Penguins welcome injured veteran
• The Penguins extended their Veterans Day spirit Friday by welcoming Patrick McIlvain, a Uniontown native who played club hockey at California (Pa.) University. A volunteer veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he was injured in the past year and is confined to a wheelchair. Coach Dan Bylsma was tipped off to McIlvain's story by FSN reporter Dan Potash, who received a letter from a friend of McIlvain's. Bylsma insisted McIlvain attend a game and meet the players. Coach and players are wearing a wristband that supports the Pat Mac Fund, a charity established by the McIlvain family for injured soldiers.
• Center Evgeni Malkin is wearing a thin brace on his left knee, but Bylsma said the injury is "not structural." Malkin generally avoids speaking before games but said "all is good" regarding the injury.
• Malkin is one of four Penguins on the NHL All-Star ballot, joining center Sidney Crosby, defenseman Paul Martin and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Only Chicago (six) and Detroit, Philadelphia and San Jose (five apiece) have more. Voting is exclusively online at NHL.com and runs Monday through Jan. 3.
• Defenseman Ben Lovejoy, center Mike Comrie and right wing Eric Godard were healthy scratches for the Penguins, who inserted right wing Chris Conner into the lineup for his first game this season. Conner was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday. Comrie has missed the past two games and has played less than 11 minutes in four of his past six appearances.
• The Lightning played without center Vincent Lecavalier, who is out at least three weeks with a broken hand. He has 25 goals and 39 points in 44 career games against the Penguins. The Lightning also were without right wing Steve Downie (upper body) and left wing Simon Gagne (neck).
• Last night's game was the first time a rested Penguins club played a home game against an opponent that played the previous night. Tampa Bay lost at Washington on Thursday. The Penguins were 9-6-2 in those situations last season, losing their final five.
7 p.m. today, Philips Arena, Atlanta
(FSN, WXDX-FM 105.9, Penguins Radio Network)
Season series: First of four games
Last meeting: Thrashers 1, Penguins 0 on April 10 at Philips Arena. With a chance to close in on the Atlantic Division title, the Penguins were taken out of their game by the Thrashers' feisty ways — specifically rookie Evander Kane, who hit any player wearing a skating penguin. Right wing Bryan Little scored the lone goal, and Johan Hedberg stopped 33 shots, as the Penguins lost out on the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Who to watch: Dustin Byfuglien, acquired in the offseason from Stanley Cup champion Chicago, has scored three of his five goals on the power play.
Trends n'at: Defensemen Byfuglien (16) and Tobias Enstrom (14) have combined for 30 points. ... Little has missed six straight games (concussion), but he reportedly hopes to play after returning to practice Wednesday. ... Right wing Chris Thorburn has no points in his past 11 games.
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