Pittsburgh Penguins Season Preview

The lockout is over, training camp has begun, and fans are anxiously waiting for the first drop of the puck to officially begin the Pittsburgh Penguins 2012-13 season. The Penguins ended their season last year in disappointment losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs. Coach Dan Bylsma  and GM Ray Shero have mad multiple moves in the off-season to improve their roster and hopefully make another run at the Stanley Cup. With a shortened season, 48 games, every game is crucial and will have a playoff like intensity. However, the question remains how will the team especially the new additions perform after only a 5 day training camp.

[caption id="attachment_55" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Sidney Crosby photo courtesy of Reuters/David Denoma"][/caption]

Penguins fans have been disappointed after 3 straight years of being eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, add in losing half a season of hockey because of the lockout and the fan base league wide is livid with the NHL as a whole. The Penguins management has made decisions as of late to thank the fans for their patience throughout the whole ordeal. For example, the first 4 home games will include free select refreshments, half off all merchandise in Penguins pro shops in the Consol Energy Center, and finally the first 14 games are all promotional nights including an Evgeni Malkin bobblehead. Training camp has also been opened to the public including a black/gold scrimmage Wednesday night free to fans. Owner Mario Lemieux has released an apology to the fans via the Penguins website and email for all fans on the mailing list. The Penguins management have handled this situation very well and have probably won back the majority of their fans who were skeptical going into this season.

In the offseason the biggest move the Penguins made was the trade of 6th year center Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first round draft pick, F Brandon Sutter, and D Brian Dumoulin. The Penguins also acquired 10th year veteran LW Tanner Glass. Glass spent last season with the Winnipeg Jets putting up a career high 16 pts in 78 games. His -12 +/- doesn't look good on his stat sheet however Glass has been around the league for a while and is a quick learner which is valuable with the shortened training camp. Two other new comers to training camp this season are 21 year old RW Beau Bennet and 22 year old C Jayson Megna who will both be competing for a roster spot throughout the week. Tomas Vokoun the 36 year old Goalie was added to the roster over the summer to back up Marc Andre Fleury which will be critical with the condensed schedule.

The Penguins open the season against their hated rival Philadelphia Flyers Saturday January 19th at 3pm, followed by a matchup with the New York Rangers, both away games. With a healthy Sidney Crosby, returning league mvp Evgeni Malkin already in game shape from his play in Russia, and one of the best net minders in the league Marc Andre Fleury the Penguins are a real threat this season. In the first release of Las Vegas' favorites to win the Cup the Penguins are atop that list. Penguins haven't missed the playoffs since 2005-06 and shouldn't miss them this year.

Here are my predictions for this shortened 2012-13 season. Most goals scored for the Penguins Evgeni Malkin with 32. Assists Sidney Crosby with 55. Overall record for the Penguins 30-15-3. Expect to see Eric Tangradi playing on Malkin's line along with James Neal replacing Chris Kunitz who has been moved to Crosby's line along side Pascal Dupuis. Sutter will play C on the 3rd line with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke. Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, and Dustin Jeffery will make up the 4th line and the defense will look very similar to last year minus Zbynek Michalek so expect to see Simon Despres taking his spot.

Zach Helbling is a senior writer for chatsports.com who writes about Pittsburgh teams including Pirates, Steelers, Panthers, and Penguins. He works full time as a FedEx driver in the Pittsburgh area and can be reached directly at zhelbling@chatsports.com or follow him on twitter @DJZachyzach.

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