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game preview

Penguins at Panthers preview

Pittsburgh eyes ninth win in 12 games; Barkov returns from injury for Florida

by Alain Poupart / Independent Correspondent

PENGUINS (33-15-5) at PANTHERS (29-18-6)



The Game

Aleksander Barkov will return to the lineup when the Florida Panthers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at BB&T Center on Saturday.

Barkov, Florida's top-line center, missed the past three games because of a lower-body injury. He's second on the Panthers with 54 points (16 goals, 38 assists) in 50 games.

Florida, which is 1-2-1 following a season-long six-game winning streak and is coming off a 7-2 home loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, has not lost consecutive games in regulation since losing three in a row Dec. 10-14.

Pittsburgh is 8-3-0 in its past 11 games after losing 4-2 at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. The Penguins have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 29-30.

The Panthers will be going for a season sweep of the Penguins after winning 4-2 at BB&T Center on Oct. 22 and 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena on Jan. 5.


Players to watch

Penguins center Sidney Crosby has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in eight games since returning from core muscle surgery.

Panthers forward Mike Hoffman has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in his past 14 games.


They said it

"One of the reasons we believe we've had success is we've made a commitment to playing a real solid team game and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And that's when we're hard to play against." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan

"Especially after a game like that (against Vegas), we've got to get back at the arena and prove that we're a better team than we showed (that) night." - Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle


Penguins projected lineup

Jared McCann -- Sidney Crosby -- Dominik Simon

Bryan Rust -- Evgeni Malkin -- Patric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-Reese -- Teddy Blueger -- Brandon Tanev

Alex Galchenyuk -- Sam Lafferty -- Anthony Angello

Jack Johnson -- Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson -- Justin Schultz

Juuso Riikola -- Chad Ruhwedel

Tristan Jarry

Matt Murray

Scratched: Andrew Agozzino

Injured: John Marino (jaw), Nick Bjugstad (lower body), Dominik Kahun (concussion), Jake Guentzel (upper body), Brian Dumoulin (lower body)


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Evgenii Dadonov

Brett Connolly -- Vincent Trocheck -- Noel Acciari

Frank Vatrano -- Dominic Toninato -- Mike Hoffman

Jayce Hawryluk -- Colton Sceviour -- Mark Pysyk

Keith Yandle -- Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman -- Anton Stralman

Mike Matheson -- Josh Brown

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratched: Denis Malgin

Injured: MacKenzie Weegar (upper body), Brian Boyle (undisclosed), Chris Driedger (lower body)


Status report

Neither team held a morning skate. … Marino is not expected to play after being hit in the face by a Steven Stamkos shot in the third period of the loss at Tampa Bay. Coach Mike Sullivan said Friday that the rookie defenseman had further testing as a precautionary measure. Rust is expected to play after being given a maintenance day Friday. … Weegar won't play for the 17th time in 18 games. The defenseman played 13:29 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in his return from a 15-game absence but didn't dress against Vegas.


Stat pack

The Panthers have not swept the Penguins since 2003-04, when they won all four games in regulation. … Pittsburgh is 0-for-11 on the power play in its past two games. … Barkov needs one point to reach 400 in the NHL.

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