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At the Rink: Penguins at Panthers

by Staff

The Pittsburgh Penguins will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen when they play at the Florida Panthers on Monday (7:30 p.m., SN).

The Penguins on Monday sent forwards Steve Downie and Brandon Sutter, along with goaltender Thomas Greiss, back to Pittsburgh to be tested for the mumps virus.

Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League to be the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said his plan will be for the seventh defenseman to take shifts at forward.

"We’ll put a defenseman up," Johnston said, according to the Penguins website. "We'll probably play a defenseman up front a little bit and get five, six, seven minutes of a defenseman playing on that [fourth] line and then sort of maneuver from there. We've got to place some depth in our lineup tonight, so that's what I'm going to do originally heading into the game, for sure."

Johnston wouldn't say who the seventh defenseman would be, but did tell the media who it wouldn't be -- specifically Rob Scuderi or Kris Letang.

"Scuderi and Letang are really key with that group and [Simon] Despres is almost a veteran guy right now," Johnston said. "It's funny to talk about him as a veteran guy because coming into the season he didn’t have a lot of games. Now he's looked on as more of a veteran influence back there. But certainly Scuderi and Letang will be relied on a lot these next two games."

The Penguins have been besieged by illness and injuries recently. Forwards Sidney Crosby and Beau Bennett had the mumps, forward Chris Kunitz returned Saturday after missing a month with a broken foot, and forwards Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) and Craig Adams (undisclosed), as well as defensemen Christian Ehrhoff (undisclosed), Paul Martin (undisclosed) and Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) are out with injuries.

"We talked about it before, that over the last three weeks our team has had to adjust and adapt," Johnston said. "Told them this morning it's just one of those days where we're adjusting and adapting one more time. We'll let them know the lines and [defense] pairs and we'll proceed from there."

The Miami Herald reported that Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck will play again Monday. He scored third goal of the season Saturday when the Penguins and Panthers played in Pittsburgh.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau

Rob Klinkhammer - Marcel Goc - Bryan Rust

Bobby Farnham - Andrew Ebbett

Simon Despres - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Scott Harrington

Rob Scuderi - Derrick Pouliot

Taylor Chorney

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: None

Injured: Christian Ehrhoff (undisclosed), Paul Martin (undisclosed), Craig Adams (undisclosed), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Beau Bennett (lower body), Olli Maatta (upper body), Scott Wilson (leg), Zach Sill (upper body), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Steve Downie (illness), Brandon Sutter (illness), Thomas Greiss (illness)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Vincent Trocheck

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brandon Pirri

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Jimmy Hayes

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Scottie Upshall

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Erik Gudbranson - Dylan Olsen

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Tomas Fleischmann, Brad Boyes

Injured: Shawn Thornton (groin)

Stats report: Johnston said he was unsure what the Penguins would do about getting an extra forward before their next game, Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Complicating matters is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is off until Friday for the holiday break. "We're going to talk about that this afternoon, trying to get somebody in, because all the [AHL] guys have gone home," Johnston said. "So getting their equipment, connecting with the player. Or can we play seven defense. That’s a question we'll discuss as a group this afternoon and make a decision."

Who's hot: Malkin had his six-game point streak snapped Saturday against the Panthers but still has four goals and six assists in his past 10 games. … Ekblad, the first pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, had an assist Saturday to give him 19 points; he's the 12th-highest scoring 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history. He's on pace for 50 points, which would be the second-most points by an 18-year-old defender in League history.

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