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Penguins return home for opener against Panthers

by Brian Hunter
PANTHERS (1-0-0) at PENGUINS (2-0-1)


Season Series:
First of four meetings. Pittsburgh swept last season's series from Florida, with 10 different players scoring at least one goal. Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson each picked up a pair of wins.

Big Story: As the NHL season enters its sixth day, home openers are still a big story. The Penguins finally get to have theirs after playing in the openers for the Canucks, Flames and Oilers -- and picking up five of a possible six points in those games. Meanwhile, the Panthers already played in the Islanders' home opener and came out with a victory.

Team Scope:

Panthers: This is the only game in a stretch of six days for Florida, which isn't in action again until its own home opener Saturday. Will all the early down time help or hurt a new-look team whose players and first-year coach are still getting accustomed to one another? The Panthers certainly started on the right foot with their 2-0 win on Long Island, with Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison scoring late in the first period and Jose Theodore stopping all 27 shots he faced in his Florida debut.

"Everybody came through tonight," Theodore said. "They were clearing the rebounds (and) I was seeing the puck. We really worked well as a unit. They were letting me see the puck. We were all on the same page."

Penguins: Five minutes were all that separated Pittsburgh from a season-opening, three-game sweep through western Canada, but then the Penguins were introduced to the No. 1 pick in this past summer's draft. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' goal with 4:55 left in the third Sunday extended the game to a shootout, where the Oilers dealt the Penguins a 2-1 defeat. Kris Letang's power-play goal 3:13 into the game accounted for all their offense.

"I think this was his strongest game," coach Dan Bylsma said of the talented defenseman. "He was the one guy who maybe had a lot of energy -- bursts of energy -- late in the game there in overtime. He looked like he could end it a couple times in breaks that he got in there and second chances. He was strong."

Who's Hot: Theodore recorded his 31st career shutout Saturday -- the first 23 came with the Canadiens, followed by three for the Avalanche, three for the Capitals and one for the Wild. ... Letang leads the Penguins with 5 points, off a pair of multi-assist performances and his goal Sunday.

Injury Report: Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen (knee) and forward Mike Santorelli (shoulder) are on injured reserve. ... Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin was scratched Sunday with what Bylsma termed a lower-body injury. Forward Sidney Crosby is awaiting possible clearance for contact from his doctors and remains on injured reserve, while defenseman Brooks Orpik could be nearing his season debut after undergoing offseason hernia surgery.

Stat Pack: Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell played a shade over 30 minutes in his first game with the club, finishing plus-1 and registering two shots on goal, a hit and three blocks. ... Letang had game-high totals for shots (six) and ice time (29:16) on Sunday.

Puck Drop: Malkin's healthy return at the start of this season gave Pittsburgh hope it would soon be able to reunite its top-two centers once Crosby came back. While it's unknown exactly what sort of injury Malkin sustained to keep him out Sunday, according to Bylsma it wasn't related to last season's knee injury and it's possible he could play Tuesday.

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