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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Tuesday, March 10th (All times eastern)

Florida Panthers (34-24-8) at Pittsburgh Penguins (35-26-6), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Eastern Conference's hottest team returns to home ice tonight, as the Pittsburgh Penguins shoot for a season-best seventh straight win when the Florida Panthers enter Mellon Arena for an important late-year matchup.

Pittsburgh, the reigning champions in the East, had been on the outside looking in of the conference playoff picture prior to its recent surge. The Penguins won for the eighth time in nine games with Sunday's 4-3 shootout triumph over Southeast Division leader Washington, which capped a perfect five-game road trip for the resurgent club.

The Penguins are now tied with both the Panthers and New York Rangers for seventh place in the East, with all three teams just one point behind Montreal and Carolina in the standings.

Sidney Crosby had a huge impact in Sunday's win, as the All-Star center recorded a goal and an assist in regulation and scored the game's only marker in the shootout phase.

Crosby was playing in his second game since missing the previous four tests with a left groin strain.

Recently-acquired Bill Guerin added a goal and two assists for the scorching Penguins, who matched their longest winning streak of the season. The team also won six consecutive games between November 1-15.

Pittsburgh, which hasn't strung together seven straight victories since an eight-game tear from December 23, 2007-January 10, 2008, will play nine of its next 10 tilts at the Igloo, where the team is 6-1-0 over its last seven outings.

Florida rebounded nicely from its recent setback to the Penguins, posting a 5-3 decision over visiting St. Louis on Saturday behind David Booth's second career hat trick.

Booth also added an assist for the Panthers, who also received goals from Radek Dvorak and Nathan Horton and 26 saves from Tomas Vokoun in the netminder's 500th career NHL game.

Horton, however, severed a tendon on his left ring finger during Saturday's game and is expected to miss between two-to-four weeks. The young centerman ranks second on the Panthers with 19 goals this season.

Pittsburgh has won six of its last eight encounters with Florida, although the Panthers did snap a three-game road losing streak in the series with a 6-1 rout at Mellon Arena on January 3.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31-of-32 shots in last week's win over the Panthers and was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday. The former No. 1 overall pick has won his last six starts and amassed a 1.64 goals against average over that strong stretch.

03/10 10:42:23 ET

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