The 2021-22 NHL season begins on October 12. With training camps open, NHL.com takes a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions and the expected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Trainer: Mike Sullivan (seventh season)
Last season: 37-16-3; first place in MassMutual East Division, lost to New York Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup
1. Surviving injuries to top centers
The Penguins will be without centers Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to start the regular season. Crosby underwent surgery on his left wrist on September 8 and is expected to take at least six weeks to recover. Malkin will miss at least the first two months of the regular season to recover from June 4 knee surgery. Crosby, who had only skated before training to start training camp, was able to return against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 12 within a week of Pittsburgh starting its regular season. Jeff Carter scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 14 regular-season games after the Penguins acquired him on April 12 in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings and would likely fill in the frontline center with Crosby out, then take Malkin’s spot take it on the second line until he comes back.
2. Taking care of the goalkeeper
Tristan Jarry had a 3.18 goals-to-average and a 0.888 serve in six Stanley Cup Playoff games against the Islanders, after having a 2.75 GAA serve and a 0.909 serve in 39 regular-season games. Jarry said he used the off-season to improve on his poor post-season performance and expects new goalkeeping coach Andy Chiodo to help his progression. Casey DeSmithJarry’s backup, had surgery on June 10 to repair a bilateral core muscle injury, but was a full-fledged participant in training camp. DeSmith arguably outperformed Jarry last season, going 11-7-0 with a 2.54 GAA and a serve percentage of 0.912 in 20 games.
3. Increased Physicality
After being physically outmatched in the series against the Islanders, the Penguins wanted to get stronger in the off-season. Frontline left wing Jake Guentzel, who was second to the Penguins behind Crosby with 23 goals and 57 points, said he spent much of the summer in the weight room after being limited to two points (one goal, one assist) in six playoff games. Pittsburgh signed ahead Brock McGinn up to a four-year contract on July 28, likely to fill a hole in the bottom six afterwards Brandon Tanev was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Without sacrificing speed, the Penguins are eager to use extra power to get past a post-season opening lap for the first time since 2018.
Video: Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 Season Preview
Radim Zohorna and Evan Rodrigues are the two most likely candidates to fill in for the second-line center with Crosby and Malkin starting the season. Zohorna, who scored four points (two goals, two assists) in eight games as a rookie last season, skated in the place of Malkin with the left wing. Jason Zucker and right Kasperi Kapanen since the start of the training camp. Rodrigues previously played in the top six forwards, including right on the top line.
Most intriguing addition
In addition to adding physicality, McGinn has said he would like to improve from scoring 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 37 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season. McGinn spent most of the training camp in Tanev’s spot on the center right wing Teddy Blueger and left Zach Aston Reese. Tanev averaged 0.22 goals and 0.50 points per game last season. The Penguins want McGinn to match or exceed those numbers.
Biggest potential surprise
During training camp, Zucker described his game as “terrible” last season. He scored 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 38 games, mostly on the second line on the left wing. He had 67 shots on target last season, but Zucker said he plans to be more active in 2021-2022. He has also been encouraged to shoot more by Sullivan, who said Zucker is at his best when he plays aggressively.
Ready to break through
defender Pierre-Olivier Joseph got a taste of the NHL last season, scoring five points (one goal, four assists) in 16 games, and he also scored 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in 23 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League . But the 22-year-old is said to be on the cusp of becoming a regular in Pittsburgh after spending the first few days at training camp with a couple with Kris Letang. The two had skated together all season.
Joseph (average unwritten in fantasy) could become a regular in the lineup this season following the departure of the defender Cody Cecia (signed Edmonton Oilers). Joseph averaged 0.57 points per game in the AHL last season, up from 0.33 (17 points in 52 games) in 2019-20 and could become Pittsburgh’s second-best fantasy defender behind letang. – Pete Jensen
Jake Guentzel — Jeff Carter — Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker – Evan Rodrigues – Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brock McGinn
Danton Heinen –Brian Boyle– Dominic Simon
Brian Dumoulin — Kris Letang
Mike Matheson — John Marino
Marcus Pettersson — Chad Ruhwedel