PANTHERS (18-23-7) at PENGUINS (34-12-2)
7:00 PM ET; TV: FOX Sports Network; RADIO: 560 AM
Last 10: Florida 4-4-2; Pittsburgh 7-2-1
SPLIT NO MORE: It's hard to believe but this will be the final game of the season series between the two teams and this one will determine the series winner. Florida earned a 6-3 victory on Oct. 11 in the Panthers home opener and the Penguins returned the favor in a 5-1 victory in Sunrise on Nov. 30. A win for the Panthers would give them their first series win since 2008-09 (2-1-1).
GONE STREAKING: Facing the Penguins will be no easy task. The cream of the crop in the East and a perennial Stanley Cup favorite, the game at CONSOL Energy Center will be all that more difficult because the Penguins just don't lose there. They're currently on a 13-game winning streak on home ice. The last time they lost? Try Nov. 13 in a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh, in fact, has lost just three times at home (20-3-0) all season.
ROAD TO SOCHI: Monday night's game is filled with a bunch of players and staff members who will be gunning for gold at the Olympics come February. Florida's duo of Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia) and young gun Aleksander Barkov (Finland) will face off against nine Pens who will be making the trek to Sochi. While they're enemies tonight, Barkov will be joined on Finland's team by a pair of Pens in Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta. Pens captain Sidney Crosby was just named the captain for Team Canada and will be joined by teammate Chris Kunitz while Evgeni Malkin will suit up for Russia. The biggest contingent will be on the US side as head coach Dan Blysma will be joined by assistant Tony Granato and blue liners Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik.
JUST KILLIN IT: The Panthers penalty kill has been down right amazing over the last nine-plus games. Led by netminder Tim Thomas, the penalty kill unit has killed off the last 26 straight of their opponent's power play opportunities. They'll have to be up to the task against the Penguins as they lead the league, scoring on 24.7% of their opportunities.
IN THE PIVOT: Young gun centers Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov have brought the offense lately with Bjugstad has posted three points (2-1-3) in his last four games while Barkov has recorded 13 points (4-9-13) in his last 17 games but they'll have to be on their toes especially as they face off against two of the best centers in the league in Crosby and Malkin. Crosby is 10 points clear of second place in the points race (25-43-68) while Malkin is tied for 15th in the league with 47 points (12-35-47).