Penguins-Panthers Preview


After a dominant first few games at home, the undefeated Pittsburgh Penguins are ready to take their show on the road.

The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, surely can't wait to finally get on home ice.

The Penguins look to extend their best start in 18 seasons Friday night against the Panthers, who try to snap a three-game skid in their home opener.

Jussi Jokinen recorded a hat trick against his former team and Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves as Pittsburgh improved to 3-0-0 with Tuesday's 5-2 win over Carolina. The Penguins, who have scored 10 even-strength goals, are off to their best start since opening 7-0-0 in the lockout-shortened 1995 season.

"I'm playing with world-class players and they're giving me the puck. I just need to remember to shoot," Jokinen told the team's official website. "I'm having lots of fun right now. It's been really good. A great start for us, 3-0. We just have to go on the road and do the same thing."

While Sidney Crosby and fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin continue to lead the way, Jokinen has 10 goals and four assists in 13 regular-season games since joining the Penguins in April.

"The comment after the game in the coaches' room is (Jokinen's) hockey sense and hockey intelligence is off the charts," coach Dan Bylsma said. "His intelligence, smarts, ability to play with good players and read off them showed in a lot of cases (Tuesday). He was excellent."

After finishing tied for 21st in the NHL with 34 power-play goals allowed last season, the Penguins have killed all six of their penalties thus far.

"I think for us the biggest thing is our defensive play," left wing Tanner Glass said. "We're able to shut teams down and not give them too much."

Much of that success can be attributed to Fleury, who has rebounded nicely after a poor showing in the playoffs. He has allowed a combined three goals while starting each of the team's first three games.

Fleury has posted a 1.26 goals-against average in winning seven consecutive starts against the Panthers (1-3-0). Pittsburgh has won nine of 11 in the series and is 19-6-0 against Florida dating to 2007.

That doesn't bode well for a Panthers team coming off a disappointing season-opening road trip. After beating Dallas 4-2 in its first game last Thursday, Florida has been outscored 16-3 during a three-game losing streak.

The Panthers' woes continued Thursday in a 7-2 loss to Tampa Bay. Jacob Markstrom, who entered with a 1.66 GAA, surrendered a career high-tying six goals on 24 shots before giving way to Scott Clemmensen midway through the third period.

"We didn't respond well to pressure," coach Kevin Dineen said. "When they pressured our players, instead of responding to that, understanding that it was coming, I think it created turmoil for us.

"They work as hard as anybody in the league. If you don't match that, if you don't have 100 percent buy-in and effort to try to contain them, you're going to get lit up like we did."

Brad Boyes notched his second goal as the Panthers went 1 for 5 on the power play, snapping an 0-for-16 funk to begin the year.

Panthers goalie Tim Thomas, who left Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Philadelphia with a pulled groin, is unlikely to play in this game.