Who: Florida Panthers (23-21-5, 51 points, 4th place Atlantic Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (23-15-8, 54 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh in the Western PA viewing market, Bally Sports Florida for the visitors
Opponent Track: After a rough and injury-plagued start to the season, things have been starting to click for the Panthers, who strung together a season-best five-game point streak heading into Monday. (That included an expensive loss for head coach Paul Maurice, who was fined $25k by the NHL after he blamed Panthers penalties on a personal spat between him and a referee.) The streak ended last night at Madison Square Garden, where the Cats were routed 6-2 by the Rangers.
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins are set for three games in five days this week, with a trip to Washington on Wednesday bookended by home contests against the Panthers today and the Sharks on Friday. Then everyone but Sidney Crosby (barring the sudden onset of any mysterious illnesses) will get a week off as a bye week and the All-Star weekend puts a pause to Penguins hockey until February 7.
Season Series: Special teams lifted the Penguins above the Panthers in Game 1 of the season series on December 15, when a shorthanded goal from Kris Letang and two strikes from the top power-play unit lifted the Pens to a 4-2 win at the BB&T Center.
Hidden Stat: Given that the Panthers were battling at MSG less than 24 hours ago, it’s good to note that Florida has a 1-5-0 record in the second half of back-to-back sets so far this season.
Getting to know the Panthers
SBN partner blog: Litter Box Cats
Thursday’s Game Lines
Anton Lundell - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart
Carter Verhaeghe - Sam Bennett - Matthew Tkachuk
Nick Cousins - Eetu Luostarinen - Grigori Denisenko
Ryan Lomberg - Eric Staal - Givani Smith
Gustav Formling / Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal / Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura / Radko Gudas
Goalies: Spencer Knight (Alex Lyon started last night)
Scratches: Chris Tierney, Colin White, Casey Fitzgerald, Sergei Bobrovsky (lower body injury)
IR: Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair
- Former Penguin Patric Hornqvist has been on the injured reserve since early December due to a possible concussion suffered after a high hit.
- Anthony Duclair has been skating in a no-contact jersey with the Panthers, but he’s still working his way toward rejoining the team after Achilles surgery this summer.
- Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled just two minutes into a game against the Canadiens on Thursday and has not played since then. Spencer Knight, who was on a conditioning stint with the Charlotte Checkers for the weekend, was recalled from the AHL yesterday. Alex Lyon was shelled by the Rangers last night, so it will likely either be Knight or Bobrovsky facing the Penguins today.
If the Penguins do see Knight, it will be his first NHL action since an injury sustained January 8.
At the time of the injury, Knight had been struggling as the Panthers’ backup, with three or more goals against allowed in each of his last five starts heading into January 8. But he made his return to hockey in sparkling fashion with a shutout behind a 9-0 Checkers win over Cleveland this weekend.
Checkers coach Geordie Kinnear on Knight’s performance, via the Charlotte Checkers:
“He was real good. He had that big save in the second to keep it at zero, which is what we want. Obviously he’s been here before and he’s a world-class goalie, but you always like when guys come down and play very well, and he came down with a great attitude and played very well.”
- Matthew Tkachuk cleared 100 points last season and is set to do it again this year. His 59 points in 45 games (24 goals, 35 assists) rank him among the NHL’s top producers.
- Maurice addressed Anton Lundell’s flagging production by moving him from center to wing the other week— in order to “take some pressure of him” with “a simpler game on the wing,” reports Florida Hockey Now— and it’s paid off. Lundell has three goals and five points in his last four games and is a player to watch out for.
- The Panthers have struggled with goaltending all season, and given that their two goaltenders who did not play last night will be making returns from injury today, the category remains a giant question mark.
- Florida has not been a strong team on the kill— it would be a good opportunity for the Penguins to get something going on the power play.
- The Panthers made history this weekend, which the Penguins— who have been burned by last-minute goals against once or twice this season— might find worrying:
Anton Lundell (19:47 of P1), Carter Verhaeghe (19:32 of P2) and Sam Reinhart (19:21 of P3) each found the back of the net in the final 40 seconds of a period to help the @FlaPanthers defeat the Wild at FLA Live Arena.#NHLStats: https://t.co/sRlvopxrpn pic.twitter.com/MzinpLBRbe— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 22, 2023
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Brock McGinn - Teddy Blueger - Jeff Carter
Drew O’Connor - Ryan Poehling - Danton Heinen
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
Brian Dumoulin / Mark Friedman
P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Ty Smith, Kasperi Kapanen (lower body injury, week-to-week)
IR: Jan Rutta, Josh Archibald, Kris Letang
- Kris Letang reportedly does not know if he will be returning to the Penguins lineup before the All-Star weekend.
- Archibald joined Penguins practice on Saturday but did not seem to be practicing line rushes.
- The Penguins will practice this morning before the game tonight, and any late injury/return news will be available then.