Florida Panthers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 8th 2023

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have won the Stanley Cup three times in the Sidney Crosby era, but the golden days may be behind them.

Pittsburgh has gone five straight years without winning a playoff series and missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2005-06.

The Penguins reside in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division as they visit the Florida Panthers on Friday night in Sunrise, Fla. They have lost three straight and eight of their past 11 games (3-5-3).

A major problem for the Penguins is their power play, which is 0-for-33 over the past 12 games.

The Penguins lost 3-1 to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, and veteran forward Evgeni Malkin said slow starts have been a major problem. Pittsburgh couldn’t score until the final minute of the game.

“The puck drops at 7:10, and we should start playing,” Malkin said. “We need everyone to start right away.”

Crosby said his squad was “maybe a little hesitant,” while Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said his players tend to go laterally too much.

“We’re trying to encourage them to put the puck on the net more,” Sullivan said.

Now 36, Crosby is still a force as he leads the Penguins with 15 goals. Jake Guentzel leads the Penguins in assists (19) and points (29).

Starting goalie Tristan Jarry is a lackluster 8-9-2 just a few months after signing a five-year, $26.9 million contract extension. He has a 2.50 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

Three-time Norris Trophy recipient Erik Karlsson has six goals and 19 points. He is well behind his pace of last season, when he scored 25 goals and posted 101 points.

Along with Crosby, Malkin, 37, and defenseman Kris Letang, 36, form the core of the aging Penguins.

Conversely, the Panthers — who beat the visiting Dallas Stars 5-4 on Wednesday — are seen as a team on the rise.

The Panthers made a run to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and they will enter Friday firmly in playoff position.

On Wednesday, Florida’s line of captain Aleksander Barkov and wingers Evan Rodrigues and Sam Reinhart was dynamic with nine points.

Rodrigues scored two goals and dished two assists for a career-high-tying four points.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said Rodrigues was impressive even beyond his offense.

“He was physical,” Maurice said. “He was on pucks. He defended really hard.”

Reinhart is on pace for a career year as he entered Thursday tied for second in the NHL with 17 goals. He was also 10th in the league with 32 points, tying him with Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

Barkov leads Florida in assists (16) and ranks second in points (24). Rodrigues has six goals and ranks fourth in points (20).

Panthers starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is 12-6-1 with a 2.49 GAA. Backup Anthony Stolarz is 3-2-1 with a 2.34 GAA.

The Panthers started the season with their top two defensemen, Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour, on the injured list. But Friday will mark the 10th straight game that both returned to the lineup. Ekblad has three assists in his past four games.

–Field Level Media

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