Penguins-Panthers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 19, 2011
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been forced to play from behind in four straight games, something they know needs to change. Pittsburgh looks for a better start Saturday night when it goes for its sixth consecutive win over the Florida Panthers. The Penguins (11-5-3) have dropped two of three, including a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday to open their two-game Florida road trip. They outshot the Lightning 34-18, but went 0 for 7 on the power play. James Neal's seven-game point streak came to an end while Evgeni Malkin also failed to record a point. Pittsburgh allowed the game's first four goals before Tyler Kennedy scored with 3:11 remaining in the game to avoid the shutout. Digging an early hole has been a problem recently for the Penguins, who trailed 3-1 at the end of one period against Colorado on Tuesday before rallying for a 6-3 victory. They yielded the first three goals in last Saturday's 5-3 loss to Carolina. "I still think we're doing things the right way," left wing Chris Kunitz said, "but we still have to get better as a team." While Sidney Crosby continues to practice in his attempt to make his season debut, the Penguins have ruled him out for Saturday. "Sid has been rehabbing with us, skating with us and he's a part of our team. But we know right now he's not going to be out there with us," coach Dan Bylsma said. "That's something we've been doing for 10 months now. So our guys know it's the guys in the room that go out there every night." Although the Penguins have lost four of their last five road games, they have won five straight overall against Florida including the last two road meetings. Neal has three goals and four points the last five times he's faced the Panthers. The Panthers (9-6-3) have also lost two of three, including a 4-1 defeat at St. Louis on Thursday. Mike Santorelli scored the lone Florida goal. "We've had numerous times this year where we've settled down after bad stretches, and we didn't do that (Thursday)," coach Kevin Dineen said. Florida went 0 for 3 on the power play and hasn't scored in its last 14 chances. Prior to the drought it had been 14 for 58 (24.1 percent ) with the man advantage. The Panthers are also slumping at home, where they've dropped four straight, three via the shootout. Kris Versteeg, who leads the Panthers with 20 points, will try to help Florida get back on track. He was held scoreless Thursday as the Panthers dropped to 2-4-1 when he fails to record a point. The Panthers have dropped five straight meetings with the Penguins, including a 4-2 defeat Oct. 11 at Pittsburgh. Malkin missed that contest due to a lower body injury, but has eight points in his last six games versus Florida.
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