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Previewing the East: Pittsburgh

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Ready for some hockey?

Sure you are.

The Red Wings don’t open training camp until next week in Traverse City, but for the past eight weeks's Bill Roose has previewed the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Red Wings’ Atlantic Division rivals in Boston, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo. This week it's the Pittsburgh Penguins:

Coach: Mike Johnston

Last Year: 51-24-7, 109 points (second in Eastern Conference)
Detroit vs. Penguins: 1-1-1
5-on-5 Goals: 157 (third in Eastern Conference)
Power Play Efficiency: 65-for-278, 23.4 percent (first in Eastern Conference)

2013-14 Stats Vs. Red Wings
Player POS AGE rank GM G A PT. GM G A PT.
Sidney Crosby C 27 1 80 36 68 104 3 2 1 3
Evgeni Malkin C 28 15 60 23 49 72 2 3 2 5
Chris Kunitz LW 34 24 78 35 33 68 3 0 2 2
James Neal RW 27 41 59 27 34 61 2 2 2 4
Jussi Jokinen LW 31 58 81 21 36 57 3 1 4 5
2013-14 Stats
Goalie AGE Rank GM W L OTL GAA SV%
Marc-Andre Fleury 29 2 64 39 18 5 2.37 .915
vs. Red Wings
2 1 0 1 3.70 .881

2014-15 OUTLOOK

Regular-Season Games vs. Red Wings: Oct. 23 (at DET); Feb. 11 (at PIT); Mar. 15 (at PIT).

ARRIVALS:  Forwards Nick Spaling, Patric Hornqvist, Blake Comeau and Steve Downie; defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Taylor Chorney; and goalie Thomas Greiss.

DEPARTURES:  Forwards Jussi Jokinen, James Neal, Lee Stempniak, Marcel Goc, Taylor Pyatt, Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, Brian Gibbons, Chris Conner and Harry Zolniercyk; defensemen Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland; and goalie Tomas Vokoun.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The Penguins needed to add defensemen to a blue line that saw the departure of a few veterans. So signing Christian Ehrhoff, who had been cast-off by the Buffalo Sabres, was a nice pick up for the Penguins. The one-year deal also gives Ehrhoff the ability to showcase his abilities on the power play. If he can produce similar statistics that the departed Matt Niskanen did, then Ehrhoff will be in high demand in next summer’s free agency sweepstakes.

SEASON SCOPE: A changing of the guard has taken shape in Pittsburgh. Former Red Wings goalie Jimmy Rutherford has been busy since he replaced Ray Shero as general manager in May. Rutherford, who was GM in Carolina for years, seems pleased with the hiring of first-year NHL coach Mike Johnston, along with the a trade that brought forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling from Nashville for James Neal. But the new GM was beyond excited to land Ehrhoff as a UFA after Buffalo bought out his contract.

There could be some early-season concerns on Pittsburgh’s blue line should defensemen Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot – who is a candidate to make this year’s NHL roster – not be fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgeries. In that case, the Penguins will have need to reply on a youth movement with a trio of former second-round draft picks: Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington and Philip Samuelsson.

The Pens’ offense might take a hit should captain Sidney Crosby need to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his injured right wrist before training camp begins. According to a published report, at least two doctors recommend Crosby have the surgery, but last year’s leading scorer and league MVP decided to explore non-surgical treatment.

Atlantic Division Metropolitan Division
Buffalo (July 24) Carolina (Aug. 7)
Boston (sep. 11) Columbus (Aug. 21)
Florida (July 29) New Jersey (Aug. 14)
Montreal (Sep. 2) NY Islanders (July 31)
Ottawa (Aug. 12) NY Rangers (Aug. 28)
Tampa Bay (Sep. 4) Philadelphia (Aug. 26)
Toronto (Aug. 5) Pittsburgh (sep. 9)
Washington (Aug. 19)

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