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

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Good afternoon hockey fans. Tonight the Pens will host the best team in the NHL when they faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs have an NHL-best 13-2-1 record, with all 13 wins coming in regulation.

The Pens are also rolling. Since losing to Montreal, 3-2, in its home opener on Oct. 13, Pittsburgh has gone 9-2, which included a six-game winning streak.

DUPUIS RETURNS

Forward Pascal Dupuis, who experienced blood clot-like symptoms last Friday, will be back in the lineup tonight against the Canadiens after being held out of the team’s weekend back-to-back games at Edmonton and Calgary as a precautionary measure.

“Dupuis will be playing tonight. He’s back,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “Everything is fine.”

Dupuis, who was cleared to practice Monday and joined his teammates for that day’s practice, had to visit doctors on Tuesday before he could be given the OK to play. All the tests came back negative for a blood clot and the symptoms were deemed to be unrelated.

“Everything was cleared,” Dupuis said. “I’m ready to go. A little scare on the road. It was just precautionary. I was kept out of the lineup and we had to make sure coming back to Pittsburgh that tests were done and came out negative. That’s why I was here yesterday and this morning and I’ll play tonight.”

MORNING SKATE

The Pens morning skate flow was the same that they used at practice on Monday…

Dupuis-Crosby-Bennett

Perron-Malkin-Kessel

Kunitz-Bonino-Hornqvist

Fehr-Cullen-Sprong/Plotnikov

Letang-Cole

Lovejoy-Dumoulin

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LINEUP SHUFFLE

The Pens have retooled their lines heading into the Montreal contest. The biggest change comes on the top line with Sidney Crosby centering Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett.

“(Crosby) gets so much attention out there that maybe it will open up some room for myself,” Bennett said. “At the same time I have to hold onto the puck and make plays.”

Bennett was one of the Pens’ best players in the preseason and has had a strong start to the year. He’s finally being rewarded for his work with a shot on the top-6.

“He’s managed the puck really well, I like how he carries the puck and makes plays,” Johnston said. “Also his competitiveness is really a key thing for me if it’s there night in and night out.”

Bennett’s teammates are expecting good things from the new trio.

“Really high hockey IQ, Beau is a guy with great skill,” Dupuis said. “He’s got a great shot. He’s been playing some really good hockey. It will be good to have him on the right with us.

“It will be our first game so there might be an adjustment period. I’m glad he’s on the line with us.”

ON THE HABS

The Canadiens are the NHL’s best club and there are many reasons for this fact. The biggest reason is the team’s composure. They are so sound and disciplined in sticking to their structure. They rarely crack or have long drops in their play. If they do have a drop, they bounce back quickly.

They work really well as a five-man unit both in the defensive zone and on the forecheck. And their work ethic, as expected of Michel Therrien coached teams, is off the charts.

“They’re the team that plays the most together in the whole league,” forward Eric Fehr told me. “They’ve really bought into their system and they’re a real feisty team. They battle hard for ice. They’re a tough team to play against.”

When a team is that in sync and battling hard, they’re very difficult to beat.

“You have to play a steady game with them,” Johnston said. “You can’t let things slip at any time because they can score …. They’re a team that doesn’t give up a lot. Special teams have been good for them so far this season.

“You have to recognize that it’s probably going to be a one-goal game. You have to be able to hang in there throughout that.”

GAME INFO

Where: CONSOL Energy Center

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: ROOT Sports

Radio: 105.9 the X, the Penguins Radio Network

Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop

VETS

The Pens have undertaken a number of initiatives to honor military vets on Veterans Day. Sixteen military vets, including WWII vet Guy Prestia, were guests at the team’s morning skate.

The Pens will wear special camouflage jerseys during the pregame warmups, which will be autographed and auctioned off online to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and Mario Lemieux Foundation.

Veterans will also watch from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s charity suites.

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