Just three games into the 2011-12 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins again found themselves missing their two star players.
They'll have to play without both of them at least once more.
The Penguins open their home schedule Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers without Evgeni Malkin, who will miss his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh (2-0-1) returns home after a promising road trip to western Canada. Following wins over Vancouver and Calgary, the Penguins fell 2-1 in a shootout to Edmonton on Sunday.
The Oilers scored with 4:55 left in regulation, then Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on a late five-minute power play.
"We got five out of six points," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I like that. We got some wins in tough places. We've played a lot of hockey already and I think that showed in this game. A lot of guys got taxed. But we're happy with our start."
While Bylsma said several players were sore after the opening weekend, none may be as concerning as Malkin. With Pittsburgh already missing Sidney Crosby, who's still working his way back from post-concussion symptoms, Malkin was scratched following pregame warmups Sunday due to a lower-body injury.
He took part in the team's morning skate Tuesday, but Bylsma ruled him out for the Penguins' home opener. Bylsma has been vague about the injury -- which is believed to have occurred in the third period Saturday at Calgary -- but has acknowledged it isn't related to Malkin's knee surgery to repair two torn ligaments, which knocked him out for last season in early February.
"We do not think it's long-term or anything other than just being sore at this point and time," Bylsma told the team's official website.
While the Penguins are downplaying concerns about Malkin, they appear to have little to be worried about with the club's special teams. Pittsburgh had the league's top-ranked penalty-kill unit in 2010-11 and hasn't allowed a goal in 11 opportunities this season.
The Penguins also have five power-play goals in 16 chances after ranking 25th last season at 15.8 percent.
Pittsburgh lost its first three home games in regulation last season, but finished 25-14-2 on its own ice -- not including the playoffs, when it dropped its final three at Consol Energy Center while being eliminated by Tampa Bay.
The Penguins will try for a better home start against Florida (1-0-0), which opened its season with a 2-0 road victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday in Kevin Dineen's NHL coaching debut.
The Panthers had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season, but were busy in the offseason, with Theodore and defenseman Brian Campbell among the new additions. Campbell assisted on both goals and led Florida skaters in ice time by more than five minutes Saturday.
"Everybody came through tonight," Theodore said. "They were clearing the rebounds (and) I was seeing the puck. We really worked well as a unit. They were letting me see the puck. We were all on the same page."
The Penguins took all four meetings with the Panthers last season, and they've won five straight and eight of nine between the teams at home.
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