The Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0-0) have a date with another Stanley Cup contender in the sunshine state, the Florida Panthers (0-0-0). The Penguins should be feeling pretty, pretty confident about themselves after they dominated the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, 6-2. The Penguins took the puck and didn’t give it back until Tampa Bay pulled their goalie with over six minutes remaining.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper deadpanned, “I should have done it sooner.”
UPDATE: Pittsburgh Penguins head coach announced that Casey DeSmith would start in goal for the Penguins. Jake Guentzel WILL play Thursday night. It will be his 300th career NHL game.
But the Florida Panthers are not raising their Stanley Cup banner before the game, and at least one of the Panthers figures to have just a wee bit more motivation.
Former Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist, well known for his nasty battles near the opponents’ goalies, is looking forward to facing his former team.
Read more from Hornqvist, what he’s meant to the Panthers organization and the coming battle here.
“It will be fun,” Hornqvist said.
It surely will be. Hornqvist and Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman may need a few Band-Aids when it is all over.
This will be the Panthers’ first game this season. Last week, the Panthers and Lightning got a head start on the regular season with a Slap Shot-style brawl during a preseason game in Orlando. Orlando was the most magical place in the hockey world that night, at least for those who like old-time hockey.
The Penguins scored three empty netters, but that happens when you get a 3-0 lead later in the third period. Danton Heinen scored 12 seconds into the second period–the first goal of the NHL season–when Jeff Carter stole the puck from Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and fed the hungry Heinen.
Brian Boyle scored his first goal since January of 2020, later in the second period, and Dominik Simon scored his first NHL goal since February of 2020 in the third.
If only Mike Lange were on the call, he could have said either hasn’t scored since the eighth-grade picnic.
The Penguins are in for it on Thursday night. Buckle up. You know Hornqvist will bring a Florida-sized storm.
The Florida Panthers also have top-line center Sasha Barkov, who recently signed an eight-year, $80 million deal. Their lineup also features Sam Reinhart, who they acquired from Buffalo earlier in the offseason, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Sam Bennett in their top six.
Pittsburgh Penguins injury updates:
The Penguins did not hold a morning skate on Thursday.
Sidney Crosby is most likely out.
Zach Aston-Reese is unlikely for Thursday but did practice on Wednesday.
Jake Guentzel is probable, based on his practice and being asymptomatic during his COVID protocol.
Mike Matheson is day-to-day, but the Penguins recalled P.O. Joseph on Wednesday, so Matheson is not expected to be in the lineup.
Evgeni Malkin will be out until December, at the earliest.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines:
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Rickard Rakell|
|Danton Heinen||Ryan Poehling||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brock McGinn||Sam Poulin||Drew O'Connor|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|P.O Joseph||Jan Rutta|
Projected Florida Panthers Lines, From Florida Hockey Now:
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 74 Owen Tippett
77 Frank Vatrano // 15 Anton Lundell // 70 Patric Hornqvist
94 Ryan Lomberg // 19 Joe Thornton // 10 Anthony Duclair
52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas
8 Matt Kiersted // 62 Brandon Montour
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
–Last season, the Penguins scored 93 goals on the road in 28 games. Only the Washington Capitals (102) and Florida Panthers (94) scored more road goals last year.
—Jeff Carter has 34 points (15-19-34) in 35 career games against the Florida Panthers, including 10 points (4-6-10) in his last seven games against the Panthers.
—Goaltender Tristan Jarry is 14-1-1 in his last 18 regular-season games played dating back to Mar. 24, 2021. In that span, he has a 2.55 goals-against average, .911 save percentage, and two shutouts.
–Mike Sullivan tied Dan Bylsma for most wins as a Pittsburgh Penguins head coach (252). Sullivan will become the Penguins winningest regular-season coach with his next win. No other Penguins coach won two Stanley Cups.
Hornqvist spent six seasons with the Penguins from 2014-2020, recording 264 points (132-132-264) in 407 regular-season games and 38 points (22-16-38) in 66 postseason contests.
–Thursday could be Jake Guentzel’s 300th NHL game.
–Jeff Carter’s next goal will be his 400th career NHL tally. There are only six other active players who have reached that mark.
How to watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet; Radio: 105.9 The X
The Florida Panthers are favored: (PL -1.5) — (ML -175) — U/O 6.5
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