PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – As the Pens open the 56 game season in Philadelphia today, there is little margin for error with only four teams in a division with the Bruins, Caps, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders, Sabres and Devils making the playoffs. Here are some notable players to watch.
It starts with the goalie. When you have a locked in goalie, it can help make up for mistakes and steal wins you may not have deserved. Matt Murray is in Ottawa and it’s Jarry’s turn to show he’s the guy we saw win eight games in Decmeber, not lose his last four of the regular season.
With Kasperi Kapanen still clearing NHL protocol after arriving in the United States on Saturday, Evan Rodrigues will start on the top line. Rodrigues was the other player in the Connor Sheary trade, the sent to Toronto for Kapanen after playing in seven games and none in the post-season. Upon his release from the Maple Leafs, he re-signed with the Pens and goes from the bubble of making the team to working on a line of one of the greatest players in NHL history. What an opportunity for the 27 year-old.
Cody Ceci/Mike Matheson
At the start of camp the new defensemen were paired together, but it appears as they open in Philadelphia Ceci will be with Marcus Pettersson and Matheson with John Marino. However the pairings play out, the Pens need more consistent play from their blue line than last year. These are two players hoping a fresh start revives their first round pedigree.
Ceci is 27 with 8 points and a plus 7 last year with Toronto and has averaged over 20 minutes a game for the last four seasons. Matheson is nearly 27 with 20 points last year in Florida, is more offensive minded and a smooth-skater.
As with the defensive pairings, this line has altered during the abbreviated camp. There are a pair of constants it appears, Jared McCann on the left side and free agent signee Mark Jankowski in the middle. Sam Lafferty had worked on that line, but recently Brandon Tanev has moved up. However arranged, this team needs another impact line if its to make the playoffs. Impact doesn’t have to be scoring, that would be nice, but needs to be a line opponents must contend with.