The Pittsburgh Penguins, winners of the Stanley Cup as recently as 2009, visit the Panthers Friday night a vastly different team.
Superstar center Sidney Crosby hasn’t played since Dec. 5 after suffering another concussion and the Penguins have lost six in a row after losing 1-0 in Washington on Wednesday.
The Penguins are also without top defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) and standout center Jordan Staal (knee).
Pittsburgh has scored just six goals during their skid and would not make the playoffs if the season ended with the current positioning.
Of course, to the Panthers, that all makes the Penguins a very dangerous team. Coach Kevin Dineen is rightfully wary of All-Star center Evgeni Malkin and whatever Penguins are healthy.
“They are a dangerous team,” the Panthers coach said. “They are a little bit wounded, but that is an animal you have to be aware of.”
Dineen said he hopes Crosby – who is set to practice Friday but is not expected to play for a while – returns soon.
“As a fan myself, you want to see the top players,” Dineen said. “It’s an advantage for us strategically (that Crosby is out), but for the good of the game and our fans, I’d love to see him play.”
-- Panthers goalie Jose Theodore (knee) skated Thursday but is a “remote possibility” for Friday’s game. Backup Scott Clemmensen is expected to start for the fifth time in the past six games.
-- General Manger Dale Tallon said he is never satisfied, but he is happy with his team’s first half.
“Fifty points at the halfway point is a good position,’’ he said. “Our coaching staff has done a remarkable job with 13 new faces and a lot of injuries. Our guys have come up from the minors and helped us with seven forwards out of the lineup through most of this. It looks like we’re going to get healthy in the next couple weeks.”
-- Panthers winger Scottie Upshall, who hasn’t played since Nov. 10, skated Thursday but has not yet been cleared for contact.
FRIDAY: PENGUINS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSN; WQAM-560
The series: Penguins lead 36-31-4
The game: Florida’s win over Pittsburgh in November snapped a five-game losing streak to the Pens. Both teams have a win in the series this season. Pittsburgh, without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal because of injuries, has struggled lately. Wednesday’s 1-0 loss in Washington was Pittsburgh’s sixth straight.