The battles for spots on the opening night list for the Pittsburgh Penguins are over.
Now, it’s time for the front office and coaches to decide the winners.
And doing so while complying with the NHL’s maximum salary cap.
The Penguins finished off a stage show with a 7-1 victory over the Buffalo Friday night at the PPG Paints Arena.
Jake Goentzel, Sidney Crosby and Brian Rust scored in the first 14 minutes of the opening period to put the Penguins in front for survival, as they finished pre-season with a 3-3.
Now the focus shifts to matters off the ice.
Sometime before 5 p.m. Monday, Ron Hextal, Brian Burke, Mike Sullivan and other decision makers in the organization will parse the major league roster from 26 to 23 (or less) with the team cap trimmed to no more than $82.5 million.
According to CapFri Friendly.com, the current list of penguins puts them above the $3,343,508 cap.
There are still 14 strikers, nine defenders and three goalkeepers in the camp; The latest total includes Philip Lindbergh, who was called up by Wilkes Barre when illness forced Tristan Garry to sit down for a game in Detroit on Monday.
defenseman Ty Smithquarterback Sam Boleyn and Lindbergh were the only players currently on the Major League roster who could be assigned to Wilkes Barr/Scranton without removing concessions.
Assuming Gary and Casey Desmith are healthy, Lindbergh is a lock to be sent back to Wilkes Barre, and it looks like Pauline – despite putting on an impressive show during camp – will likely be sent there as well.
Smith got regular business along Jean Ruta On the No. 3 defensive pairing during pre-season, the numbers will be in the regular season opening lineup against Arizona next Thursday unless some cover double gives Hextall any reasonable option but to demote him.
While the Penguins can drop as low as 23 men by allocating Smith ($863,333), Pauline ($863,333) and Lindbergh ($925,000) to Wilkes Barre, these moves alone won’t get them under the roof. Thus, Hextall will either have to make a deal or expose at least one player to exemptions.
However, it is unlikely that anyone would have played their way out of their job against the Sabers.
Gary had to stop well for Jake Quinn during the first minute of play, but the penguins took over soon afterwards.
Guentzel made it 1-0 at 7:04 of the opening period, after Crosby picked up Vinnie Hinostrosa’s pass behind the Buffalo net and fed him the disc near the right hash.
Guentzel came back in the favour at 9:41, throwing a cross from the ice as Crosby slipped past goalkeeper Sabers Eric Comry From the left side of the tuck.
Smith blocked a rotating shot from Rota and made a pass to Rust, who overcame Comrie from the front lip of the crease at 13:49 to make the score 3-0.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ checking overwhelmed Buffalo for most of that opening period, and they ran with a 13-6 lead in shots.
Although the Sabers regrouped during the break and started the second period strong, the Penguins had a chance to overwhelm their lead when Buffalo defender Jacob Bryson was penalized for a foul at 4:26.
The No. 1 power play unit looked in mid-season shape – meaning it got past the ball really well – and ultimately resulted in a reduced goal for Vinny Hinostrosa, who beat Gary from inside the right circle to score. Break for one at 5:13.
The power game earned some amount of redemption at 10:11, when Crosby’s gauntlet shot and under the bar made it 5-1 with a shot past Comrie over the right circle. Smith’s shot looked like it was shooting off a stick before running away from Comrie, who was being checked by Kasperi Cabanen.
Danton Heinen pushed the lead to 6-1 at 5:30 of the third. He made a pass in front of the net from Jeff Carter, who was falling on the ice near a right corner, and confused Comrie with a series of moves before slipping the ball behind him.
Rust put an exclamation point on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ win by scoring from the right side of the hole with 31.9 seconds to go in regulation, closing in preseason scoring.