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Penguins notebook: Season opens with tough three-game stretch

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, 5:48 p.m.
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne makes a save against the Penguins in the third period during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins face the Predators on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne makes a save against the Penguins in the third period during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins face the Predators on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.

Before the Penguins open their season Wednesday night, they'll see the franchise's fifth championship banner raised to the rafters of the PPG Paints Arena.

Once the puck drops, they'll be reminded pretty quickly how hard it's going to be to raise a sixth.

The Penguins will start the season with a brutal stretch of games.

They open with St. Louis, a team that went 22-8-2 after replacing coach Ken Hitchcock with Mike Yeo last season before adding Brayden Schenn in an offseason trade with the Flyers.

After the game, they'll fly to Chicago for a Thursday meeting with the Blackhawks, the other team in the league with three championships in the last nine years. From there, it's back home for a Saturday night Stanley Cup Final rematch with Nashville.

“That's a tough first three games,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about the schedule. We just have to work our way through it. We have to manage that fatigue as best we can and when we have days off, really take advantage of it and rest up for the next three in four we have the week after that.”

The three games in four days the week after, incidentally, has road games at Eastern Conference favorites Washington and Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Thursday before a home game against Florida on Saturday.

Don't fight it

Heavyweight Ryan Reaves, who will make his Penguins debut against his old team in St. Louis on Wednesday night, didn't get a chance to record a fighting major in the four games he played in the preseason.

In fact, no one fought in any of the seven exhibition games the Penguins played.

Reaves said that development doesn't surprise him.

“I think in the past, a lot of fights are guys coming up in that role that are just there to fight,” Reaves said. “That role isn't really there anymore, so you only see the fights when something major that happens in a game. In all the games I saw, nothing major really happened.”

Make it a dozen

For the 12th consecutive season, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang appeared on the Penguins' opening-night roster together.

“I hope we three guys play 10 more years together,” Malkin said. “They're special two guys for me, of course. They're amazing players. ... I hope this year is no injuries for us and we play together for a full season and ready for playoffs, too.”

Drop the puck already

Now that he's turned 30, Crosby admitted that opening night has a slightly different feel. He's still excited but for a different reason.

“Preseason games and you practice so much, I like to get to the games,” Crosby said. “It's more probably a mix of excitement and relief that the season's finally starting and these games are for real.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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