Pittsburgh Penguins at Florida Panthers (+174, 5.5)
Two teams heading in opposite directions will meet on Friday when the Florida Panthers play their home opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins have limited opponents to three goals in three consecutive home victories to start their season, while Florida has dropped three straight after winning its opener and has allowed an Eastern Conference-worst 18 goals. The rebuilding Panthers are widely expected to finish in the lottery for the 2014 NHL draft, as opposed to the Stanley Cup-or-bust mentality of star-laden Pittsburgh.
Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury seems determined to silence his critics with his early play, stopping 79-of-82 shots and opening the season with a shutout. The Penguins also have scoring depth, with seven different players accounting for its 12 goals. Florida has seen five separate players score a goal and only two - veterans Marcel Goc and Brad Boyes - have netted more than one.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), Fox Sports Florida
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (3-0-0): Captain Sidney Crosby leads the team with four points and 12 shots. Jussi Jokinen is making the most of playing on Evgeni Malkin’s line, recording his first career hat trick on Tuesday to raise his total to 14 points in 13 games since arriving in Pittsburgh at last season’s trade deadline. The Penguins need production from Jokinen and other depth forwards while they wait for James Neal to recover from a mysterious injury that has the team evaluating him on a “week-to-week” basis.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (1-3-0): Goaltender Jacob Markstrom lasted 49 minutes against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, allowing six goals on 24 shots in his first start in place of injured veteran Tim Thomas. Thomas is doubtful for Friday, but the team hopes the groin injury he sustained is minor enough for him to return soon and provide a little stability in the crease. Veteran defenseman Brian Campbell leads the team with four assists, while Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau and rookie Aleksander Barkov each have a goal and an assist.
* Under is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings.
* Penguins are 19-7 in the last 26 meetings.
* Home team is 5-2 in the last seven meetings.
* Penguins are 4-1 in their last five vs. Atlantic.
1. Penguins GM Ray Shero dismissed a report detailing that Neal aggravated an old ailment while participating in an on-ice game of wiffle ball. His injury has been described by ESPN as “similar to a strained oblique.”
2. Campbell leads all players on both teams by logging 25:55 of ice time.
3. Pittsburgh is 12-3-0 against the Panthers over the last four seasons, but five of those victories needed overtime or a shootout.