-First things first. Evgeni Malkin will not play tonight due to what the team is describing as an "upper-body" injury. Malkin appeared to be dinged up a bit on a hit from Tampa Bay's Pierre-Cedric Labrie Thursday.
-It'll be interesting to see how the lines shake out with Malkin and Sidney Crosby each out of the lineup.
-The Panthers are a bad team right now. They're missing quite a few players out of what was already a thin lineup. That said, there are plenty of AHL players in the lineup hungry to proved they belong in the NHL. The Penguins should expect a fierce effort from the Penguins.
-We stopped by Consol Energy Center briefly today for the NCAA Tournament championship game. The ice:
-Former Penguins forward prospect and St. Cloud State star Ben Hanowski has a fan:
-And Yale mascott Boola appears to be looking for an internship:
-The Penguins starters are Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Sidney Crosby, Deryk Engelland, Dustin Jeffrey, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
-With Malkin scratched, the great Joe Vitale returns to the lineup while Simon Despres replaces Deryk Engelland.
-The Panthers' starters are Nick Bjugstad, Jack Skille, Scottie Upshall, Erik Gudbranson, Filip Kuba and Jacob Markstrom.
-Their scratches are George Parros and Tyson Strachan.
-It appears the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings are:
Chris Kunitz - Jussi Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Brenden Morrow - Pascal Dupuis - Beau Bennett
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik - Kris Letang
Douglas Murray - Matt Niskanen
Mark Eaton - Simon Despres
19:29: A shot from the right point by Filip Kuba is fought off by Fleury depsite traffic.
18:54: Niskanen tees up a slapper from the right point. Markstrom fights it off despite traffic. Jokinen is right there for the rebound but chops it wide.
18:31: Tomas Fleischmann pushes the puck up the right wing on a two-on-one against Niskanen with Marcel Goc. Fleischman deals a pass to Goc in the slot. Niskanen maintains position and forces a shot wide to the left of the cage.
17:51: Centering Morrow and Bennett, Dupuis lifts a wrister from the slot over the cage.
17:09: Stealing a puck off Letang in the Penguins' slot, Quinton Howden has a chance in tigh tub t his shot is off the mark.
16:48: Brian Campbell steps up and hammers a slapper from the right point which strikes a stick and deflects over the cage.
15:54: Broadcaster Paul Steigerwald mentions Bjugstad is the nephew of former Penguins forward Scott Bjugstad. His time with the Penguins lasted all of 24 games in 1988-89.
15:36: Campbell attempts a shot/pass from the left point for Bjustad to the left o the cage. Despres reads it all the way and breaks up the pass.
13:50: T.J. Brennan chops a slapper from the left half wall wide on the near sie.
12:39: Fleischmann takes a pass in the right circle and snaps off a rising wrister. Fleury eats it up.
11:39: A slapper by Gudbranson from the right point sails over the cage.
9:07: Orpik golfs a slapper from the right point on net. Markstrom fights it off.
7:55: Dupuis thumps Brennan with a strong forecheck into the end boards of the Florida zone.
5:11: The Penguins establish possession in the offensive zone and it pays off. Morrow smacks Fleischmann into the right wing boards of the Panthers' zone and steals the puck. he chips it behind the cage. Dupuis races after it and backhand chops it back to Morrow in the right wing corner. Morrow then slide it to Bennett in the left wing corner. Bennett, holds, holds, holds and then deals to Letang near the center point. Letang takes the pass, looks up and swats a slapper through a screen of three players, including Morrow. The puck sails by the blocker of Markstrom who looked a little lost on the play. Outstanding work down low, particularly by Morrow, led to that goal. Bennett and Morrow get assists. Penguins 1-0.
3:01: Fleischmann airmails a slapper from the neutral zone on net. FLeury stops it and deals a pass to Murray on his left.
2:28: Point shots by Brennan and Weaver are blocked in front.
1:33: The Penguins go to the net and double their lead. Casing down a loose puck in the left wing corner, he forces Brennan in to a sloppy clearing attempt. Bennett is trailing. He collects the puck, swoops around the back of the net and deals a pass from the left wing corner to Morrow on the other side of the blue paint. Morrow jabs the puck off the side of the cage, recovers his rebound and banks it of the backside of Markstrom. The puck bounces into the net as Vitale crashes in. It's a nice, greasy, dirty goal. Bennett and Vitale get assists. Penguins 2-0.
0:04: Sutter gets a chance in the left circle and strikes a shot on net. Markstrom fights it off.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Panthers 0.
-All things considered, this was a even period all around. Both teams had spurts of offensive zone possession. The only difference was the Penguins having superior talent, even with some of their injuries.
