SEASON PREVIEW — Part 3: The Return Of The Kings

We are previewing the 2011-2012 Penguins season all week.
We ended last year's season preview with this:
All that's missing during their reign is one complete season where both are in your mouth every night.
Either Crosby's injured and Malkin leads, or Malkin's injured and Crosby leads.
Make up your minds.
Fuck off.
Last season, as we've all said thousands of times, was the sum of all fears. Both Crosby and Malkin suffered equally devastating injuries. But maybe it was just an act by the hockey gods only delaying the inevitable. This all could have been part of the plan. The Penguins, the city of Pittsburgh, and probably your car in the morning are run by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Make no mistake; they will both be back with complete motivation.
The chances of both of them getting hurt and being done for the season were extreme. So what are the chances of both of them coming back and putting huge seasons together?  As you think about that, jump over and read Dejan's piece about Sid.
But as much as we'd love to see Crosby and Malkin go apeshit, we know they'll need a little help from their friends.
It is time to preview the forwards…
The above picture of Steve MacIntyre previews his roles this season. 
1. Sit on the bench.
2. Congratulate others for scoring.
MacIntyre is apparently the protection for the Pens stars, which, unless he is allowed to shoot people with AK47's, doesn't make a ton of sense.
Richard Park kills penalties like his sac is about to be cut off. He is like Dominic Moore if Dominic Moore didn't look like a real-estate agent.
Joe Vitale went out and earned himself a job, probably the most honorable thing you can do in life. Vitale will be compared a lot to Max Talbot for some reason, and that is already a shame.  Really looking forward to seeing what he can do and how much of a shot he will get as far as playing time goes.  He wins faceoffs.
The Crosby injury sucked.
The Malkin injury sucked.
The Dustin Jeffrey injury sucked.
Jeffrey basically was just too good in W-B/S last year. He gave the Pens no choice. Before his knee injury, Jeffrey was scoring big goals and winning games. His performance against the eventual Stanley Cup champs, in Boston, was his breakout game. 
He will start the season on IR, but once he is healthy, he'll get a look in the top six somewhere.
Test Tube had a solid season, but you could tell he wore down late. As he made his way up the depth chart, his points decreased. He will be a serviceable third-line/fourth-line center.
Asham was bothered with a concussion last season but came back and was cash in the playoffs. Solid career when you sit back and look at it.  You win Cups with players like Asham.
Craig Adams just cares a lot. No clue what else to even say.  He's recovered from his appendectomy and is set to go.  Usually the linchpin of the penalty-killing unit.
Almost feel like Brendan Shanahan is going to be waiting for Matt Cooke at every turn this season. Cooke plays on the edge, and he has been paid well to do it. Now he must change his game because Brendan Shanahan wants to make a video about him.  And because we don't want to see any more head shots.  He'll be skating on eggshells every night.
If Crosby wouldn't have gotten hurt, Dupes may have had infinite points last season, and then the Panthers would have signed him to a $25-million deal. We'll take 37 or 38 points all day.
Sullivan can score. No question about that at all. But can he stay healthy for an entire season? It is very possible he could be a huge help to Malkin while reaping the benefits.  When you've played 890 NHL games, you know what's going on.
Can TK follow up with another 20-goal season? He'll get his chance.  He'll be in top 6 all season. Hope all of his goals are on the road so we don't have to hear the Kennedy…KENNEDY thing a lot.
Jordan Staal couldn't get healthy last year. But with a summer of actual training (with Gary Roberts). he could be poised to return to form. The ghosts of his rookie season still haunt him, but, man, would a 25-goal season do wonders for the Pens. Over/Under until the first serious "trade Staal" comment is made on the Internet is November 13th.
If the Penguins get 27 goals from James Neal this season, they'll probably win about 5 more games. Neal is the biggest X Factor on the Penguins roster.
Everyone was underwhelmed with Neal last season, but one good season puts that all to bed. If this season doesn't produce at least 15 goals, some new-age fan will probably light himself on fire on Carson Street.
Kind of an awkward year for Kunitz coming up. He is in the last year of his contract, and with James Neal needing re-signed after this season as well, it would seem Kunitz's money would be going to Neal.  They may be playing head-to-head against each other all season for the cash.  Still, Kunitz was a beast last season. If he doesn't get hurt last year, he scores 30.
Look. The. Fuck. Out.  Anyone who types more than 5 sentences when previewing Malkin's upcoming season is probably the most bored person alive.
In the calendar year of 2010, Crosby had something like 200 points between two seasons and the Olympics.
He hasn't scored in 2011 yet.
Buckle up.


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