Pittsburgh Penguins: 6 Things to Watch Against the Florida Panthers

Eron NoreContributor IIIOctober 11, 2011

Pittsburgh Penguins: 6 Things to Watch Against the Florida Panthers

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Edmonton Oilers in a shootout, 2-1 in their third game of the season. for about 54 minutes the Pens were in the lead, but to say they were in control would not be appropriate.

    Edmonton's return to glory may still be a few years off, but in this game their young players were on full display. Much of the game was highlighted by Brent Johnson making big saves against the future stars.

    In what seems to be a recurring theme, a third period comeback (is one goal really a comeback?) wasted a lead and the team's solid play. Unfortunately, one of last year's themes, power play failure, set the table for Edmonton to gain the extra point in the shootout.

    All in all, the trip to Western Canada was a success. A 2-0-1 record to start the season put the team right where they want and expect to be, near the top of the standings.

    The team now returns to Pittsburgh to take on the Florida Panthers at the Consol Energy Center. Take a look at the slides for six things to watch for in that game.

    I will be tweeting during the game once again. If you feel the need, check that out @shootinthepuck .

Evgeni Malkin's Injury

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    Will Evgeni Malkin return to the lineup Thursday? He is being held out against Florida due to whatever is bothering him in his lower body.

    Luckily, the problem does not seem to be serious. Geno was even tweeting about his excitement to return home after the Edmonton game.

    Keep an eye on the comfort level of Malkin. While there is no need to force him in to October games, hopefully it does not become something that lingers.

Is the Powerplay Heading South?

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    As I mentioned prior to the Edmonton game, the power play will not convert at a 50 percent rate the entire season. The real test of progress, is scoring key goals with the man advantage.

    Against the Oilers, the team failed this test. Discard the 1-for-8 stat, the failure to score one goal on a five minute major with under five minutes left in the third period was a disappointment.

Mark Letestu

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    So far Mark Letestu's play has been rough. He finds himself getting chances, but just cannot convert them.

    There was also a bad penalty taken against the Oilers. He did not find himself removed from the lineup, but if he continues to be stagnant this will be on the table.

Other Players That Need Jumpstarted (On the Scoresheet)

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    Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz have not played bad games at all this season. Neither has a goal, though.

    It is only a matter of time before either player finds themselves tallying a goal. Here's to hoping it comes sooner rather than later.

Another Lead Blown

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    The goalie may have changed, but the song remained the same. Brent Johnson played a great game that came up short because the team could not hold the one goal lead.

    When it became clear that the team was sluggish and lacked scoring punch, it seemed dangerous to only have a 1-0 lead. The youthful Oilers took advantage late, thrilling their home opener crowd.

    So far this season, three games have been too close for comfort because of the inability to put a team away. With any luck, returning home will help the team fix this problem. 

Kris Letang

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    Kris Letang is playing like it is the start of last season again. That is great news, considering I identified him as one of the five players the Penguins need to step up in this article.

    So far, Tang leads the team in points. He also is playing inspired defense, getting excellent torque on his hits, and logged 29:16 minutes on ice against Edmonton.

    If he can keep this up instead of falling off in the second half like last year, we may say a Norris Trophy winning Penguin for the first time since Randy Carlyle won it in 1981.