LBC Game Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins at Florida Panthers

USA TODAY Sports

The Cats open at home against the always-Cup contending Penguins. Can Florida wash away the bad taste of last night's debacle in Tampa Bay, or will the Pens extend their misery?

The Panthers host the Penguins tonight in Florida's home opener at BB&T Center in Sunrise for the first of three contests this season. They play in South Florida again on November 30th, and visit Pittsburgh on January 20th. Florida just closed up a four game season-opening road trip. They started it out with a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday, and continued with an embarrassing 7-0 shutout at the hands of the St. Louis Blues Saturday. On Tuesday, they played very well but came out with a moral victory and an injured goaltender in a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers before the bottom fell out against the Bolts last night, 7-2. They go on to host the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday before visiting the Nashville Predators.

The Penguins opened the season with three home victories. They defeated the New Jersey Devils, 3-0 last Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1 on Saturday, and the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2 on Tuesday. They'll visit the Lightning tomorrow before returning home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

A Look Back

These two last faced off on April 13th in Sunrise. The visiting 31-10-0 Penguins were playing for home ice in the Eastern Conference, while the 13-21-6 Panthers just tried to save face. Scottie Upshall scored his third goal of the season, with assists from Jack Skille and Brian Campbell in Florida's only marker of the 3-1 loss. Jacob Markstrom stopped 19-of-21 shots, but took the loss for the Panthers.

Kris Letang and Brenden Morrow scored to give the Penguins a 2-0 first-period lead, and they held on for a 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Morrow added an empty-net goal with 20.5 seconds left.

Penguins @ Panthers Highlights 4-13-13 (via PenguinsHighlights)

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen spoke afterward:

That's always a disappointment for the 18,000 fans, you want to see those premier players. If you pay a lot of money to see the [Miami] Heat and you don't get to see LeBron [James] right now, that would have a little sting to it. I enjoy watching those good players play, but at the end of it, they've been down this road before where they're missing their quality players and they always have a response and that gets back to that team concept and they have that.

I'm not even going to recap last night's game (though Chris did). It wasn't pretty.

Today

GameTime: 7:30 PM ET, FS-FLA, FS-SW, WQAM, LBC GameThread at 7:00

All-Time Record: Florida is 32-31-4-9 lifetime against the Pens, good for a 50.7% success rate in earning points against them.

Season Series: First meeting

Standings:

Florida Panthers, 1-3-0, .250, 2 points, on pace for 41 points. Seventh in the Atlantic Division, tied for 12th in the Eastern Conference, tied for 23rd in the NHL. Last five: x-W-L-L-L.

Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0-0, 1.000, 6 points, on pace for 164 points. First in the Metropolitan Division, tied for second in the Eastern Conference, tied for fourth in the NHL. x-x-W-W-W.

Common Thread

Florida defenseman Ryan Whitney played his first three professional seasons in Pittsburgh, scoring 32 goals with 105 assists and an even rating over 225 games.

Pittsburgh bottom six winger Tanner Glass played 44 games over two seasons with the Cats, totaling a goal, an assist, a minus-5 rating, and 46 PIM.

Panthers Milestones

Games

D Mike Weaver will tie Steve Montador with his 196th Panthers contest, in 43rd. F Shawn Matthias will play in his 258th game, passing Kristian Huselius and Mike Van Ryn into 28th all time.

Goals

Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg each have 25 career Panthers goals, tied for 47th. A 26th goal for either will break a tie with Mike Van Ryn. Shawn Matthias and Tomas Fleischmann have 39 goals apiece, tied for 29th all time, a goal for either will move them into a tie for 28th with Juraj Kolnik.

Assists

Matthias, with 42 assists, is tied with Gary Roberts for 49th all-time. Fleischmann tallied another assist last night, giving him 59 with the Panthers. One more will move him into 31st, tying him with Dave Lowry and Ray Sheppard. Dmitry Kulikov's next assist will be his 65th, moving him into a tie at 29th with captain Ed Jovanovski. Brian Campbell currently has 72 assists, is tied for 21st place with Stu Barnes, and will move into the top 20 all-time with two more, tying Johan Garpenlov.

Birthdays

12 time 20 goal scorer Jason Arnott turns 39 today.

Probable Starting Lineups

Florida Panthers

Forwards
Defensemen
Goaltenders

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards
Defensemen
Goaltenders

Check out PensBurgh for more on the opposition, and keep it tuned right here for the LBC GameThread, going live at 7 p.m.

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