Penguins vs. Panthers, Game 62: Lines, Notes, How to Watch
SUNRISE, Fla — The Pittsburgh Penguins (31-21-9) have won four in a row and have a chance to take an almost insurmountable lead over the Florida Panther (30-27-6) in the Eastern Conference wild-card race. The Penguins have a five-point lead on Florida with two games in hand.
The puck drops just after 6 p.m. at FLA Live Arena.
A win in regulation means the Penguins could be seven up, with fewer games played, and shove the Panthers further behind pursuers Buffalo and Ottawa, who are each five points back but have played one less game (Buffalo) or the same number (Ottawa) as the Penguins.
The Penguins played a strong game in their 5-4 OT win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday at Amalie Arena. The teams were never separated by more than one goal. The game also marked the debut of newly acquired Mikael Granlund, who skated on the third-line RW.
The Penguins’ third line, centered by Jeff Carter with Danton Heinen on the LW, achieved a rarity this season. They had positive possession and scoring chance statistics. And when Carter set up Marcus Pettersson’s goal, they hit the scoreboard, too.
The Penguins will welcome back two-time Stanley Cup winner Nick Bonino on Saturday night. The team acquired the middle of the famed HBK line Friday for a fifth and seventh-round pick. Technically, the Penguins acquired him from the Montreal Canadiens, not the San Jose Sharks, but that was a paper move for Montreal to hold part of Bonino’s $2.05 million salary.
The Penguins will not hold a morning skate, but Bonino is expected to fill the Penguins’ need for a fourth-line center and penalty killer.
Florida’s lineup will get a couple of significant boosts.
Sam Bennett and Sasha Barkov will return for the Panthers. The pair are the Panthers’ top two centers, so their lineup will be the best version of itself. Florida has alternated wins and losses over the last 10 games and is 5-5-0.
Tristan Jarry is expected to start in net for the Penguins. Sergei Bobrovsky will start for Florida.
UPDATE: Coach Mike Sullivan said Jarry is not feeling well. DeSmith will start.
The Penguins recalled Drew O’Connor. He was demoted on paper before the NHL trade deadline, but it was only a paper move. He will likely be in the lineup Saturday and has three points in his last four games.
The Penguins are in the top wild-card position, one point ahead of the second wild-card New York Islanders. The Penguins also have three games in hand.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
Expected Panthers Lines, Per FloridaHockeyNow.com
Penguins power play: 20.9%, 17th
Penguins penalty kill: 79.6%, 15th
Panthers power play: 21.4%, 13th
Panthers penalty kill: 74%, 27th
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
Bonino, Bonino, Booooniiiiinnnnooooo! Nick Bonino will make his Penguins debut (again). The center scored 18 points, including 10 goals in his last 39 games.
The Penguins acquired Bonino and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on Friday. The team gave up Brock McGinn and a third-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Kulikov.
The Penguins have points in 19 of their last 23 meetings versus the Panthers (15-4-4 record) dating back to December 20, 2014.
The Penguins have picked up points in 10 of their last 12 visits to FLA Live Arena (6-2-4).
Following tonight’s game, the Penguins will play five straight and six of its next eight games at home. My suitcase thanks them.
In 13 career games v. Florida, Jake Guentzel has six goals, eight assists and 14 points.
Evgeni Malkin (1,046) is currently two penalty minutes shy of tying Kevin Stevens (1,048) for the most penalty minutes in franchise history.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet
Radio: 105.9 The X
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The Penguins are slight underdogs at +105. We like that bet. They’re also +160 to win in regulation–that’s always a tough bet with the Penguins, who have trouble holding third-period leads, but Florida is limping along.
Sidney Crosby is +1200 to score the first goal. Put a few dollars of house money on that one, too.
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