It’s here — opening night! Here’s to another season of hockey in Northeast Pennsylvania.

As for tonight, Charlotte is coming off a thrilling come-from-behind win on Friday against Hartford. So, we already know the Checkers are a resilient bunch. But does another day of travel — coupled with the emotions of the third period on Friday — maybe put them in a tough spot against a team playing its first game?

That’s one story line to watch. here are a couple others I’m keeping an eye on:

  1. As I pointed out in the scouting report, Charlotte was one of the AHL’s least penalized teams last season. So, will the Checkers be able to stay out of the penalty box tonight, or will the more stringent stick rules give the Penguins’ power-play units more chances to light the lamp?
  2. I asked a couple of the players and Donatelli on Friday if there will be any “nervous energy,” so to speak, because it’s the season-opener. Jean-Sebastien Dea said there very well might be; Andrey Pedan was a little more dismissive. Donatelli admitted the coaches are even a little more antsy to take part in games that count. In summary, will the Penguins be at their sharpest from the opening faceoff, or will it take a few minutes for them to get into a rhythm?
  3. Who is in goal for Charlotte? Alex Nedeljkovic is very inexperienced at the AHL level and has a career save percentage of .880. That seems like a great recipe for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as Donatelli likes to encourage the team to shoot the puck on net as much as possible. But if, instead, veteran Jeremy Smith mans the pipes, the Penguins might have to get a little more creative offensively and be opportunistic around the net to really be effective.

It should be a fun game, no matter. Follow along on Twitter @CVPiccotti if you can’t make it.

And let me also say I’m just as excited for this season as you are. To all who have already sent kind words the past couple weeks, it really means a lot to me. I will do my best to bring A+ effort all year long.

Let the fun begin!