Act Two of the Florida Panthers' season-long seven-game homestand is set for Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla., against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Florida lost the opener of this homestand 2-1 on Thursday to the Nashville Predators, continuing a "win one, lose one" trend the Panthers have followed for nearly one month -- since Feb. 9 to be exact.
"We all want to win, especially this time of year when we are pushing for a playoff spot," Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg said. "Guys in this (locker) room care. We're definitely upset with this result."
But while the Panthers are struggling, the Penguins will enter Saturday on a four-game winning streak -- their best stretch since December.
Two of those Penguins victories were won in overtime on goals from Jason Zucker against Tampa Bay on Thursday and by Bryan Rust against St. Louis last Saturday when the streak began.
This Penguins hot stretch has also included two straight wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won a pair of Stanley Cup titles over the past three years.
"It means a lot to take four points from a team like that in the same week," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We can build on this."
Zucker has helped Pittsburgh make this surge by scoring at least one goal in three straight games -- four in total.
The Penguins also had a forward -- Mikael Granlund, formerly of Nashville -- make his Pittsburgh debut on Thursday.
Granlund, 31, and Nick Bonino, a 34-year-old forward acquired from San Jose just before Friday's trade deadline, should help Pittsburgh's bottom two lines. They have combined to score 19 goals this season.
The Penguins also picked up defenseman Dimitry Kulikov, 32, from Anaheim on Friday.
Pittsburgh's stars are still Sidney Crosby, 35, and Evgeni Malkin, 36, who have combined to lead the Penguins to Stanley Cup titles in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
This season, Crosby leads Pittsburgh in goals (27), assists (46) and points (73). Malkin is second on the team in assists (39) and points (62). He is third in goals (23). Jake Guentzel (24 goals), Richard Rakell (21), Zucker (19) and Rust (15) are the Penguins' other top scoring forwards.
Two Penguins goalies have split time -- Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Jarry is 19-7-5 with a 2.77 goals-against average. DeSmith is 11-12-4 with a 3.27 GAA.
Kris Letang leads Penguins defensemen with 28 points. On Thursday, he was hit in the face by a shot from Tampa Bay's Ross Colton. Letang missed the rest of the first period, but he came back in the second.
"He had a pretty good gash," Sullivan said. "We had to sew him up. But he has the heart of a lion."
Meanwhile, Florida is hoping that forwards Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett -- who combined last season for 67 goals - can return from injury on Saturday.
That would give a boost to a Panthers offense that is powered by forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe along with defenseman Brandon Montour.
Tkachuk leads Florida in points (51) and points (79). Verhaeghe tops the Panthers in goals (31) and Montour leads Florida defensemen in points (49). Verhaeghe has a career high in goals, and Montour has tied his personal best with 11, which he set last season.
Panthers primary goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is 18-17-2 with a 3.04 GAA.
--Field Level Media