PENGUINS (11-5-3) at PANTHERS (9-6-3)
TV: ROOT (HD), FS-Florida (HD)
Last 10: Pittsburgh 6-3-1; Florida 4-3-3
Season Series: It's the second of four meetings between the Penguins and Panthers. Pittsburgh prevailed won 4-2 as four players scored goals and Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves.
Big Story: Penguins coach Dan Bylsma put an end to the rumors about Sidney Crosby possibly returning against the Panthers when he stated that Crosby is continuing to progress in his recovery from a concussion but isn't ready to play yet.
“In terms of (Crosby), just to clarify and minimize the speculation, we will continue to give updates the day before a game on whether he will be playing or not,” Bylsma said. “He will not be playing in Saturday night’s game. It’s an effort to keep the speculation about a date (to a minimum). There is no timetable and no date at this point in time and we will continue to update you the day before the game and let you know about that."
Penguins: The Pens are coming off a 4-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Thursday night that came after an impressive come-from-behind 6-3 home win against the Colorado Avalanche two nights before. While the club sits atop the Eastern Conference, November has been an up-and-down month for the Pens, who are 3-2-1 through six games. They go home for their next three games, and there's talk that Crosby could make his return during that stretch.
“It is a doctor’s final approval to get cleared,” Bylsma said, referring to what needs to happen for Crosby to be cleared. “Clearly, on the ice, he’s a pretty good player right now.”
Panthers: Florida, one of the surprise teams so far this season, is tied with the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division with 21 points despite a 4-1 loss at St. Louis on Thursday. Most of their success has come away from the BankAtlantic Center, where they are just 2-2-3 -- in contrast to a 7-4-0 mark on the road.
Coach Kevin Dineen hopes a solid showing in the opener of a four-game homestand will erase the memory of the loss to the Blues, a game in which the club simply played out of character.
“We’ve had numerous times this year where we’ve settled down after bad stretches, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Dineen said. “In the third period, I think (the Blues) were a very hungry team. They smelled that we were trying to find an easier way to win than we’ve shown this year and that doesn’t happen for a team.”
Who’s Hot: Before being held off the scoresheet against the Bolts on Thursday, James Neal had seven points in a four-game span. … Florida's Tomas Fleischmann has five points in his past four games.
Injury Report: Florida forwards Matt Bradley and Marcel Goc are both day-to-day with upper body injuries, while Scottie Upshall is out six to eight weeks with a hip injury. … For the Pens, Crosby is out with a concussion, while Dustin Jeffrey will be out at least 10-15 days with knee issues.
Stat Pack: The Panthers have given up the fewest goals in the Southeast Division, 46 in 18 games.
Puck Drop: Bylsma and the Penguins refuse to be distracted by Crosby speculation and plan to just continue their game against the Panthers.
“We approach every day and every game with the players that we have,” he said. “Sid has been rehabbing with us, skating with us and he’s a part of our team. But we know right now he’s not going to be out there with us. That’s something we’ve been doing for 10 months now.”