The injury-ravaged Florida Panthers look to turn things around when they host the surging Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night. The Panthers have allowed 10 goals combined during two losses to start a six-game homestand and will likely be without two of their top defensemen along with No. 1 center Aleksander Barkov.
“We’re missing some depth,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant told reporters, “but when nobody plays well that’s what hurts your team.” While the Panthers’ lead in the Atlantic Division is dwindling during a 1-3-1 stretch, Pittsburgh is on a 7-2-0 run to place itself in the middle of a crowded playoff chase in the Eastern Conference. “It gives you accountability, when every single game counts,” Penguins forward Chris Kunitz told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “You have to go out and give your best effort. It’s not good enough just to show up one game a week.” Pittsburgh won’t feel sorry for Florida with second-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin (lower body) likely still a few games away from returning after missing the last five.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Florida
LINE HISTORY: The Panthers opened as -130 home favorites and have been bet down to -126. The total opened at 5.0.
Penguins – C E. Malkin (out indefinitely, lower body), RW (out indefinitely, upper body), C E. Fehr (Early March, lower body), C N. Bonino (I-R, hand), D D. Warsofsky (I-R, concussion).
Panthers – C Q. Howden (questionable Monday, upper body), D W. Mitchell (questionable Monday, lower body), D E. Gudbranson (questionable Monday, undisclosed), C A. Barkov (out indefinitely, upper body), C D. Bolland (out indefinitely, lower body).
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (28-19-7, 20-24-10 O/U): Captain Sidney Crosby has cooled off after a torrid stretch in which he scored 12 goals in nine games, failing to reach the scoresheet in two straight contests. Pittsburgh still found a way to earn a 2-1 shootout victory over Carolina on Friday after being shutout in the previous contest by the New York Rangers. Crosby has a team-best 53 points overall and defenseman Kris Letang is third with 40 after contributing five in the past four games while playing at least 27 minutes in three of them.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (32-18-6, 21-24-11 O/U): Jaromir Jagr, who turns 44 Monday, shares the team lead in points (40) with Jonathan Huberdeau and remains two goals shy of Brett Hull (741) for third place on the NHL’s all-time list. The absence of Barkov (35 points) shows while Quinton Howden (upper body) and Brandon Pirri (ankle) were both injured in Saturday’s 5-0 loss to Nashville and fellow forward Greg McKegg was recalled. Defensemen Willie Mitchell (lower body) and Erik Gudbranson (undisclosed) are also expected out.
* Penguins are 7-2 in their last nine games overall.
* Panthers are 7-1 in their last eight versus Metropolitan Division opponents.
* Over is 3-0-1 in Penguins last four versus Atlantic Division opponents.
* Over is 6-2-1 in Panthers last nine games overall.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is backing the hot Penguins in this matchup, with 60 percent of wagers backing them. When it comes to the total, 68 percent of wagers are on the over.