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Panthers hoping to make home opener memorable

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After starting the regular season with four consecutive road games, the Florida Panthers finally have their home opener Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Panthers returned home with a 1-3-0 record following a 7-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. With the back-to-back games, the Panthers did not have a morning skate on Friday.

The game Friday night comes almost exactly 20 years after the first home game in franchise history, a 2-1 loss to the Penguins on Oct. 12, 1993. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the franchise, the Panthers are planning festivities throughout the season starting with a special "throwback" night Friday.

Original Panthers captain Brian Skrudland and first draft pick Rob Niedermayer will be on hand for the special occasion.

For the current Panthers players, a big win would make the occasion truly memorable. Especially after three consecutive losses, including two in which they allowed seven goals.

The game is Pittsburgh's first on the road after a 3-0 start at home, during which the Penguins outscored their opponents 12-3.

"Tonight we've got a team coming off a game last night, coming back to their building for their home opener, and we expect them to have a little vinegar in their step tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Panthers on Friday night at BB&T Center:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - Beau Bennett

Dustin Jeffrey - Brandon Sutter - Chuck Kobasew

Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Olli Maatta - Robert Bortuzzo

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratches: Deryk Engelland

Injured: Matt D'Agostini (lower body), Kris Letang (lower body), James Neal (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (blood clot)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Kris Versteeg

Tomas Fleischmann - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Kopecky - Shawn Matthias - Jesse Winchester

Krys Barch - Scott Gomez - Scottie Upshall

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Ryan Whitney - Erik Gudbranson

Jacob Markstrom

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Ed Jovanovski (lower body), Nick Bjugstad (concussion), Sean Bergenheim (lower body), Tim Thomas (lower body), Steve

Pinizzotto (lower body)

Scratches: Matt Gilroy

Notes: Goalie Tim Thomas, who sustained a lower-body injury in a game Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, did some individual work before the Penguins’ morning skate. ... Wing Joey Crabb, who saw action for the first time in the loss at Tampa Bay Thursday night, was assigned to the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League.

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