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The Inside Scoop: Game Day (Pens vs. Habs)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Good afternoon hockey fans. The Pens return home looking for their first win of the season in their home opener against the undefeated Montreal Canadiens.

The Pens are looking for ways to generate more offense after posting just one goal in their two-game season-opening road trip.

It appears the Pens will do lineup shuffling up front. Sticking with the combinations from late in the Arizona game on Saturday night, Pittsburgh practiced Monday with David Perron and Sergei Plotnikov flipped. Perron worked with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, while Plotnikov was with Nick Bonino and Beau Bennett. Plotnikov had some early chemistry on his new line in the contest and even head coach Mike Johnston noted that the move gave Plotnikov a shot of life.  

“It’s a good contrast of style,” Bennett said of the trio. “Sergei is a bull out there. He’s very north-south. … It worked in the third period. We didn’t generate enough to score, but going into tonight we feel pretty good.”

The Pens held an optional morning skate. The only missing healthy players were defenseman Rob Scuderi and forwards Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

The Montreal Canadiens, who are playing their fourth and final game of a season-opening road swing, are one of the hottest teams to start the season and are clicking on all cylinders. Under head coach Michel Therrien, the Habs have been a strong defensive team. Their disciplined style of play paired with having the reigning NHL MVP and goaltender of the year between the pipes in Carey Price will give you that result.

But the Canadiens, a team blessed with tremendous speed, have also been filling the net in the first three games. They’ve totaled 10 goals in the opening three games, led by Tomas Plekanec’s three tallies and captain Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban’s four points each.

The Pens faced a fast team to open the year against Dallas followed by a defensively disciplined team in Arizona. Now they’ll play a team that combines both elements in Montreal.

Pittsburgh did a good job in the season-opener in Dallas handling the Stars speed by staying ahead of the play and backtracking well on turnovers. They’ll need a similar effort against Montreal, which also skates very well. The Pens will have to react quickly on turnovers because the Canadiens like to push the play quickly with their speed and attack offensively.

The formula for beating Price is similar to most goaltenders in the league. They’ll need traffic and a good screen to obstruct his view. From there, Pittsburgh will have to battle for rebounds and second, third opportunities. The Pens failed to be effective in both areas against Arizona. They’ll need to be better tonight.

The Pens need to assert their will and play an aggressive but patient game against the Habs. Montreal plays a patient, even-keeled game. Pittsburgh must match that temperament in order to be successful.

Where: CONSOL Energy Center
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: ROOT Sports
Radio: WXDX, Penguins radio network
Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop


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