-Brenden Morrow really showed his value in that period. His play down low fits in so well with this team's system. He offers a savvy mixture of talent and toughness which this team didn't have in a top-six role most of this season.
-Beau Bennett is making a tremendous case to stay in the lineup. He has shown he can fill in with a variety of roles.
-The Penguins have a 7-6 lead in shots.
-Fleischmann leads with two shots.
-Letang leads the game with 8:31 of ice time.
-Campbell leads the Panthers with 7:39.
-The Penguins have a 7-5 edge in faceoffs (58 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale is 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-Bjugstad is 2 for (67 percent).
-Adams, Murray and Brennan each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are heading back to the postseason:
Pens win 3-0 and clinch an 11th straight Calder Cup Playoff berth!#xmarksthespot— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 14, 2013
19:05: Goc flings a wriser from the right wing which hits a skate in front and deflects out of play.
16:36: Off a feed from Letang, Murray booms a one-timer from the left point wide of the cage.
16:04: Campbell einters the offensive one at tencet proint
15:50: Sutter fumbles a puck in his own right wing corner. Skille is all over it. He moves behind the cage and deals a pass to Scottie Upshall charging in from the left circle. Upshall jabs a one-timer on net. Fleury holds it out initially but the puck remains loose. Upshall sticks with the play and punches the rebound behind Fleury. A great play all around by Skille to set that up. Skille and Campbell get assists. Penguins 2-1.
15:10: Despres takes a pass from Kunitz at the left half wall and booms a slapper on net. Markstrom eats it up.
14:56: A slapper from the right point by Orpik is blocked in front.
12:15: Root Sports has some issues and kind of goes dark:
-Fox Sports in Florida is having issues as well:
-Without the services of Jay Caufield, Root Sports' Rob King must explain the outage to the masses:
-According to King, there was a power outage on site. After a little bit of the audio feed, play returns without a scoreboard or game clock:
-We're without a clock here. Shorthanded, Scottie Upshall has a chance in tight but is denied by Fleury.
-Matt Niskanen cracks a one-timer from above the left circle. Markstrom kicks it out.
7:16: Morrow slams Kulikov from behind into the left wing boards of the Panthers' zone. That's two minutes for boarding. Not a great penalty for Morrow to take. Murray, Adams, Jokinen and Orpik take the ice.
5:21: Kulikov and Orpik race for a puck in the left wing corner and Orpik wins that confrontation. Kulikov is slamme to the ice and loses his lid.
5:18: Bjugstad smacks a slapper from the left wing on net. Fleury steers it away.
3:39: Upshall tries to smack Morrow into the left wing boards at the Florida blue line. Kunitz follows up and slams Upshall to the ice with a stuff check to the chest.
3:25: Shawn Matthias races up the left wing and taps a feed into the crease. Fleury steers it away.
2:29: Adams hits Weaver from behind into the end boards of the Florida zone. No call. Weaver looks for a penalty. He appears to be fine.
1:56: Letang snaps off a wrister from the left point on net. Markstrom fights it off. Kunitz has a chance on the rebound but can't get a clean shot off.
0:38: The Panthers are nabbed for too many men on the ice. Huberdeau will serve the minor. Letang, Iginla, Kunitz, Jokinen and Kennedy take the ice.
0:18: Iginla tees up a one-timer form the left circle. It hits a body in front.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2-1.
-It's kind of tough to tell what really went on during that period given the lengthy interuption in the broadcast. So we'll withold analysis for this intermission
-The Penguins have a 17-16 lead in shots.
-Kunitz, Orpik and Upshall each lead the game with three shots.
-Letang leads the game with 18:39 of ice time.
-Campbell leads the Panthers with 17:05.
-Faceoffs are tied, 19-19 (50 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale is 5 for 8 (63 percent).
-Goc is 5 for 9 (56 percent).
-Adams and Murray each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-Brennan leads the Panthers with two blocked shots.
20:00: The Penguins will start the period with 1:22 of power-play time on fresh ice. Bennett, Iginla, Jokinen, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
19:06: Kunitz is able to sneak a pass from the left wing corner to Bennett in the right circle. Bennett grips and rips a wrister on net. Markstrom knocks it dead and covers.
18:38: The Penguins' power play expires without much of a sustained threat.
17:18: Adams races up the left wing and snaps off a wrister wide to the far side.
16:25: Eaton and Kennedy team up to give Goc a solid check in the neutral zone.
14:14: Fleischman gains the offensive zone at center point and snaps off a wrister which hits a stick and deflects out of play.
13:43: Tomas Kopecky snaps off a wrister from the left half wall. Fleury boots it out.
