Panthers-Penguins Preview

Just three games into the 2011-12 season, the Pittsburgh

Penguins again found themselves missing their two star players.

They’ll have to play without both of them at least once

more.

The Penguins open their home schedule Tuesday night against the

Florida Panthers without Evgeni Malkin, who will miss his second

straight game with a lower-body injury.

Pittsburgh (2-0-1) returns home after a promising road trip to

western Canada. Following wins over Vancouver and Calgary, the

Penguins fell 2-1 in a shootout to Edmonton on Sunday.

The Oilers scored with 4:55 left in regulation, then Pittsburgh

failed to capitalize on a late five-minute power play.

“We got five out of six points,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I like

that. We got some wins in tough places. We’ve played a lot of

hockey already and I think that showed in this game. A lot of guys

got taxed. But we’re happy with our start.”

While Bylsma said several players were sore after the opening

weekend, none may be as concerning as Malkin. With Pittsburgh

already missing Sidney Crosby, who’s still working his way back

from post-concussion symptoms, Malkin was scratched following

pregame warmups Sunday due to a lower-body injury.

He took part in the team’s morning skate Tuesday, but Bylsma

ruled him out for the Penguins’ home opener. Bylsma has been vague

about the injury – which is believed to have occurred in the third

period Saturday at Calgary – but has acknowledged it isn’t related

to Malkin’s knee surgery to repair two torn ligaments, which

knocked him out for last season in early February.

“We do not think it’s long-term or anything other than just

being sore at this point and time,” Bylsma told the team’s official

website.

While the Penguins are downplaying concerns about Malkin, they

appear to have little to be worried about with the club’s special

teams. Pittsburgh had the league’s top-ranked penalty-kill unit in

2010-11 and hasn’t allowed a goal in 11 opportunities this

season.

The Penguins also have five power-play goals in 16 chances after

ranking 25th last season at 15.8 percent.

Pittsburgh lost its first three home games in regulation last

season, but finished 25-14-2 on its own ice – not including the

playoffs, when it dropped its final three at Consol Energy Center

while being eliminated by Tampa Bay.

The Penguins will try for a better home start against Florida

(1-0-0), which opened its season with a 2-0 road victory over the

New York Islanders on Saturday in Kevin Dineen’s NHL coaching

debut.

Stephen Weiss, who had a team-high 49 points last season, and

Jason Garrison scored in the first period while Jose Theodore made

27 saves for his 31st career shutout.

The Panthers had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last

season, but were busy in the offseason, with Theodore and

defenseman Brian Campbell among the new additions. Campbell

assisted on both goals and led Florida skaters in ice time by more

than five minutes Saturday.

“Everybody came through tonight,” Theodore said. “They were

clearing the rebounds (and) I was seeing the puck. We really worked

well as a unit. They were letting me see the puck. We were all on

the same page.”

The Penguins took all four meetings with the Panthers last

season, and they’ve won five straight and eight of nine between the

teams at home.