It has been a long time since the Florida Panthers have been on the verge of a losing streak and when they face the Penguins in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday night, they’ll be trying to avoid one.
The Panthers have not lost two consecutive games since April when they had their last losing streak.
Last year, Florida was a near model of consistency, only going through two rough patches where the team lost three straight. It happened in March against Tampa and two against Chicago; it later came with two in Carolina and one in Dallas.
That’s not bad.
But they would like to avoid another one on Thursday.
“I think we need to play a little more desperate,” said Sam Bennett, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing four games. “(Jersey) is just a game we’ll move on from.”
The Panthers have certainly not looked their best over the course of the past two games.
Florida found itself down four goals in New York before mounting a furious rally in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers.
Tuesday, the Panthers never really looked to be in synch — save for a two-goal span in the first 1:29 of the second period — in a 7-3 blowout loss to a improving New Jersey squad.
The Panthers were in the midst of three games in four days and four in six with a number of top teams including Washington and Carolina.
Perhaps a day off in the Steel City (they have sandwiches with french fries right on them!) will help give the team a breather before they take on a scrappy Pittsburgh team.
The Penguins have been without Sidney Crosby either to injury or Covid-19 protocols for much of the season and are still missing Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh comes into Thursday in last place in the Metropolitan Division following shootout losses to Minnesota and Chicago but are still within shouting distance of a playoff position.
The Penguins remain in the top 10 in scoring (Florida is second) and the middle-third in goals against.
They’re holding on.
The Panthers aren’t going to have an easy time in Pittsburgh.
And with the road trip wrapping up Saturday in Tampa, the Panthers certainly would like to end this slide before heading south.
”The past few games we just haven’t grabbed those momentum swings,” Andrew Brunette said. “We’re allowing two goals in 30 seconds and all of a sudden it’s 6-3. … We need to get our bearings back and get going.”
This will be Patric Hornqvist’s first game in Pittsburgh since the popular player was traded to Florida in 2020 in exchange for Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour.
Hornqvist spent six seasons with the Penguins and was part of two Stanley Cup championships.
He is expected to be welcomed back with open arms in a place he really did not want to leave.
— Florida sent Christopher Gibson back to AHL Charlotte on Wednesday.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
- WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh
- TICKETS: CLICK HERE
- TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
- RADIO: WKIS 99.9-2 FM
- NHL STANDINGS: Florida 10-1-2, 21 points (first in Atlantic); Pittsburgh 4-3-4, 12 points (seventh in Metropolitan)
- Last season: Did not play
- This season: @Florida 5, Penguins 4 (OT) on Oct. 14
- All-time regular season series: Penguins lead 53-34-7, 4 ties
- Odds via BetMGM: Florida (PL -1.5 +200) — (ML -125) — U/O 6
- Up next: Florida at Tampa Bay, Saturday, 7; Pittsburgh at Ottawa, Saturday, 7
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 10 Anthony Duclair
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 74 Owen Tippett
77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 70 Patric Hornqvist
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
62 Brandon Montour // 44 Kevin Connauton
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Maxim Mamin, Lucas Carlsson
Injured: Noel Acciari (IR), Olli Juolevi (IR), Joe Thornton (IR), Markus Nutivaara (IR), Mason Marchment (IR)
PROJECTED PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINEUP
59 Jake Guentzel // 77 Jeff Carter // 17 Bryan Rust
16 Jason Zucker // 9 Evan Rodrigues // 42 Kasperi Kapanen
43 Danton Heinen // 53 Teddy Blueger // 23 Brock McGinn
10 Drew O’Connor // 11 Brian Boyle //46 Zach Aston-Reese
5 Mike Matheson // 58 Kris Letang
73 Pierre-Olivier Joseph // 6 John Marino
50 Juuso Riikola // 52 Mark Friedman
35 Tristan Jarry
1 Casey DeSmith