Top 4 biggest questions for the Penguins to address during the last week of the pre-season…

In the final week of the pre-season, the Pittsburgh Penguins face some significant questions and decisions as they prepare for the upcoming NHL season. With just one week left before the season opener, the team is gearing up for an 82-game journey towards playoff qualification after a busy off-season filled with trades and free agency moves. Here are the key issues they need to address:

  1. Reviving the Struggling Power Play: The Penguins’ power play has been underperforming, with little time for improvement during the pre-season games. Despite fielding a star-studded lineup, the power play unit lacks cohesion and effectiveness. The team needs to invest more practice time to iron out the issues and regain their confidence before the season begins. The power play’s performance will be closely watched as the season unfolds.
  2. Filling the Gap on Malkin’s Line: Jake Guentzel’s return to practice is a positive development, but the Penguins still need to find a suitable player to complete their top lines. While Rickard Rakell and Bryan Rust have settled alongside Sidney Crosby, the question remains about who will join Evgeni Malkin and Reilly Smith on the second line. Alex Nylander and Radim Zohorna have shown promise in camp, but a final decision is yet to be made, potentially leading to a roster spot dilemma.
  3. Competition for Bottom-Six Lineup Spots: Jeff Carter’s contract and salary cap constraints ensure his place in the lineup, likely on the fourth line with Noel Acciari. Lars Eller and Drew O’Connor are forming another checking line, leaving one uncertain spot in the bottom-six forward group. Several players, including Vinnie Hinostroza, Austin Wagner, and newcomer Jansen Harkins, are vying for this role. Zohorna and Nylander could also enter the mix, making it a competitive battle with various possibilities.
  4. Depth Defense Questions: The decision to waive Ty Smith earlier in the pre-season raised eyebrows, suggesting Chad Ruhwedel could become the sixth defenseman, with Mark Friedman or Ryan Shea as potential extras. Intriguing options, such as Lucas Carlsson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, are available on waivers, adding depth to the mix. The Penguins’ management may opt for changes in the defense corps, especially if appealing options arise via waivers. The team has room for three more NHL contracts, making it possible for them to acquire players on waivers.

In summary, the Penguins face significant challenges and decisions as they prepare for the upcoming NHL season. These range from improving their power play to finalizing their forward lines and potentially making changes to their defensive depth. The next week promises to be crucial in shaping the team’s lineup and strategy for the season ahead.

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