Pittsburgh Penguins Pregame: Simon Despres Recalled, Kris Letang Returning Soon?

The Pittsburgh Penguins (40-21-5) take on the Southeast-leading Florida Panthers (31-23-12) tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center.

Notes:

- The Penguins have recalled defenseman Simon Despres from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for tonight’s game. Paul Martin is considered a game-time decision for tonight’s game after not participating in today’s morning skate. Despres will take Martin’s spot if he can’t go, but could find his way into the lineup even if Martin plays. At 20 years old, Despres has recorded a goal and four points with a +4 rating in 14 NHL games this season. Every time he gets called up I get excited. This kid is going to be something special soon.

- Kris Letang skated this morning. He went through individual on-ice workouts and may not miss as much time as first anticipated. He hasn’t been officially diagnosed with a concussion, which is great news considering the hit he took.

- Defenseman Deryk Engelland also skated today and is nursing a minor lower body injury back to full health. He is expected to return to the lineup soon.

- Obligatory Sidney Crosby link/reference/fact/please play soon.

Who to Watch:

Pittsburgh: Jordan Staal. Staal is on an absolute tear right now with seven goals and 15 points in his last 12 games. He had a goal and assist Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs and is riding a six-game point streak.

Florida: Stephen Weiss. Weiss ranks third on the Panthers with 47 points and is one of the game’s better playmakers. If the Panthers want to hang onto their division lead and a playoff spot, they’ll need Weiss to become the consistent point producer he was at the beginning of the season. The fourth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft has just one point in his last four games, but with Kris Versteeg day-to-day, Weiss needs to step up.

Team Stats:

Not a whole lot of similarities here. The Penguins hold the offensive edge by over half a goal per game (3.09 to Florida’s 2.41) and are the better defensive team as well (2.53 goals against/game to 2.76).

The Penguins have the game’s top-ranked penalty kill at 89.2% and remain in the top seven on the power play (19.8%) despite having struggled with the man advantage since Kris Letang’s injury. The Panthers hold the league’s 11th ranked power play and 24th ranked penalty kill.

The Panthers have dropped three of their last four games including a 7-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets and a 5-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, while the Penguins have won their last seven games. Pittsburgh has lost just once at the Consol Energy Center since January 17.

Marc-Andre Fleury will start in net for the Penguins after having the night off Wednesday against the Maple Leafs. Scott Clemmensen is expected to start for the Panthers but hasn’t yet been confirmed.

A win tonight would tie the team’s longest win streak of the season (8).

Game time is 7:08 PM and will be televised on Root Sports.

Let’s Go Pens

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff

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