It’s hard to believe, but Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has faced the Chicago Blackhawks just two times in his career.
The last time he played against Chicago was on Feb. 14, 2007 (a 5-4 win) at Mellon Arena – the first game of the Penguins’ current sellout streak. The only other time he played against the Blackhawks was during his rookie season on Jan. 13, 2006 (a 4-1 loss).
That means tonight’s preseason tilt in Chicago will be Crosby’s first game at the United Center in eight years because of scheduling and injuries.
“I haven’t played in Chicago in eight years, I was hurt the three times we played there (after),” Crosby said. “It’s nice to play in a new building. Obviously it’s a great place to play. It’s a loud building and good atmosphere and I’m excited to play there.”
Additionally, he has yet to play against Blackhawks superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – basically Chicago’s equivalent of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That’s because the Blackhawks had yet to draft either player the first and only time Crosby played in Chicago back in his rookie season, as Toews, was taken third overall that summer and Kane was drafted first overall the following year. The second and last time Crosby played against the Blackhawks, Toews was in his sophomore season at North Dakota while Kane was tearing it up for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in his draft-eligibile season.
Toews is not playing tonight, but Kane will be. And even though it's just a preseason game, it should be exciting to watch him and Crosby compete against each other for the first time.
BEAU KNOWS SUTTER
Penguins forward Beau Bennett has skated regularly in training camp with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. But for tonight’s preseason game in Chicago, Bennett will be working a third-line role with Brandon Sutter and Matt D’Agostini.
“I’m still learning everyone’s tendencies and this being the third preseason game I think you’re still testing out chemistry,” Bennett said. “It’ll be good to get out there with Sutter and D’Agostini. It’s a new look. It’ll be fun.”
When Bennett was first recalled to Pittsburgh last season he skated on a line with Sutter and Tyler Kennedy. He also finished the season in the playoffs playing with Sutter and Jarome Iginla.
“I know (Sutter) pretty well,” Bennett said. “It was fun playing with him last year. He’s really responsible. He’s a fun guy to play with. Sutter is really easy to play with. He plays the same game, the same way. He’s a great player.
“From what I’ve seen from D’Agostini, I knew he was a great player before this camp. He plays a similar two-way game. That’s something we’ll try to bring into tonight.”
--Sam Kasan KOBASEW GETS LOOK WITH CROSBY, KUNITZ
Winger Chuck Kobasew was a standout performer in Pittsburgh’s opening preseason game last Sunday’s contest Columbus. Kobasew, who is in camp on a tryout basis, scored two goals for the Penguins.
Thursday night he will be back in a Penguins uniform, but his partners will be a little different. Kobasew skated alongside captain Sidney Crosby and winger Chris Kunitz at the morning skate.
Although it’s a caliber of players that Kobasew doesn’t usually play with, it won’t change his approach.
“I’m a simple, straight-line player,” he said. “I get in there, hunt pucks. I won’t change anything. It’s nice playing with a player of (Crosby’s) caliber. But I can’t recreate my game in one day because of whom I’m playing with. I’ll play to my strengths.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma noted that while Kobasew will be skating on the Penguins’ first line, he is more of a third-line type of player.
“Realistically (Kobasew) is trying out for a third-line wing position,” Bylsma said. “His opportunity tonight looks like it might be in the top-6, but realistically with a healthy roster, he’s competing for a third-line role.”
--Sam Kasan MORNING SKATE PICS
During the preseason, the Penguins hold their morning skate at home before flying out to the arena they'll be playing in a few hours before puck drop. Then they come right back after. In N Out, like Beau Bennett's favorite restaurant in his native California.
If these lines hold up, I guess Bennett isn't playing with Crosby and Kunitz. Although I'm sure at some point during the game he'll get a look there. But I could be wrong.
--Sam Kasan THEN AND NOW
Penguins fans have literally watched their favorite stars grow up right before their eyes. Fans have seen players like Fleury, Crosby, Malkin and Letang since they were 18-year-old kids. Now they are all "growns up."
For #TransformationTuesday we took a look at some old head shots from the guys. Check out Letang below (his 2006 head shot and his current head shot for 2013).
--Sam Kasan TWITTER Q&A
Derrick Pouliot was cornered and interrogated by the Twitterverse in this week's Twitter Q&A.
--Sam Kasan D COMPETITION
The Pens top five defensive positions seem to be set with Letang, Orpik, Martin, Scuderi and Niskanen. That leaves two spots open. And right now there are a plethora of blueliners fighting for a spot on the roster. Michelle Crechiolo breaks down the contenders and their attributes. Full story here.
--Sam Kasan START ME UP
Good morning hockey fans. Today the Pens will travel to Chicago to battle the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (well, some of them anyway) for their third preseason contest. The puck drops at 8 p.m. EST at the United Center. The game can be seen on ROOT SPORTS. (Click here for the complete TV preseason schedule).
Some notes on the Pens’ lineup:
Vokoun gets the nod in goal.
Crosby and Kunitz will play, but no Dupuis. However, Bennett is playing. Maybe this is his chance to play with Crosby.
Sutter and D’Agostini are in. Jokinen is out. So we’ll see who the coaching staff matches with them. Does Kobasew get a look? Payerl? Megna? Someone else? All of the above? I guess we’ll find out tonight.
The D corps will be led by Niskanen and Engelland. The rest are a very young group in Mikkelson, Bortuzzo, Despres, Pouliot and Samuelsson.
Most importantly, MacIntyre gets his first preseason action (Big Mac).
37 JEFF ZATKOFF – G
92 TOMAS VOKOUN – G
2 MATT NISKANEN – D
5 DERYK ENGELLAND – D
12 CHUCK KOBASEW – F
14 CHRIS KUNITZ – F
16 BRANDON SUTTER – F
17 DUSTIN JEFFREY – F
19 BEAU BENNETT – F
22 MATT D’AGOSTINI – F
24 BRENDAN MIKKELSON – D
33 STEVE MACINTYRE – F
38 ZACH SILL – F
41 ROBERT BORTUZZO – D
45 ADAM PAYERL – F
46 JOE VITALE – F
47 SIMON DESPRES – D
51 DERRICK POULIOT – D
55 PHILIP SAMUELSSON – D
59 JAYSON MEGNA – F
87 SIDNEY CROSBY – F