2011 NHL Winter Classic: Which Pens Are “Allowed Out” on New Year's Day?

Rob BeloteSenior Analyst IDecember 13, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 16:  (L-R) Evgeni Malkin #71 and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skate against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 16, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

On my site (www.GuysNation.com), one of my authors wrote an interesting article breaking down the roster scenarios for the upcoming 2011 NHL Winter Classic hockey game between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Here's his perspective on the Pittsburgh Penguins:

For the past three years, the National Hockey League has treated us to a one of a kind game on New Year’s Day.  Two NHL teams take over a large outdoor venue and play a regular season game, reminiscent of kids playing on a frozen pond.  Weather isn’t a factor, as the teams have been known to brave extreme cold and snow.  This tradition is known as the Winter Classic. 

In case you’re unaware, 2011’s rendition of the Winter Classic features what is arguably the biggest rivalry in hockey today. The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals will square off in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The whole world will have an opportunity to watch the league’s two prominent stars, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, showcase their abilities.  If it’s anything like their previous meetings, you won’t want to miss it.

A lot can happen between now and January 1.  Injuries, slumps, and recent breakouts will most likely all factor in the game’s line-up.  While there’s always the possibility of new injuries, what about the players currently nursing injuries?  Will they be ready to go for the big showdown?  Sure, I believe that most guys would do anything to suit up for a game of this caliber, regardless of nagging injuries, but the bottom line is each team can only have 20 players dressed. 

Then there’s the issue with goaltending.  Most would say that Marc-Andre Fleury is a sure bet to tend goal for the Penguins, but who gets the start for Washington?  In the end, the decisions will all come down to the respective coaching staffs.  In this brief article, I give my rundown and predictions on the line-ups.  You can think of it as my line-up wish list.

Pittsburgh Penguins 1st Forward Line:

Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis

Whether you’re a fan or not, Sidney Crosby is the face of hockey in North America.  In only five seasons, this young star has already won a Stanley Cup, won a gold medal at the Olympics, won the Art Ross, Hart and Pearson awards, and was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Off the ice, he’s a class act.  Chris Kunitz has had the benefit of playing on his line for a while now, and has definitely taken advantage of it.  Dupuis was just recently added to the line, and his point production has skyrocketed.  Look for this line to be a key factor on January 1st.

Pittsburgh Penguins 2nd Forward Line:

Matt Cooke, Evgeni Malkin, Arron Asham

Malkin is another huge star for Pittsburgh.  Last week, his knee was bothering him, but I’m sure he’ll take part in the outdoor game.  Cooke and Asham are two tough customers with more skill than the average goon.  I personally can’t stand Matt Cooke, but I can all but guarantee that he’ll have a spot for the Classic.

Pittsburgh Penguins 3rd Forward Line:

Tyler Kennedy, Mark Letestu, Chris Conner

These three youngsters are huge fan favorites in the city of Pittsburgh, and locals know them as “The Buzz” line.  Kennedy emerged as a hero in 2009, during the Pens’ Stanley Cup run.  He scored 3 game winning goals throughout the playoffs, and he’s still a clutch player.  Letestu is in his true rookie campaign, and has definitely found a place on this line.  Conner brings the speed and the grit, and unless Jordan Staal comes back, he should be a go.

Pittsburgh Penguins 4th Forward Line:

Craig Adams, Max Talbot, Mike Rupp

There’s nothing flashy here.  The Pens’ 4th line will be called upon to shut down the Capitals’ scorers and generate some hard-nosed scoring chances.  Talbot, the most offensively skilled of the three, is also one of the best two-way forwards in the game.


Mike Comrie

Sadly, Mike Comrie isn’t being utilized by the Penguins.  Brought in as a possible 1st or 2nd line forward, he’s now a nightly, healthy scratch.  As much as I’d love to see him take part in the Classic, instead of Cooke or Asham, he’ll most likely be watching from one of the boxes at Heinz Feild.

Pittsburgh Penguins 1st Defensive Pair:

Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang

Brooks Orpik is the pinnacle of what most young defensive players aspire to be.  He hits, he intimidates, and most importantly, he makes sure that no one scores against the Penguins when he’s out on the ice.  I’m sure he’ll be matched up with Ovechkin’s line for the Winter Classic.  Kris Letang is speedy, puck moving, offensive defenseman.  I rank him way higher than the Capitals’ Mike Green for his defensive play.  He often contributes to the Pens’ power play, and is one of the most skilled players in the entire league at the shootout.

Pittsburgh Penguins 2nd Defensive Pair:

Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek

Pittsburgh knows defense wins championships, and that’s exactly why they signed both Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek in the offseason.  They’re both six-year veterans of the NHL, and while they’ve been known to put up points, defense is their specialty.

Pittsburgh Penguins 3rd Defensive Pair:

Alex Goligoski, Deryk Engelland

Goligoski is Pittsburgh’s answer to Mike Green.  His stickhandling and offensive skills are on par with most forwards in the NHL.  He’s solid as a quarterback for whatever power play line he’s on, but like Green, his willingness to jump up often lands him out of position.  He recently was demoted to the 3rd pair.  Engelland is a rookie with size.  He takes pride in being a stay-at-home type defenseman, and with time should be able to really compliment Goligoski’s play.


Ben Lovejoy

Lovejoy is a little younger than Engelland, but a lot more offensive-minded.  Coach Dan Bylsma has been rotating those two in and out of the lineup, but I think that he’ll favor Engelland for the Classic.  While Lovejoy paired with Goligoski has the potential to be an offensive explosion, it could also be a liability, and this a game that Pittsburgh is serious about winning.

Pittsburgh Penguins Starting Goalie:

Marc-Andre Fleury

I think everyone knows that “Flower” will be in goal for the Penguins on New Year's Day.  Barring a major injury, you’ll see him between the pipes. That’s my take.  

I can’t predict what will take place over three weeks, but I can tell you that I’m counting the days to this monumental event.  For those of you with HBO, there’s a new 24/7 mini-series, airing Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM that will give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at both teams leading up to the big game.  The four-part series starts December 15th.

To see what he had to say about the Pittsburgh Penguins or to share your comments/feedback with the article's author, view the full version of this article over at GuysNation.com!