Panthers prepare for visit from Penguins, Crosby
The Florida Panthers got mixed news on the health front and added what they hope is a key player in advance of Tuesday night's game against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
Center Aleksander Barkov -- Florida's team captain -- practiced in full on Monday and appears ready to return after leaving Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over the Nashville Predators due to a lower-body injury. Barkov played just 1:55 in that game -- all of that in the first period.
However, second-line center Vincent Trocheck -- an All-Star in 2017 and the only successful scorer on either side of Saturday's shootout in Nashville -- is listed as questionable for Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Panthers on Sunday signed center Brian Boyle, a 34-year-old faceoff expert who finished last season with Nashville but had been unsigned for 2019-20 until Florida made this move.
Boyle, who won the NHL's Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2017-18 after his successful battle with leukemia, had 18 goals and six assists in 73 games last season, splitting his time between the New Jersey Devils and Nashville.
"Brian brings a wealth of experience to our club," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said of Boyle, who has played 880 NHL games, including playoffs. "He adds versatility and character in our lineup."
On Tuesday, the Panthers are likely to start Sergei Bobrovsky in goal. So far, he has been outplayed by his novice backup Sam Montembeault, who is 1-0-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in two starts.
Bobrovsky, who signed a seven-year, $70 million free-agent contract with the Panthers on July 1, is 2-2-2 with a 4.07 GAA and an .872 save percentage.
Either way, the Panthers -- who have picked up at least one point in five straight games -- can expect a challenging game from Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and the rest of the Penguins. Pittsburgh has won five of its past six games.
Crosby, 32, is still one of the NHL's few true superstars. He has missed a combined total of just three games the past two years and currently leads the Penguins with 12 points (four goals and a team-high eight assists).
Letang, also 32, leads Pittsburgh's defense. He tied his career high last season with 16 goals. This season, he has four goals and six assists.
The Penguins, however, are still without star winger Evgeni Malkin, who has a lower-body injury. Malkin, who has scored more than a point per game in eight straight seasons, skated with fellow injured forward Alex Galchenyuk prior to Monday's practice.
Pittsburgh's top-pair defenseman Brian Dumoulin has been ruled out of Tuesday's game due to a lower-body injury.
But the Penguins got good news on Monday when injured forwards Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad returned to practice for the first time since their injuries.
"We're still not sure of the timeline," said Bjugstad, who played the first six-plus years of his NHL career with the Panthers. "But I'm excited to be taking it day by day."
Pittsburgh is expected to start goalie Matt Murray, who is 5-2-0 with a 2.56 GAA and a .914 save percentage. His backup, Tristan Jarry, is 1-1-0 with a 1.52 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
--Field Level Media
Updated October 21, 2019