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Penguins without Sprong as they face Jagr, Panthers

by Wes Crosby

PANTHERS (3-2-0) at PENGUINS (2-3-0)


PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without their youngest player when they face Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

Rookie forward Daniel Sprong will remain in Canada while attempting to gain an extension on his work-visa, Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. As has been a theme this season, Pittsburgh did not hold line rushes during its morning skate, so how Sprong's absence will affect its lines is unknown.

Sprong's absence could deliver a blow to an offense that has failed to score more than two goals through five games, and has been significantly impacted by forward Sidney Crosby's lack of production.

"We just need to execute," Crosby said. "We need to make the right decisions and then, when we do identify who's open, we have to execute plays. So once we've gotten in the zone, I think there's been some good opportunities. We still have to find a way to score."

Crosby has yet to score a point this season, matching a career-long scoring drought of five games. His offensive issues have coincided with Pittsburgh's failure to score on 17 power-play opportunities this season.

The Penguins made one change to their power play. Forward Chris Kunitz replaced forward Patric Hornqvist on the top unit alongside forwards Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Crosby, and defenseman Kris Letang.

"I think it just kind of changes the personnel," Kunitz said. "Guys moving around, it opens up a shot for someone who has a one-timer in the slot, but my job's to go out there and try to recover pucks and get in front. That's what I'm going to do tonight."

Pittsburgh has scored seven goals on the season, three more than Jagr, who will face his former team for the 52nd time. When asked if Jagr will ever retire, Kunitz responded, "Nope."

With how the 43-year-old has performed, that prediction doesn't seem farfetched.

"I go day-by-day," Jagr said. "One day I could wake up, and I don't like it, so I'm leaving. … The health is good, so that's important. If you're healthy then you can work hard, and I have some talent so I can still play the game. But with injuries and something bad happens, it's tough to come back.

"It's fun. I have a lot of young guys around me in this room and they're great hockey players. They're making my life a lot easier."

One of those players is Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck. The 22-year-old forward said it's been an honor to share a locker room with his idol.

"It's a little bit surreal," Trocheck said. "When I first got called up, he was my stall-mate. It was a little bit weird. But he's been a great teacher. To be able to grow up idolizing somebody and then play on the same team as them, it's pretty surreal and pretty special."

Florida will make one adjustment, replacing forward Shawn Thornton on the fourth line with Connor Brickley.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan HuberdeauAleksander BarkovJaromir Jagr

Brandon PirriNick BjugstadReilly Smith

Jussi JokinenDave BollandVincent Trocheck

Quinton HowdenDerek MacKenzieConnor Brickley

Brian CampbellAaron Ekblad

Dmitry KulikovAlex Petrovic

Willie MitchellErik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: None

Scratched: Shawn Thornton, Steven Kampfer, Dylan Olsen


Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyPhil Kessel

David PerronEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Sergei PlotnikovNick BoninoKevin Porter

Bobby FarnhamMatt CullenBryan Rust

Ian ColeKris Letang

Olli MaattaBen Lovejoy

Brian DumoulinRob Scuderi

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (lower body), Eric Fehr (elbow), Beau Bennett (undisclosed)

Scratched: Tim Erixon, Daniel Sprong

Status report: Dupuis (lower body) returned to practice Sunday and participated in his first morning skate of the season. He has not played since Nov. 15 of last season, before his season ended because of a blood clot found in his lung. No update has been provided on Bennett, who will miss a second consecutive game with an undisclosed injury.

Who's hot: Malkin has scored one goal in each of his past two games. He leads Pittsburgh with two goals and three points. … Jagr has scored at least one point in four of five games this season. He has two two-goal games and leads the Panthers with four goals and seven points.

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