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Staal, Malkin and Crosby each missed half of last season. With all three forwards healthy, the Penguins will return to top form.
41, 42, 43.
That’s how many games the Pens got from top three centers Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin in the regular season last year, as they all missed time with serious injuries.
With all three players figured to be healthy (keep your fingers crossed, Crosby), the Pens will likely return to their offensive-juggernaut selves in 2011-12.
After sitting out half of last season Malkin is raring to go. When Geno’s motivated he’s dangerous, as was on full display when he captured the Conn Smythe trophy during Pittsburgh’s 2009 Stanley Cup victory.
Staal should continue to be one of the leagues better all-around players, and Crosby will terrify defencemen and goalies league wide.
James Neal will experience his first full season with the Pens and, if playing with Crosby, could very well score 30 goals. His previous career high was 27 with Dallas in 2009-10.
Adding Steve Sullivan and retaining Tyler Kennedy were two off-season moves that won’t make headlines, but will prove very valuable for the Pens moving forward. Sullivan is an established veteran who can pitch in with regular scoring, and Kennedy is a relentless checker and staple on the Penguins front-end.
Needless to say, the Penguins will be a lot more explosive offensively than they were last year.
With the guidance of Dan Bylsma and his coaching staff, Pittsburgh was one of the best defensive teams in the league last season and were the top penalty killing team league wide.
Kris Letang returns to anchor the blue line and run the power play from the point, while Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Ben Lovejoy, Zbynek Michalek and Matt Niskanen form what is a much underrated defensive unit for Pittsburgh.
With Marc-Andre Fleury in net, the Penguins can pretty much expect 35-40 wins as the acrobatic Canadian will return with a vengeance after being outplayed by Dwayne Roloson in last year’s seven game nail biter against Tampa.
When it’s all said and done, how could anyone be surprised to see Crosby and the Pens with another Stanley Cup?