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Florida Panthers GameDay

Deep Florida Panthers Lineup Looking to Shut Down Penguins



Florida panthers Sergei bobrovsky
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) gets off a shot in front of Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

PITTSBURGH — Evan Rodrigues knows exactly what the Florida Panthers are up against as they play the Pittsburgh Penguins in their penultimate game before the All-Star break.

Spending three seasons in Pittsburgh, including a breakout season as Sidney Crosby’s wingman, Rodrigues knows the Penguins are more dangerous than their 21-17-6 record suggests.

Crosby, even at 39, still highlights a star-studded Pittsburgh lineup with 27 goals and 48 points in 44 games.

While the rest of the Penguins offense ranks 20th in the NHL at a rather pedestrian 2.98 goals-for per game, they have the capability of running up the score on any given night.

“You gotta play hard and you gotta get in front of them,” Rodrigues said. “You have to try to wear them down as much as possible.

“I think if you can contain them a little bit through the neutral zone, it will be a key to slowing them down. They are a team that likes to get a lot off the rush and, in the defensive zone, they like to come up the weak side a lot, gain momentum and come in with speed.

“We have to play smart, play above them and not let them get those odd-man rushes.”

The Panthers did just that on Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes and look to build on that.

With Sasha Barkov back in the fold, the Panthers were able to run three strong scoring lines and control the pace of the game on both ends.

Mackie Samoskevich sliding in on the right side of Barkov and Rodrigues even furthered that.

While the 21-year-old was not able to get his first NHL point in his fourth game, he looked like he belonged and helped generate some quality chances next to two players who make things easy on him in both ends.

Maurice wants to see more of that from him in Game 2 on that line.

“I’m almost not looking at them together, I’m more kind of looking at what will Samoskevich do in this situation with a player that’s not going to limit him,” coach Paul Maurice said.

”Barkov is going to move the puck and he’s going to get a lot of chances. They’re not playing in the one-hole, they’re playing in the three-hole, so there’s not a tremendous amount of pressure.

“I want to see what he can do with a player that makes plays to him. Can he produce offensive zone time? Create chances and not give too many up? That kind of thing. Is this a safe player for you to play with? He’s shown great strides from the start of the year. Really happy with where he’s at.”

With Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell rekindling their chemistry from last year and producing on what is effectively the top line right now, Maurice is OK with keeping Barkov and Reinhart apart despite the chemistry they found earlier in the year.

It gives him a chance to see what Samoskevich can do while rolling three dominant lines.

“We’ll let this structure of our lines run for as long as it’s fruitful,” Maurice said.

“As long as Reinhart and Lundell still produce at the same rate as Reinhart and Barkov kinda did, it’s good for Samoskevich to get into some games and it gives us a better idea of where he’s at.”


Sergei Bobrovsky and Alex Nedelkjovic will be the starting goaltenders tonight.

TODAY IN FHN: Will Lockwood is in Concussion Protocol, Nick Cousins close to Return



  • When: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: PPG Arena, Pittsburgh
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-135); Puck line (-1.5, +180); Over/Under 6.5 (+105/-125)
  • Season Series (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 3, Penguins 1 (Dec. 8). At Pittsburgh: Friday; Feb. 14.
  • Last Season: Penguins won 2-1
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Penguins lead 56-37-7, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at New York Islanders, 7 p.m.


27 Eetu Luostarinen// 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk

17 Evan Rodrigues // 16 Sasha Barkov // 25 Mackie Samoskevich

12 Jonah Gadjovich// 82 Kevin Stenlund //94 Ryan Lomberg

42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad

77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour

91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson // 7 Dmitry Kulikov

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

41 Anthony Stolarz

Injured: Nick Cousins (concussion-IR),

Scratched: Josh Mahura, Steven Lorentz


59 Jake Guentzel // 87 Sidney Crosby // 17 Bryan Rust

10 Drew O’Connor // 71 Evgeni Malkin // 6 Colin White

48 Valtteri Puustinen // 20 Lars Eller // 67 Rickard Rakell

43 Jansen Harkins // 55 Noel Acciari // 77 Jeff Carter

28 Marcus Pettersson // 58 Kris Letang

27 Ryan Graves // 65 Erik Karlsson

73 P.O Joseph // Chad Ruhwedel

39 Alex Nedelkjovic

35 Tristan Jarry

Pittsburgh Lines courtesy of Pittsburgh Hockey Now

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