We round out the night in Vancouver where the Canucks take on the Pens in the western time zone's only game of the night. The Canucks are still struggling to get over their heartbreaking collapse in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins in seven games, but will need to refocus tonight on avenging the loss and returning to the Cup hungry team they were a year ago. The Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby in the game as he is still feeling the affects of his concussion from last season.
The Canucks enter the game with one major loss from last year in Christian Ehrhoff's departure to Buffalo in the offseason. Other than that, the noticeable hole in the offense will be the absence of Ryan Kesler on the second line who is still recovering from offseason hip surgery. Kesler is slated to return in 5-6 games, but the Canucks will be without him tonight.
The Canucks brought in Marco Sturm to play alongside Cody Hodgson and Mikael Samuelsson to start the year, and hope he can return to his prime after two rough years of decline in production. The Canucks are mostly the same team they were last year, and the Sedins-Burrows line will be largely counted on for the offensive production this season, and against the Pens.
The defense of the Canucks is mostly the same, but with Chris Tanev as a full-time starter. In goal, Roberto Luongo is putting more pressure than ever before upon himself, and will be looking to prove himself tonight. This game may come down to depth, and for the first time in a long time, the Canucks have solidified third and fourth lines.
Led by Jannik Hansen, Manny Malhotra and Max Lapierre, the Canucks could have two of the strongest depth lines in the league this season, and will be better than the Pens in that aspect tonight, which could be the difference maker.
The Pens enter the 2011/12 season hoping to return to glory and good health, with Evgeni Malkin back and seemingly ready to take over. Malkin dominated the preseason, and hopes to carry it over to the regular season. Although the Pens start the season without Sidney Crosby, he is expected to return soon, and the Pens made it to the seventh game against Tampa Bay in the 2011 playoffs without Crosby and Malkin, so they are still ever so dangerous without their franchise player.
The Penguins defense is unchanged from a year ago as is their goaltending. The Pens are a Cup contender this season, but won't be at their best tonight.
As mentioned earlier, this game is expected to come down to who has more depth and secondary scoring up front. Despite Hodgson starting on the second line, the Canucks win in this category and should win this game. We predict a 4-2 victory for the defending Western Conference Champions.