SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers have an opportunity to win two games in a row for just the fourth time this season when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit FLA Live Arena.
Florida has been dealing with an up-and-down stretch that has been marred by injuries and illness but it rebounded nicely with a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
It is going to be a challenge to do against the red-hot Penguins.
Pittsburgh started the month of December with a six-game winning streak and are 11-1-1 in their past 13 games.
”I think they play a very consistent game,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
”You can expect an awful lot of speed on the wings and a lot of experience in the middle of the ice at both ends. They are really well balanced and are, for the most part, fairly healthy. It is going to be all speed tonight because we cannot start without the puck against a team as offensively dangerous as they are.”
When thinking of “offensively dangerous” there are a short list of players that would come to mind before Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
While the talk around the NHL as of late has been Alex Ovechkin and his 800 goals, Crosby has quietly stayed one of the most consistently good players in the NHL at the ripe old age of 35.
He has been humming along with 38 points in 29 games, sitting one point back of Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk at eighth in scoring.
At his current pace, Crosby (currently at 1,447 points in 1,137 games) is on track to reach the rare 1,500 points club.
Only 15 players in NHL history have hit that mark.
”To do what he has done his whole career and to still do it in the game today is incredibly impressive,” Sam Bennett said.
”He is a guy I idolized growing up, so it will definitely be cool to go up against him tonight.”
Crosby has done a good amount of damage against Florida, too.
In just 44 games against the Panthers, the surefire Hall of Famer has 28 goals and 58 points.
His longtime running mate Evgeni Malkin is also over a point per game against the Panthers with 39 in 40 career games.
“They are great players, so you gotta be aware when they are out there,” Bennett said.
”But it is the same as every night. As a centerman, you have to be responsible down low and know where your guys are around the net.”
PANTHERS INJURY UPDATES
- Carter Verhaeghe and Matthew Tkachuk are both gametime decisions with illnesses.
- Radko Gudas missed Thursday’s morning skate and will likely be out against the Penguins. He was slated to return from concussion protocol in either of the Panthers’ next two games, per Maurice.
- Spencer Knight is feeling well enough to dress after dealing with a lengthy illness but will back up Sergei Bobrovsky against Pittsburgh.
- Alex Lyon was sent down to AHL Charlotte and Aleksi Heponiemi was called up.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- DraftKings odds — Florida favored: Money Line (-110); Puck line (-1.5, +210); Over/Under 6.5 (+100/-120)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Penguins lead 54-35-7, 4 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at New Jersey Devils
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
27 Eetu Luostarinen // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
20 Aleksi Heponiemi // 21 Nick Cousins // 14 Grigori Denisenko
94 Ryan Lomberg // 12 Eric Staal // 22 Zac Dalpe
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
62 Brandon Montour // 18 Marc Staal
28 Josh Mahura // 3 Matt Kiersted
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
30 Spencer Knight
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Radko Gudas (concussion), Anton Lundell (UBI), Colin White (UBI), Chris Tierney (UBI)
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS LINEUP
59 Jake Guentzel // 87 Sidney Crosby // 67 Rickard Rakell
43 Danton Heinen // 71 Evgeni Malkin // 17 Bryan Rust
23 Brock McGinn // 77 Jeff Carter // 42 Kasperi Kapanen
25 Ryan Poehling // 53 Teddy Bluegar // Josh Archibald
28 Marcus Pettersson // 58 Kris Letang
8 Brian Dumoulin // 44 Jan Rutta
73 Pierre-Olivier Joseph // Chad Ruhwedel
35 Tristan Jarry
1 Casey DeSmith