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Penguins eager to bounce back vs. Florida

by Mike Battaglino

PANTHERS (5-7-4) at PENGUINS (11-6-0)

TV: RDS2, FS-Florida, ROOT

Last 10: Florida 4-2-4; Pittsburgh 7-3-0

Season series: This is the first meeting; the teams play again Tuesday in Florida. The Penguins won three of the four last season.

Big story: The Penguins suffered their first February loss to a team other than the New Jersey Devils when the Philadelphia Flyers scored a late goal to beat them 6-5 on Wednesday. It was another wild, rough-and-tumble game against their archrival, and the Penguins will have to guard against a letdown facing a team they have dominated recently -- they've won 10 of the past 12 against the Panthers.

"There's always hype against [the Flyers]," defenseman Kris Letang told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Thursday. "We just have to manage our emotions better in the future."

The Panthers took advantage of the schedule scenario Thursday, breaking out to a 3-0 lead over the Flyers in the first 10:15 of a 5-2 win at Philadelphia.

"We knew that they played Pittsburgh the night before. We knew that they might have a little less in their step, but we wanted to get on them quickly. And that's what we did," said Panthers forward Peter Mueller, who scored twice.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Goalie Jakob Markstrom, the 31st pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, was recalled from the American Hockey League and could play here. He'll try to help a Florida defense that has allowed an almost-NHL-worst 58 goals.

"We have got to start putting him in the system and see if he can play some games and get some experience for him, and we also have to stem the tide," general manager Dale Tallon said Wednesday. "I'm not happy. It's a critical part of the season and every game is important now. We need to cut our goals against down. He's played great down there and now he's in his third year as a pro. It's time to see what he can do.

"I'm not going to sit still and allow this to continue. We need him to come up and play like he's capable of playing and I'm very confident that he can do that."

Markstrom is 16-15-2 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in the AHL this season. In eight NHL games with the Panthers, he is 2-5-1 with a 2.69 GAA and .920 save percentage.

"Lately I really feel that I found my game," said Markstrom, 8-4-0 in his past 12 in the AHL. "I have confidence."

Scott Clemmensen made 32 saves to earn the win Thursday as the surprise starter with Jose Theodore the backup.

In 11 games without injured defenseman Ed Jovanovski (lower body), the Panthers have allowed at least five goals four times and at least three eight times. The five-game losing streak they ended Thursday included two 6-5 losses and three shutouts.

Penguins: Pittsburgh had a 2-0 lead before losing to Philadelphia on Wednesday. In three of their five other losses, they have led after the first period.

"It's unfortunate," Sidney Crosby said Wednesday. "We had a good start and didn't find a way to hold the lead."

The Penguins have played one game that's gone beyond regulation, a 2-1 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 27. Pittsburgh was denied overtime against Philadelphia on Jakub Voracek's goal with 1:31 remaining.

So despite having the same number of wins as the Montreal Canadiens, they trail the Eastern Conference leaders by two points.

Who's hot: Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and two assists Thursday and has 13 points this season, second among NHL rookies (Cory Conacher of Tampa Bay has 15). Defenseman Mike Weaver has a pair of two-assist games in the past three after having six multipoint games over 11 seasons. … Penguins defenseman Paul Martin had three assists Wednesday and has six points in his past four games. He has 12 points this season after getting 27 all of last season. Crosby has 18 points in 10 February games, with an active four-game streak. Forward James Neal scored his 12th goal of the season Wednesday, which ties him for the League lead with Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is 6-1-0 in February with a 2.01 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Injury report: The Penguins report no injuries. … For the Panthers, in addition to Jovanovski, top-line forward Kris Versteeg (upper body), forward Sean Bergenheim (lower body), forward Scottie Upshall (lower body) and defenseman Michael Caruso (upper body) are out.

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