Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pens Clash with the 'Canes in an East. Conf. Finals Rematch

The Picture above should be somewhat familiar, eh? This is Scott Walker of Carolina getting ready to sucker punch Aaron Ward of the Bruins. Now the two are teammates and "friends," on a Canes team that saw a bit of re-tooling this off-season with regard to defense and forward depth. The Pens meanwhile are riding high atop the Atlantic division with a 5-1-0 record. They have one 3 in a row and are a perfect 4-0 on the road. And they are winning behind superb goaltending, scoring from all 4 lines, and solid defense lead by Jay Mckee's 20 blocks (tops in the NHL).

Like several of the Pens previous opponents this year (Toronto, Philly) the Canes have added a number of physical/nasty players in order to go up against Geno/Sid/Ovie, and so on. Aaron Ward and Andrew Alberts have been added on D while Tom Kostopoulos (former Pen) and Stephane Yelle complete the forward additions for the Canes. Last year the Canes had to basically run 3 lines with the 4th being extremely weak. Ryan/Bayda/Conboy and some others would play on that 4th line but do nothing effective. Kostopoulos and Yelle are excellent role players who are clearly an upgrade over the old guys. Fortunately Brooks Orpik's best friend Erik Cole will be out for 6 weeks because of injury.

Ward and Alberts are effective and can lay out some big hits but they're also prone to taking stupid penalties. If they play reckless tonight against the Pens they'll get scored on and lose. The Canes are 2-3-0 this season and they'll be looking for a big night from Erik Staal (who has just two points) and Cam Ward. Jussi Jokinen leads the team with 5 pts (2g 3a), and this is not surprising considering he scored 3 game winning goals in the playoffs last spring. The Canes are a team full of solid role players, and one superstar in Eric Staal. Samsonov, Walker, Cullen, and Ruutu can all be dangerous so the Pens will have to watch out.

Quite frankly, I don't think the Pens care who's new on the Canes or how physical they may now be. Cooke, Rupp, Orpik, Adams, Kennedy, and Kunitz can all lay the body. They can also contribute offensively, at least Cooke, Kennedy, and Adams can. Last year it was Seidenberg and Gleason's duty to shut down Geno and Sid. Look for Ward and Alberts to get matched up against the deadly duo tonight. Ward/Pitkanen? Corvo/Alberts? Those may be the likely pairings. Look for Geno to have a big game tonight based on what he did to the Canes during the playoffs and because he had an off night in Ottawa on Monday. Sid will be hungry as well so this should get exciting. Remember the nasty backhand goal by Geno (above)? Let's see it again tonight!!!

LETS GO PENS, Canes vs. Pens at 7:30 pm in Raleigh, NC....lineups same as last game


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