|Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and goaltender Scott Clemmensen defend against Pittsburgh forward Pascal Dupuis during a game last season at the BankAtlantic Center. (Getty Images)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 19th in the Top 5 Games
For the Panthers, one of the biggest games on the docket this season will be against the Penguins on November 19th. There are numerous reasons, stemming from the Penguins having the Panthers numbers the last couple of years, to the match-up against Pens superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to the start of a four-game homestand over Thanksgiving week.
Starting with the first part, the Penguins have taken seven of the last eight games over the last two years. While the Panthers have been competitive in games (losing four times in overtime or the shootout) over that span, Pittsburgh has found ways to come out on top. Florida lost all four matchups last season, going 0-3-1, while being outscored 14-7.
Then you have to factor in the fact that the Penguins, have a deep team that has been to the playoffs, has won a Stanley Cup (2009) and therefore is battle tested. They just go through the regular season and prepare for a Cup run.
That deep team is led by their superstars; Crosby and Malkin. Prior to a concussion last season, Crosby had posted more than a 100 points in four of his first five seasons in the league. Malkin, also has put up 100 points in two of his last four seasons prior to 2010-11 where he faced several injuries which limited him to just 43 games. Malkin is back healthy this season while Crosby is still working his way back but both should be around when the Panthers and Penguins take to the ice.
Pittsburgh isn't limited to just the two superstars as they have Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and James Neal up front along with Kris Letang and Paul Martin on the back end and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes.
For Florida, this game marks the start of a busy eight day stretch as they play five games over that span. Four of those will come from the comfort of the South Florida ice as the Panthers will host Pittsburgh (Nov. 19), New Jersey (Nov. 21), the NY Rangers (Nov. 23) and Tampa Bay (Nov. 25) before traveling to Tampa Bay to finish it up (Nov. 26). There's nothing like a Thanksgiving week with four strong opponents (Tampa twice) during one of the busiest holiday weeks of the year. The BankAtlantic Center has some of it's largest crowds on hand over the week and it all starts with Pittsburgh.
The November 19th meeting will be the second time the two teams meet (October 11th in Pittsburgh is the first). With Thanksgiving around the corner, it's a great time to start the week off right, against a formidable foe with superstars throughout the lineup.