled out a 2-1 decision over Crosby and Team A. Team C scored its only goal in the second period when Simon Despres
beat Fleury just under the glove on a penalty shot with 5:31 left to play.
“For me it’s a big deal to get confidence and feel good out there,” Sterling said. “Obviously, it’s a scrimmage, but it’s as close to a game situation as you can get right now. … You want to go out there and you want to impress. And hopefully I was able to do that a little bit today, but there’s a lot more camp to go.”
Sterling, who played the left side on a trio with Dustin Jeffrey
and Tyler Kennedy
, opened the scoring midway through the first period when he buried a 25-foot wrist shot from the top of the far circle over the blocker of goaltender Brad Thiessen
Three minutes later, Sterling added another tally when he banged home a Chris Kunitz
rebound behind Thiessen from just outside the crease.
“I like to stand in front of the net, and just get a quick stick on it and put the puck in the net,” Sterling described.
Although Sterling isn’t big in stature, his numbers in the American Hockey League the past four seasons have been.
Sterling broke into the AHL in 2006-07 and promptly posted a 55-goal campaign with the Chicago Wolves. Last season he tallied 34 times in just 55 games with Chicago.
Thus far, however, those numbers haven’t been able to translate to the NHL level, where Sterling has produced two goals and four points in 19 career games, all with the Thrashers.
He hopes a change of scenery will give his career the jump-start he believed it needed, particularly playing in the up-tempo, offensive system the Penguins use.
“When you look at the way (the Penguins) have played over the past few years, they want to create offense, they want to skate, they want to move the puck and that’s the type of player I am,” Sterling said. “They like to bring the puck up, they like a fast pace and they like to score. That’s what I’d love to be doing. I think that’s what every forward wants to do.”
At the outset of camp last week, Bylsma included Sterling’s name when he talked about the group of skilled forwards who are candidates to line up next to the Crosby’s and Malkin’s. Those words were music to Sterling’s ears, because he embraces the challenge of competition.
“If you’re going to let competition discourage you, you might as well not come to camp,” Sterling said. “Because that’s all it is. It’s fun and it makes you work hard.”