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GameDay Caterwaul: Florida Panthers at Pittsburgh Penguins

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Last ditch playoff effort starts tonight

NHL: Florida Panthers at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers (28-26-11 67P) vs Penguins (34-22-9 77P)

  • WHEN: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • WHERE: PPG Paints Arena - Pittsburgh, PA
  • ON THE TUBE: FOX Sports Florida, ATTSN-PT, SportsNet
  • ON THE DIAL: 560 WQAM (D/B), 640 WMEN (PB), 1370 WAXE (TC), Thunder 100.3 (Keys)
  • SOCIALS: #FlaPanthers, #LetsGoPens, #FLAvsPIT, @LitterBoxCats, LBC FaceBook
  • ENEMY INTEL: Pensburgh
  • FLA IN SEASON SERIES: Game 3 of 3 (1-1-0)
  • LAST MEETING: @FLA 3, PIT 2 (OT) - (Recap) - 2/7/2019
  • NEXT MEETING: Playoffs or 2019-20
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Luongo (14-14-3 .897/3.14 1SO) vs Murray (20-10-3 .913/2.90 3SO)
  • PLAYER STATS: Florida / Pittsburgh

Scouting Report (Courtesy of Stats LLC)

It seems as if Sidney Crosby is nearly willing the Pittsburgh Penguins into the playoffs.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the visiting Florida Panthers, Crosby has 10 points over the past four contests, including a goal and four assists Saturday in a 5-1 win at Montreal.

The Pittsburgh center and team captain, named Monday as the league’s No. 3 star of the week, had climbed into the top five in NHL scoring with 83 points going into Monday’s games.

”Just to see it and sit there and watch it front row, you really know he’s taking this team over and doing it every night,” linemate Jake Guentzel said.

With his next point, Crosby will become the 48th player in NHL history to reach 1,200 in his career. Crosby also is being pushed by the Penguins for Selke Trophy consideration for his strong backchecking and two-way play.

”He understands the position we’re in. He’s doing everything he can to help this team win,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He just plays the game the right way. ... He’s the best 200-foot player in the game.”

Pittsburgh has made the playoffs the past 12 seasons, or every season of Crosby’s career except his rookie campaign. With 17 games remaining, the Penguins (34-22-9, 77 points) are clinging to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

”(Games are) going to be important all the way through here,” Crosby said. “Everyone’s trying to do their part. Especially with the injuries we have, everyone’s just trying to make sure that they’re contributing in any way they can.”

The Penguins are without three of their top four defensemen -- Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta -- as well as winger Bryan Rust. Dumoulin returned to practice in a limited capacity Monday, while Letang and Maatta skated before practice.

Florida (28-26-11) sits 10 points behind Pittsburgh, and its playoff hopes are quickly dwindling.

That was underscored Sunday when the Panthers fell 3-2 against Ottawa, which is last in the NHL and had lost seven straight. The defeat ended Florida’s five-game point streak.

”There wasn’t a lot of gas in the tank,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.

It was the Panthers’ fifth game in seven days, and things don’t let up much. The game in Pittsburgh is the first of two straight on the road -- the other coming Thursday at Boston -- followed by a Friday date at home vs. Minnesota.

”The schedule just keeps getting tougher,” Boughner said. “This time of year, travel, Boston, Pittsburgh, then come home for a couple and then back out West again. Lots of games in March. It’s our busiest month of the year. We’ve just got to keep plugging and trying to keep pulling points.”

Florida is trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the 20th time in 25 seasons.

”We’ve got to be able to accumulate points and find ways to win,” Panthers winger and top goal scorer Mike Hoffman said.

It might be a little too late after the loss to the Senators.

”We needed two points and need two points every night now. This was not good,” center Vincent Trocheck, a native of suburban Pittsburgh, said. “We’re not in a playoff spot, and no one is going to be happy with that. This is our job, right? Our life. We’re not happy to lose games. No one is.”

The two teams split the first two meetings this season, as the Panthers fell at Pittsburgh 5-1 Jan. 8, before picking up a 3-2 overtime win Feb. 7 at home.

Tuesday in the Atlantic (Standings/Panthers Playoff Chances):

  • Carolina (36-23-6 78P) at BOSTON (37-19-9 83P) 7 p.m.
  • OTTAWA (23-38-5 51P) at New York Islanders (37-21-7 81P) 7 p.m.
  • Winnipeg (39-22-4 82P) at TAMPA BAY (50-12-4 104P) 7:30 p.m.
  • DETROIT (23-33-9 55P) at Colorado (28-26-12 68P) 9 p.m.
  • MONTREAL (35-24-7 77P) at Los Angeles (24-33-8 56P) 10:30 p.m.

Idle: TOR (86P), BUF (68P)

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