Reeling Penguins host Predators in Stanley Cup rematch
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators meet Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena in a rematch of last spring's Stanley Cup final, but both clubs seem more concerned with a slow start to this season.
As with last spring when they won the Cup in six games, the Penguins come out the winner in early-season reasons for concern.
While the Predators (0-1-0) fell 4-3 at Boston in their season opener, Pittsburgh is 0-1-1 after a 5-4 overtime loss to St. Louis on the night of the team's banner-raising ceremony and a demoralizing 10-1 loss at Chicago.
The lopsided loss to the Blackhawks on Thursday hasn't been easy for the Penguins to digest.
"You've got to evaluate it whether you win or lose," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "You've got to be honest about your game, and it hasn't been good enough. It's a tough lesson, but we've got to take something from it."
While the Predators spent Friday in Pittsburgh and practiced at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins scrapped practice and instead went over video from the 10-1 loss that might have played like a horror film.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan described it as showing the team "hard evidence" of its shortcomings.
"More so than results, our coaching staff is concerned (about) or focused on just the mindset or the commitment level to play the game the right way," Sullivan said. "When this team starts there, we're competitive. We can play with anybody. Sometimes we get in certain modes where we're trying to outscore teams instead of just playing the game the right way.
"The message to our group (Friday) was if we're going to play the game to our identity, which we've defined clearly and talk about daily, part of that identity is being a team that doesn't beat itself. I thought (Thursday) we broke that rule in so many different ways."
After the big loss, Crosby said it was "embarrassing" and defenseman Kris Letang said he felt he owed goaltenders Antti Niemi, who gave up four goals before being pulled, and Matt Murray, who gave up six goals, an apology.
By the time of the video session, "the mood was not emotional. It was more matter-of-fact," Sullivan said. "When you get stung like that, I think the most important takeaway is that we heed the lessons. Where are we going to go from here? How are we going to respond?"
Nashville wasn't thrilled with its opening game Thursday against the Bruins but wasn't as shaken as Pittsburgh. So the Predators were better able to look toward Saturday's rematch.
"I think this is a game we'll get up for, for sure," center Nick Bonino told NHL.com. He signed with Nashville as a free agent after winning the Cup with Pittsburgh -- although he was hurt during the final.
"I think everybody will be going pretty hard. We didn't have it (Thursday). There's no excuses Saturday night. I want to beat my old team. They want to beat a rival. So it should be a fun game."
It offers Nashville a chance at a little pride restoration, if not redemption.
"It's not going to give us anything back from last year," Predators defenseman Yannick Weber told The Tennessean. "But after the final, it's definitely a little bit of a rivalry now. It still stings that we lost."
With both teams looking for a first win and the season less than a week old, the game Saturday could help both teams get a gauge on their direction in the early going.
"It's a good look in the mirror, I think. A good look in the mirror," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
Updated October 6, 2017