13:04: Sutter snaps off a wrister from the left wing on net. Markstrom fights it off.
12:28: A heavy slapper by Murray at center point is blocked.
10:15: The Panthers get a much-needed power play as Cooke high sticks Gudbranson in the right wing corner of the Florida zone. Murray, Orpik, the great Joev Vitale and Adams take the ice.
10:00: Vitale pretty much took the faceoff, headed to the bench and was replaced by Glass. That was kind of like a Sidney Crosby shift on the penalty kill. Take the faceoff and get off the ice.
8:16: Orpik stakes a puck off Bjugstad and whips it down ice to kill the rest of Cooke's minor.
7:54: Despres smacks Rallo into the boards in front of the Penguins' bench.
7:15: Matthias races up the left wing boards and lifts a wrister on net. Fleury knocks it down and covers.
5:20: Morrow controls the puck down low with. As Kopecky attempts to engage him, Morrow smacks him wiht a left forearm/elbow. Kopecky goes down immediately. Morrow is called for elbowing. Amazing how that wasn't a penalty for Michael Del Zotto last week. This is a big two minutes. Cooke, Vitale, Orpik and Murray take the ice.
4:46: Campbell snaps off a wrister from the left half wall. Bjugstad re-directs it on net from in front o the slot. Huberdeau follows up on the rebound and lifts it off the near post. Fleury slies to his left and ends up knocking the puck off its supports. Play is halted.
3:51: Kulikov cracks a slapper from the center point. It hits something in front. Kopecky has a chance at the rebound but can't get a clean handle on it. Letang recovers and whips it down ice.
1:48: Gudbranson and Cooke race for a puck from the right wing corner. As Cooke spins away, Gudbranson hits him from behind and Cooke crashes into the boards. A scrum ensues as Vitale gives Gudbranson some grief. That's two minutes for boarding.
0:59: Letang leads a rush out his own zone and tries to chip a puck into the offensive zone. Kopecky steals the puck and chips it up ice to create a breakway chance for Fleischmann. Fleischmann motors in off the right wing boards and snaps off a wrister which Fleury fights off. HUGE save.
0:20: As Markstrom is pulled for an extra attacker, the Penguins secure the win. Dupuis steals a bad pass by Campbell and chips it up ice for Morrow at the Florida blue line. Morrow races into the offensive zone and chucks the puck into the open cage for one of us:
-Dupuis gets the only assist. Penguins 3-1.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 3, Panthers 1.
-This was hardly the most entertaining game. And it was hardly a perfect effort by the Penguins. But it's two points. That's all that matters.
-This was actually a pretty even effort all around by both teams. Each squad had spurts of offensive pressure. The only difference is the Penguins, even with their injuries, had superior talent. The Penguins had former Olympians in the lineup. The Panthers had AHL-caliber players in the lineup.
-This game took on a surprisingly physical tone. For two teams with little in terms of a rivarly and little in common in terms of postseason hopes, this game got nasty at points.
-Neither goaltender was tested a great deal. There were some tough saves in several instances but it would be a stretch to say Marc-Andre Fleury or Jacob Markstrom were tested with sustained pressure.
-The chemistry Beau Bennett displayed with Brenden Morrow and Pascal Dupuis was a surprise, especially given that Dupuis was playing center which isn't his exact position. They displayed some tremendous chemistry down low with regards to cycling.
-Morrow is starting to show why he's here. His work along the boards was outstanding. He initiated the play which led to the Penguins' first goal when he smacked Tomas Fleischmann into the boards and stole the puck.
-Letang had another strong game. His skating was smooth and confident and he just controlled play when he had the puck.
-Big part of this game was the Penguins perfect penalty kill. After getting shredded by the Lightning Thursday, they blanked the blanked the Panthers on four power plays. Granted, this wasn't a particularly skilled Panthers team but it's a step in the right direction.
-The great Joe Vitale came back with a vengeance tonight. It always seems when he gets scratched, he always comes back with a furious effort his next game back.
-Ultimately, if you're going to play a game minus a few all-stars, its probably best to do it against a team like the Panthers.
-The Panthers led in shots, 26-22.
-Fleischmann led the game with five shots.
-Matt Niskanen, Chris Kunitz and Brooks Orpik each led the Penguins with three shots.
-Letang led the game with 28:19 of ice time.
-Brian Campbell led the Panthers with 26:41.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 31-21 (60 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale was 13 for 17 (76 percent).
-Marcel Goc was 9 for 19 (47 percent).
-Douglas Murray led the game with four blocked shots.
-Brennan and Fleischmann each lead the Panthers with two blocked shots.
-The Panthers were officially eliminated from postseason contention.