Game Preview: the Chicago Blackhawks Host the Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins v Arizona Coyotes
Pittsburgh Penguins v Arizona Coyotes / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

In a rematch from opening night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins will travel to face the Blackhawks at the United Center tonight. Unlike opening night however, there will not be a Connor Bedard vs Sidney Crosby hype before hand.

It was expected that Pittsburgh, coming into the season, was going to be at the very least in the conversation for one of the last playoff spots. With a new GM, a commitment to the core of players now solidified, the Penguins should be at this stage of the year making a case to be a much better team than what they've shown (especially recently).

With just 53 points in 50 games, on a 3 match skid no less, they find themselves as the 12th team in the standings in conference and 24th in the league. Veterans Sidney Crosby, Erik Karlsson, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Rickard Rakell, Bryan Rust, Tristian Jarry, and Ryan Graves are all locked up. That group of players is likely to be the base of what returns in for next seaon.

Not only that, but the Erik Karlsson deal could potentially see the Penguins without a 1st round pick (it's top 10 protected) in this draft. With a bleak outlook ahead, it's Jake Guentzel that could see himself being traded imminently. The 29 year old star winger is set to be a UFA and would likely net a return of a 1st round pick plus another asset or two.

Tied for the team lead with 52 points on the season, Guentzel will likely be the #1 player on the trade board heading into March for teams across the league looking to go all in on a Stanley Cup run this season. This wasn't what fans of the Penguins were likely looking for this year, but the reality surely has set in for most at this point.

From the Blackhawks point of view, this has to be looked at as a winnable matchup. At home, against a team on a cold streak, and with nothing to lose Chicago should try to be aggressive around the net. Will they pull off a rare "W" tonight?

IF reports are true that Connor Bedard could make a return tonight, perhaps a win is exaxctly what may come to fruition.

Sidney Crosby, Connor Bedard
2024 NHL All-Star Skills / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages