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Pittsburgh vs. Florida Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (15-8-0-30) vs. Florida Panthers (10-9-2-22)

Where: BankAtlantic Center
When:
Monday, November 23, 7:30 p.m.
Radio:
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV:
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
This is the second of four meetings between the Penguins and Panthers. Pittsburgh won the first meeting, 3-2, in a shootout at Mellon Arena on Oct. 23. Sidney Crosby scored twice in the third period (with a power-play and shorthanded goal) and then added the game-deciding goal in the shootout. Brent Johnson stopped 27 of 29 shots in goal to pick up his first win as a Penguin.

 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Talbot-Crosby-Guerin
Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko
Cooke-Staal-Bourque
Rupp-Adams-Godard

Defense
Gonchar-Orpik
Eaton-Engelland
Skoula-Lovejoy

Netminder
Fleury


Last Meeting: Oct. 23, 2009
PIT 3 - FLA 2
Game Highlights
AP Recap
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Shots on Goal: The Penguins have won three of the past four games against the Panthers because they have totally dominated the offensive zone against the Panthers. In those four games the Penguins have thrown 47, 50, 43 and 43 shots on Florida. Anytime you throw that many shots at the opposition, you make them expend a tremendous amount of energy within their own zone, also hampering their offensive game.

Fast Start:
Florida is coming off a three-game road winning streak and the presence of the Penguins should present a capacity crowd at BankAtlantic Center. Much like the Thrashers on Saturday, Florida is playing some of their best hockey of the season. Martin Skoula’s early goal quieted the crowd at Philips Arena on that night, and a similar start against Florida would go a long way towards ending this road swing with a winning record.
 
LOWDOWN ON THE PANTHERS
In an effort to make only their second playoff appearance this decade, and first since 2000, the Panthers elected to hold onto highly-coveted Jay Bouwmeester at last seasons’s the trade deadline. (Traded later, read New Faces) Ultimately they came close, tying the Montreal Canadiens for the final postseason spot, but finished ninth due to a tiebreaker. Florida’s 41 victories in 08-09 tied the 1995-96 squad that beat the Penguins at home in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals for second-most wins in a season. The Panthers are currently one of the hottest teams in the league, having won eight of their past 11 games, including a three-game sweep of a recent road trip through Buffalo, Detroit and New York (Rangers).

Peter DeBoer became the 10th head coach in franchise history prior to last season when he was given his first shot behind an NHL bench. The long-time Kitchener Rangers bench boss is one of only six coaches in the history of the Ontario Hockey League to record over 500 career wins. His team won the Memorial Cup in 2003 and was runner-up his final season, 2007-08.
 
NEW FACES
Florida’s most significant move of the offseason was trading Bouwmeester’s rights on draft day to the Calgary Flames for another D-man, Jordan Leopold, and a third-round draft pick. Leopold, a native of Golden Valley, Minnesota, had split his six-year career between the Flames and Colorado Avalanche. He is dependable in his own end and capable of moving the puck up ice, but his high-scoring numbers at the University of Minnesota have never translated to the NHL level. His second-period goal on Saturday against the Rangers gave Florida a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Panthers further deepened their depth on the back end by signing former Nashville Predator Ville Koistinen and former Carolina Hurricane Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg, who signed with the Panthers late in the summer, is a smooth skater who has settled in nicely as the Panthers No. 3 option defensively. Koistinen is more offensive-minded, although his statistics so far (1G-3A) are not an accurate barometer of his skill set. 18-year-old first-round selection Dmitry Kulikov was a surprise addition to the team’s opening-day roster. He has been a bright spot offensively with seven points (1G-6A), although he still needs to imporve in his own zone, as evidenced by his minus-8 rating. Kulikov starred for Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, earning awards for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Best Professional Prospect and Best Defenseman.

Former Penguin Dominic Moore, who spent 59 games in Pittsburgh during the 2005-06 season, signed with Florida midway though training camp. He had a career year last season split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, setting personal highs in goals (13), assists (32) and points (45).
 
FORWARDS
Florida has a talented collection of young wingers filled with promise who just need to begin consistently finding the back of the net. David Booth is one who has established himself, scoring a team-high 31 times last season. Booth had only three points (2G-1A) through the first nine games of the season prior to suffering a serious concussion that has sidelined him since Oct. 24. Second-year wing Michael Frolik has also taken great strides with nine points (5G-4A), although he has only two goals and an assist the past 13 games. He lit the lamp 21 times as a rookie last season. Stephen Weiss, the Panthers’ leading scorer in ’08-09, currently sits third on the team in scoring with 14 points (7G-7A). Weiss has developed into a solid, two-way performer.

Two wingers who have recently seen their offensive production increase are Cory Stillman and Nathan Horton, the Panthers third and fourth leading scorers from a year ago, respectively. Stillman has 13 points (6G-7A) in 20 games while Horton is tied for the team-lead with 17 points (6G-11A). Horton can be a physical presence along the boards and in the corners offensively. Former first-round pick Rostislav Olesz, with 10 points (5G-5G), has already surpassed his point total (9) of last season. Speedy Radek Dvorak continues to play at a high level in his second tour of duty with the Panthers. He received a two-year deal in the offseason after scoring 15 goals in ’08-09, his most since reaching the same figure with Edmonton in ’03-04. He has two goals and three assists in 15 games in ’09-10. 
 
DEFENSEMEN
Losing Bouwmeester weakens a defense core which exceeded expectations a year ago. Adding Leopold and Seidenberg helps minimize his loss. Leopold is a solid defensive presence. Seidenberg spent last season with the Carolina Hurricanes, contributing 30 points (5G-25A) in 70 games. His positioning is solid and he is very adept at moving the puck out of his own zone. Seidenberg is second among all Florida defenders with eight points (1G-7A) and has a plus-4 rating.

McCabe and Ballard joined the Panthers in last season’s defensive makeover, with each adding both an offensive and defensive presence. McCabe tied Bouwmeester for the team lead in goals by a defenseman with 15 while finishing with 39 points. This season McCabe again paces the Florida defense offensively with 11 points (3G-8A). Ballard was second on the squad with a plus-14 rating and added 34 points of his own (6G-28A). Each proved dependable, appearing in all 82 contests. Bryan Allen, one of the key components to the 2006 Roberto Luongo trade, continues to work his way back into game shape after playing only twice in ’08-09 before a knee injury ended his season prematurely. He has seen his minutes increase over the past couple weeks.
 
GOALTENDING
Tomas Vokoun has provided the Panthers with quality play between the pipes since arriving from Nashville three summers ago. The two-time all-star has won 25-plus games each of the previous six seasons. Last year he nearly teamed with the since-departed Craig Anderson to lead the Panthers to a surprise playoff appearance when he went 26-23-6 with a 2.49 goals-against average, and a .926 save percentage which ranked second in the NHL behind Boston’s Vezina Trophy winning Tim Thomas. Vokoun has won four of his past five starts and has a 7-8-2 overall record to go with his 2.71 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, which ranks third in the Eastern Conference.

Anderson provided a quality sidekick to Vokoun in ’08-09, but departed to become the No. 1 man in Colorado during the offseason. Replacing him is longtime New Jersey Devil backup Scott Clemmensen. Given his most significant playing time at the NHL level with Martin Broduer sidelined, Clemmensen responded with a 25-13-1 record and 2.39 goals-against average. His strong play enabled the Devils to secure the Atlantic Division title when most pundits wrote them off after Broduer’s injury. Clemmemsen has won three of his five starts but his goals-against average (4.13) and save percentage (.878) are both well off last season’s pace.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: STEVEN REINPRECHT
Florida acquired Steven Reinprecht from Phoenix on June 19 and the veteran pivot has proven to be one of the summer’s most underrated acquisitions, leading the Panthers in goals (10) and points (17) through the first 21 games. Throughout his career Reinprecht has been the consummate 2nd/3rd line center, hovering around the 15-goal and 45-point marks every season.

Reinprecht has spent most of the year centering the team’s second line, currently consisting of Rostislav Olesz and Radek Dvorak on his wings. In addition to his scoring prowess, Reinprect leads Florida with a plus-8 rating.
 
INJURY UPDATE
The Panthers continue to win hockey games despite injuries to several top-12 forwards.
- David Booth a 31-goal scorer last season, his been out of action since suffering a concussion on Oct. 24 following a Mike Richards’ hit.
- Left wing Cory Stillman injured his left knee Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings. He could be out for an extended period.
- Gregory Campbell missed Saturday’s game against the Rangers with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
- Tough guy Nick Tarnasky is on injured reserve after sustaining a facial injury during a preseason fight with the Ottawa Senators Chris Neil.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
"We're feeling confident. This was a big road trip against really good teams. It's nice to get all three wins, but we're not out of the woods yet. It's only a start."

- Nathan Horton talking to the Panthers official website after the Panthers concluded a three-game road swing with a victory over the New York Rangers.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
3rd: Florida will debut their third jersey on Monday night against the Penguins. 
 



Author: Jason Seidling

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