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Penguins vs. Florida, Game 30: Lines, Notes & How to Watch

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — It’s been more than two years since the Pittsburgh Penguins traded Patric Hornqvist to Florida, but he still comes up occasionally in conversations between members of the fan base.

And almost certainly between some of the guys who played with him, too.

However, there probably won’t be much talk about Hornqvist when the Penguins face Florida tonight at 7:08 p.m. at FLA Live Arena, because he won’t be in the Panthers’ lineup.

Hornqvist is on the Long-Term Injured list while recovering from a concussion, and will sit out his sixth consecutive game this evening. He was, however, able to participate in their game-day skate today.

His absence isn’t the only reason the Panthers are off to a disappointing 14-12-4 start — Hornqvist has settled into a bottom-six role, averaging only 9:16 of ice time per game, with just one goal and two assists in 22 games — but Florida could use an infusion of his leadership and other intangibles.

“He’s a talker on the bench,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said after the skate. “He never shuts up. But, he calls the game like a coach. He sees small things on the ice … some of that is just through experience. He’s been through so much. He’s seen so much. He is really, really sharp on the bench. If (coaching) is something that he looks to later in his career, I would understand it.

“But what’s he really got, more than anything, is an every-day, high-end pro approach. He’s here early. He practices harder than everybody else. He stays longer and he can do it every single day. Every game is his best effort. A great example for our young players.”

Although¬†the Panthers were a popular preseason choice to seriously challenge for a championship, they have won as many as two games in a row only three times. Impressive as the Panthers’ personnel, including the likes of Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, is, their point total is not.

Hornqvist, 35, isn’t likely to be the only Panthers player who is out of the lineup this evening. Carter Verhaeghe, Spencer Knight and Anton Lundell were unhealthy scratches, while Colin White and Chris Tierney were injured during a 4-0 victory against Columbus Tuesday.

Knight will be available against the Penguins and Verhaeghe seems likely to play, but it’s not clear which, if any, of the others might be in uniform.

Mind you, the Penguins’ lineup is a bit watered-down, too. They will be without defenseman Jeff Petry, who is on the Long-Term Injured list, and second-line left winger Jason Zucker, who is listed as week-to-week with an unspecified injury suffered in the Penguins’ 2-1 victory over Dallas Monday.

Petry’s injury has opened a spot for Chad Ruhwedel, while Danton Heinen is expected to move into Zucker’s place alongside Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust.

Regardless of who Mike Sullivan deploys, or how his lines and defense pairings are configured, doing damage-control against Tkachuk, one of the league’s premier power forwards, figures to be a top priority.

Assuming Tkachuk actually plays, that is. He did not skate this morning and did not participate in a team-sponsored charity event Wednesday after reportedly being ill following the Columbus game.

Maurice declined to confirm the reason for Tkachuk’s absence this morning, and said a decision on whether he will play against the Penguins should be made around 5 p.m.

Florida acquired him from Calgary in the belief that he was the final piece needed to make the Panthers a Stanley Cup-caliber team, and while the club has not performed to most projections, Tkachuk certainly has.

He leads Florida in scoring with 39 points in 28 games — Verhaeghe, who is second in the team scoring race, has 15 fewer points — while also topping the club with 45 penalty minutes. Tkachuk had a goal and an assist Tuesday, despite not feeling well.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will not hold a game-day skate. Sullivan is scheduled to meet with reporters about two hours before the game, at which time he is expected to identify his starting goaltender and provide any injury updates.

Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines

Guentzel-Crosby-Rakell

Heinen-Malkin-Rust

McGinn-Carter-Kapanen

Poehling-Blueger-Archibald

Defense

Pettersson-Letang

Dumoulin-Rutta

Joseph-Ruhwedel

Goalie

Tristan Jarry

Expected Florida Panthers Lines, per Puckpedia.com

Tkechuk-Barkov-Reinhart

Luostainen-Bennett-White

Cousins-Staal-Denisenko

Lomberg-Tierney-Dalpe

Defense

Forsling-Ekblad

Staal-Montour

Kierstad-Mahura

Goalie

Sergei Bobrovsky

Special Teams

Penguins Power Play: 20 of 98, 20.4%, 22nd (tie)

Penguins Penalty Kill: 16 of 91, 82.4%, 4th

Panthers Power Play: 21 of 112, 18.8%, 26th

Panthers Penalty Kill: 25 of 115, 78.3%, 19th

Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes

Sidney Crosby has 28 goals and 30 assists in 44 career games against the Panthers.

The Penguins are 13-2-2 in their past 17 games overall — their six-game winning streak is the longest active one in the NHL — and 13-4-4 in their past 21 against Florida. They also have won five road games in a row, tying Vancouver for the longest such streak in the league.

Jeff Carter’s next assist will be his 400th in the NHL, while Heinen needs one to have 100 in his career.

The Penguins have scored three or more goals in 14 of their past 18 road games against the Panthers,

Tristan Jarry is 9-0-2 in his past 11 starts. Sam Reinhart is one of only four Panthers to have scored on him, and is the only one who has done it twice.

The Penguins have a power-play goal in six consecutive games, going 8-for-24 with the extra man during that stretch.

Kris Letang’s next even-strength point will be his 400th, making him just the seventh player in franchise history and allowing him to join Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson as the only active defensemen to reach that milestone.

Disappointing as the Panthers’ first few months in 2022-23 have been, they are formidable on home ice, going 8-3-3 so far.

How to Watch

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: 105.9 The X