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Penguins continue road trip vs. Panthers

by Mike Battaglino

PENGUINS (17-9-1) at PANTHERS (7-14-5)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 6-3-1; Florida 4-5-1

Season series: The Florida Panthers had two wins during a 17-game stretch this season; one of those was 6-3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 11.

Big story: The Penguins play the second of a three-game road trip. They're coming off a 3-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday that was Dan Bylsma's 100th road victory (100-56-17).

"It's kind of a unique back-to-back," forward Brandon Sutter told Root Sports. "[It's] not often you get an afternoon game then an evening game the next day. It's nice; we actually get into Florida at a decent time and get a full night's sleep."

Pittsburgh, 6-6-1 on the road, has not finished under .500 away from home since 2005-06, Sidney Crosby's rookie season.

Florida has not played since a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. The Panthers held an open practice Friday.

Team Scope:

Penguins: A recent injury to defenseman Paul Martin made it necessary for Pittsburgh to change its defense pairings. On Friday, Matt Niskanen played with Simon Despres, Kris Letang with Olli Maatta, and Deryk Engelland with Brooks Orpik.

After allowing five goals and 48 shots in a 6-5 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, the group responded in the shutout Friday, limiting Tampa Bay to 21 shots.

"[But] maybe more importantly, their cohesion with the puck, and executing in transition," Bylsma said. "We were good in that area tonight, and it originated back there with the defensemen."

Sutter said, "We have to bring that same effort, same defensive effort. ... Turnovers were limited and we did a much better job coming out of our zone. We're playing a quick team again tomorrow night, so we have to try and play the same way."

Panthers: One of the players who has benefited most from the coaching change in Florida is forward Scottie Upshall. After scoring six goals in 53 games over two seasons, Upshall has three in 10 games under Peter Horachek.

"It was tough to get out of that hole, but right now, I'm in a good place," Upshall told the Miami Herald this week. "... I think my teammates look up to me and I've been acknowledged by the coaches as a leader. I think there's a great opportunity for a lot of players. We have some great young players. It's just a better atmosphere here."

Horachek has noticed, making Upshall an alternate captain.

"Since I've been here, Scott's shown a work ethic, has been a leader," the coach said. "He's been outspoken in the room, he's in our leadership group. I take from what he's doing. He's deserved the playing time.''

Who's hot: Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin has three goals and 10 assists during a seven-game point streak, Crosby has four goals and seven assists in the past seven games, and forward Chris Kunitz has four goals and five assists in the past six games. … Upshall has eight points in the 10-game span. Forward Brad Boyes has six points in his past eight games. Forward Nick Bjugstad has eight points in 11.

Injury report: Martin (leg) and defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle) are out long-term, as are forwards Tanner Glass (hand) and Beau Bennett (upper body). Forward Chuck Kobasew (lower body) is closer than the others to a return. … Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky (hand) and defenseman Matt Gilroy (lower body) did not practice Friday, according to the Sun Sentinel. Defenseman Jesse Winchester (lower body) did.

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