Game Day Preview: Florida Panthers at Pittsburgh Penguins

SUNRISE FL - NOVEMBER 22: Shawn Matthias #18 of the Florida Panthers (R) and Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight for control of the puck behind the net on November 22 2010 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Florida. The Penguins defeated the Panthers 3-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Florida: 29-33-10 (68PTS)
Pittsburgh: 44-23-8 (96PTS)
Season Series: 0-2-0
Race to the Bottom: 30 EDM (57), 29 COL (64), 28 OTT (67), 27 FLA (68), 26 NYI (70), 25 NJD (73)
Record before and after the trade deadline: 26-29-7 (59PTS) .476 / 3-7-3 (9PTS) .346

The Penguins host the Panthers in an afternoon game, one which would be in the national broadcast slot if there was one today. NBC, probably wisely, decided they didn't want their lunch eaten by the NCAA basketball tournament and have instead scheduled an exciting afternoon of infomercials golf instead. For those paying attention to the tournament, VCU's game against top seeded Kansas tips off at 2:20. Hockey > basketball, but sometimes tournament basketball > non-playoff lame duck hockey.

Last meeting: The Penguins won 5-2 in Pittsburgh just before Christmas. The game winner was scored by Matt Cooke, who won't be playing today. Vokoun was pulled after Cooke's goal, which was scored halfway through the first period.

Last game: The Panthers finally scored on the third game of their five game road trip, but still lost to the Buffalo Sabres. Stephen Weiss missed the first two games, and the Panthers were shut out in both.

Notes: Booth was hit by in the neck by a puck during the first period of Friday night's game. He left that game, but will play today. Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille will miss today's game. They both returned from injury on Wednesday, but were not quite in game shape and missed Friday's game.

Injuries: Scott Timmins, concussion, unknown (3/10/2011). Rostislav Olesz, knee, out for the season (2/25/2011). Byron Bitz (IR), sports hernia, out for the season.

Starting goaltenders: Tomas Vokoun will once again start for the Panthers. Vokoun has been strong in net the last couple games and is becoming increasingly angry at the play of the team in front of him.

Lines:
Forwards:
Bergfors - Weiss - Samsonov
Booth - Reasoner - Dadonov
Rissmiller - Santorelli - Repik
Hordichuk - Carter - Bernier

Defense:
Weaver-Garrison
Kulikov-Ellerby
Callahan-Sulzer

The Panthers usually turn in strong late season performances against the Penguins, but the team is a bit of a disaster right now. The Penguins, for their part, are missing stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but haven't stopped winning games. They're currently seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference though they have four points on the third place Bostom Bruins and are only four points back from the Conference and Atlantic Division leading Philadelphia Flyers. They're spending the next several weeks without the services of one Matt Cooke, who was suspended until the second round of the playoffs for being a violent moron. Crosby won't be back for today's game, but the Panthers probably don't have much chance of winning. The best they can hope for is to not be embarrassed.

More from our Pittsburgh cohorts at PensBurgh

Panthers vs Penguins coverage at SBNation.com

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