Here are a few things to know heading into tonight's preseason opener at 7:30 p.m. against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena…
- The game is not being broadcast on TV, but fans can listen on the team's flagship radio station, 105.9 'The X.' Our good friend Josh Getzoff will be calling the action alongside Phil Bourque, and I'm so excited for him to get this opportunity. He's going to be awesome. Make sure you tune in!
- The forward lines this morning were as follows…
The defensemen - Schultz, Cole, Pouliot, Percy, McNeill, Oleksy and Segalla - all rotated.
Fleury is starting in goal.
- When it comes to putting lineups together, head coach Mike Sullivan said their philosophy is "try and see some players that maybe we're not as familiar with, get some guys back into the lineup that have been away for extended periods of time and put guys in positions where they can be at their best." They want to give each player an opportunity to play a role that plays to his strengths either here or in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
- This will be the first game action in months for both Wilson and Porter, who both underwent surgery in March for lower-body injuries. Both players had been with the Pens before going down, and you can tell both are hungry to get back. "They're obviously competitive guys and they understand the situation," Sullivan said. "They know that this is a competitive camp and there are guys fighting for jobs. These guys have been around the game for a while and I think they're well aware of the circumstances and they're trying to maximize their opportunity."
- We joked with Kuhnhackl this morning about being the veteran on his line. Though he's just 24 years old, he's been a pro for 3-plus years while Guentzel, 21, is in his first training camp and Simon, 22, just finished his first season. "I might be the veteran, but I'm for sure the not skilled player on the line," Kuhnhackl laughed. "Having those guys on a line obviously helps a lot. We're just going to try and play our best today, give 100-percent effort and hopefully be on the right end of the result."
- The forward I'm most looking forward to watching is Wilson. He had 5 goals in 24 games for the Pens last year, including 4 goals in a 5-game span. And as Sam Kasan noted the other day, Wilson went down just as he was getting hot. However, it looks like he's picking up where he left off as he's had an impressive first few days - and according to him, that's been the goal. "I think just get back to where I was right before my injury," Wilson said of what he wants to show the coaching staff tonight. "I think I was playing good hockey then, playing it simple. That's my main goal, just to get back to that level." For me, the most noticeable thing has been his shot. He's always had a wicked release and has been utilizing it as much as possible.
- And of course, the defenseman I'm most excited about watching is Pouliot. His physical transformation that took place over the short summer was incredible. He looks absolutely fantastic, and he told me that he has a lot more energy and feels a lot lighter on the ice. I can't wait to see how that translates into real game action. I'm not the only one. "I'm excited to watch him play," Sullivan said. "He's given himself the best opportunity to act on his skillsets. He's the most fit he's been in his career. I think his maturity level is going to help him, having had a couple of pro seasons under his belt. I think there's no surprises. He understands what the expectations are and I'm excited to watch him play. I think his training his summer and the fact that he's in the type of shape he's in gives him the best opportunity to act on his skillsets and to establish himself in this league. But that's all it does. It gives him an opportunity. Obviously we're hopeful that Derrick will take the next step. But that's up to him."
- Sullivan said forward Nick Bonino, who left practice on Sunday after blocking a shot with his foot, skated by himself this morning. "It's improving each day," Sullivan said. "It's nothing significant. We would expect that he will join the group shortly.
- Finally, this going to be a bittersweet trip for me personally as it will be my last time at Joe Louis Arena before the Red Wings move to their new rink next season. I grew up a Red Wings fan in metro Detroit, so I went to a lot of games there. Then in high school, I played AAA hockey for Little Caesars and that was our home arena, so I got to play there. Then in college, I spent my last semester interning for the Red Wings, so I got to work there. I have so many amazing memories in that building from so many different parts of my life, but probably the one that stands out is going there for the away game watch party when my hometown Red Wings beat the Penguins in Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final (sorry, guys). I'm looking forward to one last game at the Joe.