After three camp scrimmages in three days, the Tampa Bay Lightning come to Pittsburgh Saturday night for the NHL's opening pre-season game. And according to the official websites the rosters for both teams couldn't be more mis-matched.
Take a look for yourself at who will be wearing black and gold--our estimation of lines based off how they set up camp:
Goalies will be MAF and Dany Sabs
That's damn near an opening night lineup. The Pens held their presumptive "24, 25, 26" third line of Matt Cooke (#24), Maxime Talbot (#25) and Ruslan Fedotenko (#26) as well as Kris Letang and Hal Gill but other than that it's a rock and roll lineup.
Interesting that someone Faceoff Factor raved about, Ben Lovejoy--who wrote an awesome blog last season-- gets a spot in the lineup. It'll be of interest to see if he performs as well as Jesse said he did in scrimmages. Lovejoy doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making the NHL roster out of camp, of course, but considering how injuries can strike a blueline, it's good to get a look-see.
OK, now to see how unbalanced it is, let's look at the squad that Tampa is going to send up north (in alphabetical order). And if you're looking for the good former Penguins (Malone, Roberts, Hall even Recchi) or the stars like Vinny or Marty, you will be disappointed...
Forwards: Evgeny Artyukhin, Brandon Bochenski, Ryan Craig, Jussi Jokinen, David Koci, Zenon Konopka, Chris Lawrence, Michel Ouellet, Wyatt Smith, Radek Smolenak, Steven Stamkos, Jason Ward
Defensemen: Jamie Heward, Andrew Hutchinson, Vladimir Mihalik, Janne Niskala, Andy Rogers, Matt Smby
Goalies: Karri Ramo and Mike Smith
Now apologies to Jokinen and maybe Ward but obviously other than #1 pick Steven Stamkos is Tampa sending a forward that would even make Pittsburgh's opening night lineup? We don't think so. And who are they going to play Stamkos with, the "Trash Man" and Bochenski? Jokinen and Craig? Yuck.
Obviously the point of pre-season games is not the scoreboard at the end of the night (good thing for Tampa) but to get your guys in shape, in tune and prepared for the real thing. Obviously old pros like Lecavalier, Malone and St. Louis don't really need to play in all the exhibitions, and perhaps if this was a road game the Pens wouldn't be wheeling out all the star power. But, news flash, the games count for real in a mere two weeks. Considering there's an ocean to cross there isn't much time for preparation.
Who wants to bet on fights? For the Penguins we wouldn't be surprised if Ryan Stone, who's back is against the wall, comes out swinging. Eric Godard has a history of dropping gloves, he's got to be the odds on favorite to fight. For Tampa, David Koci usually has more balls than brains (not that there's anything wrong about that), Kenon Konopka is feisty and a guy like Ryan Craig might drop 'em too.
Official TST Prediction: Penguins 6, Tampa 2
Goal scorers for the good-guys: (Satan , Malkin, Staal, Goligoski, Thomas)