Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (31-21-9, 71 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division) @ Florida Panthers (30-27-6, 66 points, 6th place Atlantic Division)
When: 6:00 p.m. EST
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh in the Western PA market, Bally Sports Florida for Cats fans, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Both the Penguins and Panthers are 5-5-0 over their last ten game, but unlike the Penguins (who are trending upwards) the Panthers have alternated wins and losses over the stretch and haven’t been able to build up any kind of momentum. Florida’s most recent outing was a 2-1 regulation loss on Thursday to the visiting Predators.
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins are now settling in for a long stretch at PPG Paints as the Blue Jackets, Islanders, Flyers, Rangers and Canadiens come to town over the next week. That matchup against the Islanders will have major playoff race implications.
Season Series: The Penguins have claimed victory the first two games of this season series against the Panthers, with a 4-2 win featuring a Kris Letang shorty in Florida in December and a wild 7-6 game which Letang ended in overtime during his return to the Penguins’ lineup at PPG Paints Arena in January.
Getting to know the Panthers
SBN partner blog: Litter Box Cats
Potential Game Lines
Anton Lundell - Aleksander Barkov? - Sam Reinhart
Carter Verhaeghe - Sam Bennett? - Matthew Tkachuk
Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Anthony Duclair
Colin White - Eric Staal - Zac Dalpe
Gustav Forsling / Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal / Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura / Radko Gudas
Goalies: Sergei Bobrovsky (Alex Lyon)
IR: Patric Hornqvist (out indefinitely, concussion), Givani Smith (took a Radko Gudas shot to the face last week)
Non-roster: Spencer Knight (player assistance program)
- Head coach Paul Maurice does not expect Patric Hornqvist, who has been out since December with concussion issues, to play again this season. Wishing good health to this former Penguin.
- The Panthers have been dealing for the last few weeks with gaps in their lineup due to injuries to their top two centers, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett. Bennett has been missing since he left a game early after a painful hit on February 14, and Barkov has been out since February 20 with an assumed hand injury. Maurice says Barkov and Bennett are both likely to return tonight, but neither is guaranteed and we will only know for sure in the morning, says George Richards of Florida Hockey Now.
- The Panthers have made no trades in 2023.
- The Panthers are one of the NHL’s higher-scoring teams, and even with Barkov and Bennett missing they still have formidable weapons in the form of Carter Verhaege, who is enjoying a career year, and Matthew Tkachuk, who might be on his way to his second straight 100-point season. Both have been relatively quiet over the Panthers’ last few contests, but that can’t last for long— and the potential return of their two top centers might spark something from these dangerous scorers.
- It may not be 2017 anymore, but Sergei Bobrovsky, who the Panthers have said they plan to lean on down the stretch, is still capable of highlight-reel saves in big moments.
- The penalty kill has been a struggle for the Panthers all season, and it currently boasts one of the worst kill rates in the NHL. It should perhaps, however, be noted that this struggling unit did score shorthanded on the Penguins’ power play during the teams’ last meeting on January 24.
- The Panthers put more pucks on net each game than any other team in the league, so the Penguins goalie should brace for a barrage tonight.
And now for the Pens...
In Case of Bonino Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Mikael Granlund - Nick Bonino? - Jeff Carter
Danton Heinen - Drew O’Connor - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Chad Ruhwedel, Drake Caggiula, Ryan Poehling, Dmitry Kulikov?
- Born-again Penguin Nick Bonino is expected to make it to Florida in time for the game tonight, according to Taylor Haase of DK Pittsburgh Sports. He will likely be taking over Carter’s duties as third-line center, causing Carter to shift to the wing.
- We’ll guess that if Bonino is in, Granlund will join the third line as well, mostly because five million dollars is a lot to bury on the fourth.
- The Penguins also got defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from the Ducks in exchange for Brock McGinn. He might be a a depth defense option, like last year’s pickup of the injured Nate Beaulieu.
- Drew O’Connor (and Drake Caggiula) were assigned to the AHL in a paper move yesterday, but they could be moved back up today.
- Ryan Poehling had a setback in his injury recovery on Thursday and indications are he will not be returning this weekend.
- Kris Letang got 24 stitches in his lip in the middle of Thursday’s game. He came back and played the rest of it, of course.
Another great line from Tanger today when Potash asked if there was any hesitation about coming back to finish last night's game:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 3, 2023
"No, it's fine. You still have your arms and legs. It's not like I need my lips, you know? It's not like I'm chirping anyone out there."