The long wait for the Florida Panthers comes to a close as they finally open up their much anticipated 2021-22 NHL season Thursday night against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins got off to a good start on Tuesday, spoiling the Lightning’s opener with a 6-2 win. Pittsburgh scored three empty-net goals after gaining leads of 3-0 and 4-2.
”They played a heck of a game,’’ Joel Quenneville said. “They did a lot of good things. They worked, worked together from one line to the next line. They were all doing the right things, played a real solid team game. We expect the same (Thursday) night. Let’s not get comfortable thinking Pittsburgh’s not coming with their two best.’
Those “two best” Pittsburgh will be without are stars Evgeni Malkin (who is out for a while with injury) and Sidney Crosby who is traveling with the team — and went through a lengthy workout at FLA Live Arena Wednesday — but is not expected to play until the Pens return home.
Mike Matheson, the first round pick of the Panthers in 2012, is questionable to play against his former teammates after missing the opener on Tuesday.
Florida traded Matheson and Colton Sceviour (who signed a one-year deal with Edmonton on Wednesday) to the Penguins for Patric Hornqvist last September.
This will be the first time Hornqvist has met Pittsburgh since the trade. He was a two-time Stanley Cup champ with the Penguins.
Florida comes out of training camp relatively unscathed.
Center Noel Acciari is out for a while after having surgery upon sustaining an injury last week in Orlando; defenseman Kevin Connauton is also out for the next few games.
The Panthers will start Sergei Bobrovsky with Pittsburgh going back to Tristan Jarry after he made 26 saves against the Lightning on Tuesday.
— The Panthers placed defenseman Markus Nutivaara on IR following Wednesday’s practice. Both Chase Priskie and Matt Kiersted were called up from Charlotte — with it looking like Kiersted playing alongside Brandon Montour.
— Eetu Luostarinen was missing from the morning skate; Joe Thornton will center a fourth line with Ryan Lomberg and Anthony Duclair.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (1-0-0) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (0-0-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play
- All-time series: Pittsburgh leads 53-34-6, 4 ties
- Odds via Bovada.lv: Florida (PL -1.5) — (ML -175) — U/O 6.5
- Up next: New York Islanders at Florida, Saturday, 6 p.m.; Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh, Saturday, 7 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 74 Owen Tippett
77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 70 Patric Hornqvist
94 Ryan Lomberg // 19 Joe Thornton // 10 Anthony Duclair
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
8 Matt Kiersted // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Scratched: Eetu Luostarinen, Chase Priskie, Mason Marchment
Injured: Noel Acciari, Markus Nutivaara, Kevin Connauton, Olli Juolevi
PROJECTED PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINEUP
59 Jake Guentzel // 77 Jeff Carter // 17 Bryan Rust
16 Jason Zucker // 9 Evan Rodrigues // 42 Kasperi Kapanen
23 Brock McGinn // 53 Teddy Blueger // 43 Denton Heinen
49 Dominik Simon // 11 Brian Boyle // 18 Sam Lafferty
8 Brian Dumoulin // 58 Kris Letang
28 Marcus Pettersson // 6 John Marino
52 Mark Friedman // 2 Chad Ruhwedel
35 Tristan Jarry
1 Casey DeSmith
Injured: Mike Mathson, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin