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Preview: Panthers at Penguins

Pittsburgh vying for playoff position without Evgeni Malkin; Florida's Jaromir Jagr to play 1,700th NHL game

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PANTHERS (31-28-11) at PENGUINS (44-17-9)

1 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN, ROOT, FS-F, NHL.TV

Panthers team scope

The Florida Panthers trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by six points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Panthers are 2-5-1 in eight games in March, but those two wins have come in their past three games. "Who would have thought, the night we played the [New York] Rangers at home, they smoked us, who thought we would come here and win?" forward Jaromir Jagr said after a 4-3 shootout win against the Rangers on Friday. "Nobody gave us a chance. That's probably going to be the same thing [against Pittsburgh]. Not many people are going to believe we can win, but you never know. You start at 0-0." Jagr will join Gordie Howe, Mark Messier and Ron Francis as the only NHL players to have played 1,700 games. Jagr has 1,907 points (763 goals, 1,144 assists) with the Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who has been out since March 11 because of a concussion, is not expected to play. He is expected to be about a week away from returning. 


Penguins team scope

Forward Evgeni Malkin will miss a second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. After practicing Saturday, Malkin said he felt a bit better but won't return against Florida. "Every day is better. I'm a little bit better," Malkin said. "It's tough to play tomorrow. Probably not. Just give me a little bit of time. Just wait a little bit, but it's like, no more blocking shots." Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he would check how Malkin felt Sunday morning but does not expect the injury to be long term. "This is going to be a day-to-day thing, but we're hopeful that he'll be back soon," Sullivan said. "We don't want to see [Malkin] get hurt, or any of our guys for that matter, but the nature of the game is that it's a belligerent game." Malkin skated between left wing Phil Kessel and right wing Patric Hornqvist during practice Saturday, but the lineup likely won't change from a 6-4 win against the Devils on Friday. Center Matt Cullen should remain between Kessel and Hornqvist. Pittsburgh is 6-1-1 in its past eight games. The Penguins are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the Metropolitan Division, and three behind the Capitals for first place in the Eastern Conference and NHL. The Blue Jackets play the Devils on Sunday.


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton -- Derek MacKenzie -- Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic

Jakub Kindl -- Mark Pysyk

James Reimer

Reto Berra

Scratched: Michael Sgarbossa, MacKenzie Weegar

Injured: Roberto Luongo (lower body), Aaron Ekblad (concussion), Denis Malgin (concussion)


Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary

Phil Kessel -- Matt Cullen -- Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz -- Nick Bonino -- Scott Wilson

Tom Sestito -- Carter Rowney -- Tom Kuhnhackl

Brian Dumoulin -- Justin Schultz

Ian Cole -- Derrick Pouliot

Mark Streit -- Chad Ruhwedel

Marc-Andre Fleury

Matt Murray

Scratched: Cameron Gaunce

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Bryan Rust (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Trevor Daley (knee), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Ron Hainsey (upper body)


Status report

Panthers coach Tom Rowe on March 8 said Luongo was a week or two away from returning. … Rust practiced in a red non-contact jersey Saturday and is not expected to be available.


Who's hot

Barkov has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past five games. Trocheck has six assists in his past six games. … Crosby had three points (two goals, one assist) against the Devils on Friday. He has 77 points (37 goals, 40 assists) and is tied with Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand for the NHL lead in goals,

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