NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, October 4
(All times eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0) at Ottawa Senators (0-0-0), 2:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators will begin
their 2008-09 regular seasons in Sweden, as the clubs meet today at The Globe
Arena in Stockholm.
This will be the second of two season-opening games in Europe for the NHL, as
the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning are scheduled to meet earlier
today in the Czech Republic at Prague's O2 Arena. The Pens and Sens and the
Rangers and Lightning will also meet on Sunday to complete the NHL's opening
It marks the second straight year that the league has begun its campaign in
Europe after the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks started last season with
a pair of games in London.
The Senators are the designated home club for today's encounter, while the
defending Eastern Conference champion Penguins will hold that distinction in
Ottawa has won the last three regular-season meetings with the Penguins, but
the teams have also faced off in the playoffs in each of the last two springs.
The Sens defeated Pittsburgh in the opening round en route to a berth in the
Stanley Cup finals in 2007, while the Pens downed Ottawa last April in the
first round and also went all the way to the Cup finals.
One thing that hurts Pittsburgh's chances to repeat as Eastern Conference
champions this year is that winger Marian Hossa will not be back for another
playoff run with the Pens. Hossa was acquired by Pittsburgh general manager
Ray Shero at last year's deadline, but opted to sign a one-year deal in the
offseason with Detroit, the club who defeated the Penguins for the Stanley Cup
Still, with superstar centermen Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in tow as well
as franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins plan on being Cup
contenders for years to come.
Shero may not have had the cash to lure Hossa back to the Igloo, but did land
a handful of new wingers in the offseason for Crosby and Malkin to play with,
including former 30-goal scorer Miroslav Satan.
However, the Penguins are also plagued by injuries to their defensive corps
heading into this season. The club's top two defenseman, Sergei Gonchar and
Ryan Whitney, are sidelined with shoulder and foot injuries, respectively.
Gonchar, who was second amongst NHL defensemen with 65 points in 2007-08, is
expected to miss four-to-six months, while Whitney, who had 12 goals and 28
assists last year, will be out until at least January.
Ottawa, meanwhile, will try to regain the swagger that led the club to its
first-ever Eastern Conference title in 2007. During that postseason run of two
years ago, the Senators seemingly erased the notion that they were playoff
underachievers, but the team followed up by getting swept in the opening round
Even before the playoff collapse against the Penguins, Ottawa fired head coach
John Paddock and replaced him for the remainder of the season with general
manager Bryan Murray, who hired Craig Hartsburg as the official replacement
A large part of the Senators' slide had to do with the antics of former
goaltender Ray Emery, who was a hero in the run to the Cup, but then became a
distraction during the 2007-08 campaign.
Emery was late for practice on a few occasions last season, creating animosity
between the netminder and management. Bryan Murray eventually opted to get rid
of Emery this offseason, buying out the final two years of his contract. The
25-year-old backstop is now out of the NHL, having signed a one-year deal to
play in Russia this year.
The Senators weren't exactly bad last year, recording 94 points, but that was
also the first time the franchise failed to gain 100 points in a season since
the 2001-02 campaign.
Ottawa has a great deal of offensive talent with the likes of Daniel
Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, but the defense and starting
goaltender Martin Gerber are still question marks for the club.
Alfredsson, Ottawa's captain and a native of Gothenburg, is a superstar in his
home country will certainly be the center of attention for many of the Swedish
The Senators will likely be without centerman Mike Fisher for both games in
Stockholm as he's still suffering from a sore groin.
The Penguins have lost seven of their last eight season openers, while the
Sens have began their last four campaigns with victories.
10/04 10:45:41 ET