GameDay Caterwaul: Florida Panthers vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Cats welcome a couple of recently departed friends back

Panthers (21-22-8 50P) vs Penguins (28-19-6 62P)

  • WHEN: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • WHERE: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
  • ON THE TUBE: FOX Sports Florida, ATTSN-PT, SNE, SNO
  • ON THE DIAL: 560 WQAM (D/B), 640 WMEN (PB), 1370 WAXE (TC), Thunder 100.3 (Keys)
  • SOCIALS: #FlaPanthers, #LetsGoPens, #PITvsFLA, @LitterBoxCats, LBC FaceBook
  • ENEMY INTEL: Pensburgh
  • FLA IN SEASON SERIES: Game 2 of 3 (0-1-0)
  • LAST MEETING: @PIT 5, FLA 1 - (Recap) - 1/8/2019
  • NEXT MEETING: March 5, 2019
  • PROJECTED STARTERS:  Luongo (10-12-1 .895/3.17 1SO) vs DeSmith (13-9-4 .918/2.69 2SO)
  • PLAYER STATS: Florida / Pittsburgh/

Scouting Report (Courtesy of Stats LLC)

The Florida Panthers, who host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, are in the midst of an extraordinary stretch of 13 games that includes 12 at home.

So far, the Panthers have not taken advantage. They are 2-2-0 in their first four games of this run, including Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues.

Florida led 2-0 with 17 minutes left before allowing three goals, all from 5-on-5 play.

Captain Aleksander Barkov and rookie Henrik Borgstrom scored power-play goals for the Panthers, who also got 31 saves from backup goalie James Reimer, who had his personal two-game win streak snapped.

”We leave teams hanging around,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s a matter of bearing down and executing more on our chances.”

Indeed, the Panthers had the game’s first eight shots on goal. But, after getting out-shot 11-5 in the first period, the Blues came alive. They out-shot the Panthers 10-5 in the second period and 19-8 in the third.

Now coming to town is the Penguins, who beat Florida 5-1 in their only meeting so far this season, on Jan. 8.

Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby posted one goal and one assist in that game, and he has 61 points in 50 games this season.

However, Crosby and the Penguins were shut out 4-0 on Tuesday by the Carolina Hurricanes. The Penguins, who got 28 saves from goalie Matt Murray, have slumped to 3-6-0 in their past nine games.

”We have to find a way to score,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve got to find a way to make it hard on the opposing defense by having more offensive-zone time.”

The Penguins were without star center Evgeni Malkin, who sat out a third straight game due to a reported hand injury.

There is no word yet on whether Malkin will return on Thursday, but Crosby knows his team must play better if they are to get back on track.

”We didn’t capitalize (against the Hurricanes),” Crosby said. “In a tight game, when you get chances, you have to capitalize.”

Thursday’s game in Florida will be the first between the teams since they swung a major trade with each other last week. The Panthers picked up centers Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan, along with draft picks. The Penguins got forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.

“It’s definitely a little bit different,” Penguins winger Bryan Rust of the changes on the roster. “We’ve seen guys come in and out, but the coaches have done a good job to make sure we’re ready.”

As for the Panthers, they have to hope the Penguins keep slumping for at least one more game, because the schedule only gets tougher for the short term.

After Pittsburgh, the Panthers will visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday, led by Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL in goals scored. A night later, the Panthers host the Tampa Bay Lightning, led by NHL points leader Nikita Kucherov.

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

  • Carolina (26-21-6 58P) at BUFFALO (26-20-6 58P)  7 p.m.
  • Winnipeg (34-16-3 71P) at MONTREAL (30-18-6 66P) 7:30 p.m.
  • Anaheim (21-24-9 51P) at OTTAWA (19-29-5 43P) 7:30 p.m
  • Vegas (30-21-4 64P) at DETROIT (21-25-7 49P) 7:30 p.m.
  • St. Louis (24-22-5 53P) at TAMPA BAY (39-11-3 81P) 7:30 p.m./

Idle: TOR (69P), BOS (66P)

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