PANTHERS (18-23-7) at PENGUINS (34-12-2)
TV: RDS, FS-F ,ROOT
Last 10: Florida 4-4-2; Pittsburgh 7-2-1
Season series: The Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins will play for the third and final time this season. They've split the first two games, with Pittsburgh winning 5-1 at BB&T Center in the most-recent game on Nov. 30.
Big story: The Penguins continue to lead the Eastern Conference with 70 points and in scoring (3.17 goals per game) despite losing more man games to injury (289) than any other team in the NHL. Their upcoming schedule will be a grind with five games in the next eight days after playing one in the previous eight.
"The last two practice days you kind of ramp it up and get back the flow of things, and I think we've done that," forward James Neal said after practice Sunday. "We've had two hard days of practice and two days off. Guys feel fresh. You have to use that time off to your advantage, but you want to come back and act like you didn't have that break. It's a big game for us at home and we want to keep things rolling here in our home barn."
The Panthers play the first of a back-to-back Monday at Consol Energy Center before heading to Buffalo. Florida is 4-6-2 since winning five straight in mid-December.
Panthers: Florida's power play continued to struggle in a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Panthers went 0-for-5 and is 0-for-32 with the man advantage since Dec. 28.
"The power play was not very good at times, but we have to be much better," Florida interim coach Peter Horachek said. "That is an area where we have to take a look at different people or something."
Penguins: Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin (fractured tibia) has practiced the past two days and hopes to return to the lineup as soon as Monday.
"It felt a lot better [Sunday]," Martin said. "I think [practice Saturday] was a good gauge. It was a long tough practice, so there weren't any effects from [Saturday]. It felt good today. Hopefully I'll talk to the trainers and see if I could get in there [Monday]. I'm sure there will be some rust, just keep it simple. Short shifts, go from there."
Who's hot: Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has a point in five of his past six games (4-5-9). Defenseman Olli Maatta has four points in the past five games (1-3-4). Center Sidney Crosby, named captain of the Canadian Olympic team Sunday, is 3-6-9 in six games this month.
Injury report: Neal (unspecified) missed Pittsburgh's most-recent game Wednesday (a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals), but practiced over the weekend with forwards Jason Megna (lower body) and Chuck Kobasew (lower body). Forwards Beau Bennett (wrist surgery), Chris Conner (hand surgery), Pascal Dupuis (right knee surgery), Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle) and Joe Vitale (sprained right wrist), and goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot/hip) are on injured reserve … Panthers center Jesse Winchester (broken hand) is back in the lineup after missing 14 games. He replaces forward Tomas Kopecky (shoulder). Defensemen Dylan Olsen (lower body) and Alex Petrovic (undisclosed) are on IR.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL
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