Florida Panthers 5-7-4 (14 pts) at Pittsburgh Penguins 11-6-0 (22 pts)
Coming off a huge 5-2 win in Philadelphia, the Panthers are right back at it tonight at 7 pm in Pittsburgh. The Panthers will be facing the ever dangerous Penguins whose 22 points are good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Florida meanwhile, got back in the win column after suffering through a five game losing streak that saw the team go 0-2-3. The Panthers have 14 points and are 13th in the Eastern Conference. Tonight’s matchup pits the Panther’s league worst -18 goal differential against the Penguins conference best +13 goal differential.
The Panthers have been unable to solve the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins have won 10 of the last 12 meetings between these teams. Things are even worse for the Panthers when playing in Pittsburgh as the Panthers have lost their last seven games there. Florida has only won one game out of the last 11 played in Pittsburgh. (Source)
In the four match ups between the teams last year, Florida went 1-2-1. Tonight is the first of three games between the teams this season. The loser of tonight’s game will not have to wait long to exact revenge as the two teams will meet again on February 26th in Florida.
Players to Watch:
While Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the two monster stars on the Penguins, it has been James Neal who has lead the team in goals this season. Neal’s 12 goals put him in a tie with Thomas Vanek for most goals in the league. Crosby and Malkin are first and second on the Penguins in points due to their large assist totals. It seems like Neal has been the beneficiary of all those assists.
It did not take long for Jonathan Huberdeau to develop into the most dangerous scoring threat on the Panther’s roster. Huberdeau scored two goals last night against the Flyers while also adding two helpers. Huberdeau has emphatically thrown his name into the rookie of the year conversation. His eight goals lead all NHL rookies and he is two points behind Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher for the rookie points lead.
Tonight we could get a glimpse of the future as highly touted Panther prospect Jacob Markstrom could make his season debut in net against the Penguins. Markstrom was called up Wednesday and appears to be in line to get the start tonight. With the way Theodore and Clemmensen have struggled so far this season, Markstrom has an opportunity to seize the starting goalie position with a couple strong games.
The Penguins appear to be fully healthy while the Panthers will continue to be without forwards Kris Versteeg, Scott Upshall and Sean Bergenheim. Panther Captain Ed Jovanovski remains out as well. Here is my estimation at the Panther’s lineup for tonight: