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First-place Penguins take on red-hot Panthers

by Dave Lozo /

PENGUINS (15-8-0) at PANTHERS (10-9-2)

Last 10: Pittsburgh 4-6-0; Florida 7-2-1

Season series:
This is the second of four meetings between the teams. The Penguins came away with a 3-2 shootout victory on Oct. 23 in Pittsburgh.

Big Story: The Panthers return home after sweeping a three-game road trip against Buffalo, Detroit and the New York Rangers. Meanwhile, the Penguins have won 3 of 4 since getting Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup.

Team Scope:

They had their struggles with Malkin out, including a four-game losing streak before his recent return. But they've found their groove of late, and Pens coach Dan Bylsma spoke in glowing terms after their 3-2 victory in Atlanta on Saturday.

"I think for the first 40 minutes that was probably our best game -- even more than 40 minutes -- of getting [to the offensive zone] with numbers, getting there with speed and when we didn't have it getting [the puck] behind them," Bylsma said. "We went and got it and got pucks and started in the offensive zone. You could tell the guys were determined we were going to play that way tonight."

Most teams would look sluggish while playing their third road game in four nights. But the Panthers were energetic and working hard in their 3-2 win against the Rangers on Saturday.

''We worked hard for the six points,'' Radek Dvorak said of the Panthers' three-game road sweep. ''We have a lot of games left. We know what works for us, and if we want to keep this going, we have to keep playing like this. It's nice, but we have to be ready for the next game.''

Who's Hot: How about Penguins defenseman Martin Skoula, who has all three of his goals this season in the past three games, including two Saturday in Atlanta.

"I don't think I've ever had two goals in one game," he said. "I might have. I'm not sure. But it's nice to score like that."

For the Panthers, center Stephen Weiss has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 games.

Injury Report: Tampa Bay defenseman Mattias Ohlund (foot) has missed consecutive games.

Stat Pack: The Penguins are one of the most banged-up teams in the League. Forwards Tyler Kennedy (groin) and Chris Kunitz (lower body) along with defensemen Alex Goligoski (lower body), Jay McKee (finger) and Kris Letang (shoulder) are all out.

For the Panthers, David Booth (concussion), Cory Stillman (knee), Nick Tarnasky (orbital bone) and Gregory Campbell (upper body) will all sit out Monday.

Puck Drop:
Both of these teams have been clicking over the last week or so, making this showdown in Florida one of the more intriguing games on Monday's schedule.

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