Penguins at Canucks
The NHL season is back, and with it, a long list of Canuck injuries and question marks. We know Ryan Kesler is out, as is Mason Raymond and perhaps even Manny Malhotra. This is bad news because that means the Canucks second line is essentially being held together with duct tape, with rookie Cody Hodgson expected to center it, with Mikael Samuelsson and new comer Marco Sturm flanking him.
Even without Kesler, the biggest question mark going into this season is how the Canucks will respond after a long playoff. Further, how will Roberto Luongo play tonight, and for the first month of the season? Luongo has been admittedly a slow starter, something the Canucks simply can't afford. Last year Alex Burrows was the one who missed the first month; it's much worse this go around. When Kesler does come back, expect him to be the same great player as always. Mason Raymond? Well.. he might not come back at all.
New Canuck Dale Weise (pronounced like Geese) will start on the fourth line, and expect him to make sure no one messes with the Sedins like the Bruins did in June. Which is a very, VERY good thing.
Canucks Forward Lineup:
On defense, despite the loss of Christian Ehrhoff, expect the Canucks to be just as good on D as last year, if not better. Ehrhoff was a liability in his own end, yet consistently put up numbers. Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard should come be able to replace that, if they can put up better numbers than last year.
It will be fun to see how rookie Chris Tanev fits in after a good playoff. He'll get limited minutes, but when Aaron Rome gets back from injury, it'll be interesting to see if he out plays Keith Ballard. Again.
Canucks Defense Pairings:
In goal, Luongo needs to step up his early game. With Kesler out, Luongo needs to shoulder the load, as the Sedins can't score every single night. Let's hope he breaks out of the early season jitters and has a strong game. If not, Cory Schneider is more than capable.
Starting Goaltender: Roberto Luongo
The Penguins are without Sidney Crobsy, which means that the Canucks should pounce. Expect a close game, as both teams are missing marquee guys. Evgeni Malkin and the Sedins should all be seeing lots of ice time.
Prediction: Canucks ride crowd emotion and skate away with a 3-2 victory.