NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Blues vs. Penguins; Flyers vs. Sharks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season kicks off with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. In the early game, the Pittsburgh Penguins host the St. Louis Blues at 8:00 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here

For the second year in a row, the Penguins will be raising a Stanley Cup banner to the rafters. After last year’s win, the roster didn’t go through much change, but things are different this year.

Pittsburgh lost Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft, and Trevor Daley, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Ron Hainsey and Chris Kunitz in free agency.

They still have core players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray, but their depth has taken a serious hit.

The fact they’ve lost some key players and that they have two long playoff runs in their legs won’t be easy things to overcome just don’t tell head coach Mike Sullivan that.

“There were a lot of people last year when we were going into training camp that were telling us that we couldn’t repeat,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune. “History was against us. Statistics were against us. But these guys found ways to compete and bring their best effort every day and we ended up repeating with back-to-back championships.

As for the Blues, they’ve already had to deal with their share of adversity and the season hasn’t even started yet. St. Louis just couldn’t seem to shake the injury bug in training camp, as they’ll be without forwards Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund, Zach Sanford, Robby Fabbri (out for the year) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

One of the young forwards that has benefited from all these injuries, is 2016 first-round Tage Thompson, who will be sticking around with the Blues for now. The 19-year-old wrapped up his collegiate career with 19 goals and 32 points in 34 games with the University of Connecticut before scoring one goal and one assist in 16 AHL games in 2016-17.

“What I like about Tage, what I’ve seen is that his mind is in the game no matter what happens on the ice,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If he’s in the ‘D’ zone, he’s thinking the game, he’s aware, he’s alert. If he is in the offensive zone, he has that same mindset. He wants to make a difference, whether it’s defensively or offensively right now. He’s engaged.”

It’ll be interesting to see how they manage to overcome all these key injuries early on.

In the late game, the San Jose Sharks host the Philadelphia Flyers 10:30 p.m. ET. To stream that game live, click here

For the first time in 20 years, the Sharks will open the regular season without Patrick Marleau, which is still kind of weird. Marleau bolted for Toronto in free agency.

But even with the departure of Marleau, the Sharks are still a relatively old team. Joe Thornton, Joel Ward, Joe Pavelski, Jannik Hansen, Brent Burns, Paul Martin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Justin Braun are all between 30 and 38 years old.

San Jose was able to make the playoffs last season and they went to the Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago, but is this the year they start regressing?

Head coach Pete DeBoer already called out some of his youngsters during the preseason, which isn’t a good sign. The youth on the roster will have to contribute if they hope to have success in 2017-18.

If the Sharks are considered an old team, the Flyers are pretty much the opposite of that. Sure, they still have older players like Valtteri Filppula, Andrew MacDonald and Brian Elliott, but those are their only three players over the age of 30 right now, and none of those three are older than 33.

Philadelphia is particularly young on the blue line, as they’re currently carrying three rookies. Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim are all on the roster. Ivan Provorov, who is entering his second year in the NHL, is still just 20 years old.

It’s an interesting start to the season for the Flyers. After they’re done with the Sharks, they’ll be traveling to Los Angeles to play the Kings tomorrow night, Anaheim to play the Ducks on Saturday and Nashville to play the defending Western Conference Champs on Tuesday. That’s not exactly easing your way into the season.

The good news for the Flyers, is that it sounds like Shayne Gostisbehere, who was injured during the preseason, will be available for tonight’s opener.