Early Favorites Meet

The promising young Pittsburgh Penguins and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks entered this season among the favorites to win their respective conferences. The beginning of the season hasn't gone according to plan for either team.

The Penguins look to bounce back from a season-opening loss while the Ducks hope to avoid the third defeat of their young season when the clubs meet in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The Penguins (0-1-0) tied for third in the NHL with 267 goals last season, but they didn't score until the final four minutes of their season-opening 4-1 loss to Carolina on Friday. Reigning league MVP Sidney Crosby was held scoreless with only one shot in more than 19 minutes on the ice.

"Just one game, but you want to start well - there's no hiding that," said the 20-year-old Crosby, who has scored at least 100 points in each of his first two seasons, including a league-high 120 last year. "You can't blow your season in the opener by any means, but you have to make sure you get in good habits."

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury hopes to rebound from an inauspicious season debut. Fleury, who won 40 games and posted five shutouts last season, gave up four goals before he was benched during the second intermission.

He could fare better at Mellon Arena, where he had a 2.39 goals against average in 2006-07 - compared to a 3.39 mark on the road.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Pittsburgh -190 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 6 total goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -190 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

While the Penguins are trying to bounce back at home, the Ducks (1-2-1) hope to finish a season-opening stretch of five games away from Anaheim on a positive note.

They opened the season by splitting two games against Los Angeles in London, before returning to North America for a shootout loss in Detroit on Wednesday and a 4-0 defeat at Columbus on Friday.

"Those are excuses," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said Friday when asked if his team was road-weary. "That's the way it goes. We didn't have the energy that was necessary to compete at the level they played at."

Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov fell to 0-2-1 with nine goals allowed in three starts this season. Jonas Hiller was in net for the Ducks' only win - a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday.

With Friday's defeat, the Ducks matched their number of regulation losses from the first two months of last season, which they opened 20-2-6 before suffering their third regulation loss on Dec. 3.

The Ducks beat the Penguins last Nov. 6 in their only meeting of 2006-07, as Teemu Selanne scored 44 seconds into overtime to give Anaheim a 3-2 victory at home. Selanne has 11 goals and 19 assists in 17 career games against the Penguins.

Crosby had one assist in that game - his only career contest against the Ducks.

Anaheim left wing Travis Moen was elbowed in the nose by a Columbus player in the second period on Friday and did not return. He was being evaluated after the game, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.

by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us

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