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Winchester back for Panthers against Penguins

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers will have right wing Jesse Winchester back in the lineup Saturday when they try to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins at home for the second time this season.

Winchester missed the past four games because of a lower-body injury sustained in a 4-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 21. Winchester, signed as a free agent this summer after he spent all of 2012-13 playing in Europe, was one of Florida's most productive forwards earlier this season.

He had a run of five points in six games (three goals, two assists) before serving a three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly.

"He works hard in all three areas of the rink," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said after the morning skate Saturday. "He's not afraid to go into the hard areas. He's pretty good on the walls. That's one of the areas before I got here that he was one of the players who were doing what they needed to do and living up to their responsibilities. He's a good kid, he works hard, and he's kind of a workhorse that people can follow and use as an example."

The Panthers will again be without Tomas Kopecky. The veteran forward also was injured in the loss at Edmonton.

Veteran Tim Thomas is expected to make his 11th consecutive start in net for the Panthers, who beat Pittsburgh 6-3 in their home opener on Oct. 11.

Brad Boyes led the way that night with two goals and an assist, and Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and three assists.

Pittsburgh goalie Jeff Zatkoff had a less-than-memorable NHL debut when he allowed six goals on 30 shots.

There's a possibility Zatkoff could get another shot at the Panthers on Saturday given the Penguins played Friday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coach Dan Bylsma also might elect to go again with Marc-André Fleury who made 21 saves in a 3-0 shutout victory.

It was a solid bounce-back effort for Fleury, who was pulled after giving up three goals on 11 shots in the first period of a 6-5 shootout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Zatkoff's most recent start came Nov. 22 when he allowed three goals on 35 shots in a 4-3 victory against the New York Islanders.

This is the sixth back-to-back set for the Penguins so far this season, and Fleury and Zatkoff have split starts five times.

Fleury was in net for each end of a back-to-back set Nov. 15 against the Nashville Predators and Nov. 16 against the New Jersey Devils.

The Penguins, who wrap up their three-game road trip Tuesday against the New York Islanders, did not hold a morning skate Saturday.

Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Panthers at BB&T Center:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Chris Conner - Brandon Sutter - Andrew Ebbett

Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Jayson Megna

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen

Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Marc-André Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Zach Sill, Robert Bortuzzo

Injured: Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Tanner Glass (broken hand), Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Paul Martin (broken tibia), Rob Scuderi (broken ankle), Tomas Vokoun (blood clot)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Tomas Fleischmann

Scottie Upshall - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Jesse Winchester

Shawn Matthias - Scott Gomez - Jimmy Hayes

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Mike Mottau, Krys Barch

Injured: Tomas Kopecky (upper body), Matt Gilroy (lower body), Ed Jovanovski (lower body)

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