Pittsburgh Penguins preview

Overview: The Pittsburgh Penguins are once again going to struggle to find someone to play alongside Sidney Crosby.

Every year, it’s the same questions going into the season: Who’s going to be on Crosby’s wing? Who can help take some pressure off of him?

The Pens brass try to get cheap help for him, and Crosby excels despite that. Imagine how good he would be if he had a Jari Kurri-type player to feed the puck to, or a Nicklas Backstrom to take some of the attention away.

But once again, Crosby doesn’t have that luxury. And despite that, he’ll still be among amongst the league leaders in points.

Best offseason move: Signing Paul Martin. Martin, along with freshly-signed Zbynek Michalek, will be counted on to shut down the opponents’ top lines. They’re both young and healthy enough that this isn’t a killer deal for the team in a few years.

Worst offseason move: Not replacing Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar wanted too much for too long, so letting him walk was a smart move. Maybe they’re hoping Alex Goligoski can lead the team on the powerplay. But Goligoski won’t be playing a lot of regular shifts, which means they don’t have someone who can give the outlet pass during regular play. It’s underrated, but you can see how bad the Pens powerplay is when Gonchar was injured. Having that d-man with the big shot is a big help, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the team copes without it.

Dark horse trophy candidate: Evgeni Malkin for the Rocket Richard

Pool pick: Jordan Staal. He’s never scored more than 49 points, as he’s the team’s top checking forward.  But he’s due for a breakout year, and probably more powerplay time. I expect him to finish with about 65 points. Who to stay away from: Mike Comrie. Please, if you can only take away one piece of advice about hockey pools, make it this: Never draft a player that, in the preseason, people are saying is going to be playing with Sidney Crosby. That person will kill your hockey pool.

Sporcle quiz: Can you name the Pittsburgh Penguins Leading Scorers?

Best hall of fame choice: Sidney Crosby. Stanley Cup. Check. Gold medal at world juniors. Check. Olympic gold medal. Check. Rocket Richard trophy. Check. Art Ross trophy. Check. Hart trophy. Check. A player fans of opposing teams would pay to watch. Check. All he needs now is the numbers, but considering he’s already got 183 goals and 506 points (and he’s only 23), he’s pretty much a shoo-in.

Blog to follow: The Pensblog

My Prediction: First in the Atlantic, third in the East

Famous celebrity from that city: Julie Benz

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