FLORIDA PANTHERS: 1-4-0 (2 PTS.) vs. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 4-1-0 (8 PTS.)
GAME DAY SONG: The Rising. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
The interstate rivals meet tonight for the first time this season with exact opposite records. The Florida Panthers are in the midst of a four game losing streak, while the Tampa Bay Lightning are on a three game winning streak and coming off a 5-1 spanking of the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday evening. In that game the high scoring Lightning saw veteran Martin St. Louis contribute four assists, while Steven Stamkos added a goal and an assist to give him 10 points on the year so far. The Lightning who have an abundance of scoring are tied for the league lead in goals for (24) with the St. Louis Blues, and are averaging 4.8 per game.
Stamkos however is not the team leader in points, as Martin St. Louis sits at the top with 11 (3G- 8A). Forwards Teddy Purcell, who had a goal and two assists against the Flyers, and rookie Cory Conacher add some additional scoring depth as well, presenting more than just top top guns to be careful of, and we haven’t even mentioned the ever dangerous Vincent Lecavalier. The Panthers who haven’t been very sharp of late, and have made numerous defensive mistakes, had better be on their game tonight, or it will be over quickly. This Tampa team can score in bunches and they can spread it around as well, making them one of the more offensively dangerous teams in the league, and they know it:
“When you get a little confidence going, as our offensive players have right now, you try to run with it,” Stamkos said. “We know, once we get on a roll, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Anders Lindback is the number one netminder for Tampa, and at 6′ 6″ covers a good amount of the net, making it very difficult to score on him. So far however his GAA is 3.00 and his save percentage is .911. Not stellar numbers, but with the potent offence in front of him, they don’t need to be. Tampa’s defence has always been a bit suspect, but this year they’ve started out well. In five gamess they’ve only surrendered 13 goals. Sami Salo is a plus 9 to lead the league, and Victor Hedman is a plus 7.
The Florida Panthers may have a little spark tonight as they anticipate the season debut of Kris Versteeg who’s been out with a lower body injury. The Panthers who were off Sunday, practiced Monday and worked on a number of issues, and hopefully got rid of the cobwebs that have surrounded them during this recent four game skid. Versteeg should he play, likely will be placed with Tomas Kopecky and Tomas Fleischmann on the top line, as Stephen Weiss remains out with a lower body injury of his own. Coach Kevin Dineen is happy to have Versteeg back:
“I’m excited to get him back,” coach Kevin Dineen told the Panthers’ official Twitter account. “He’s a large part of our lineup.”
Jonathan Huberdeau has officially been told he’ll stay with the team for the remainder of the season, and that should help his confidence, which hopefully translates into much needed scoring. The mental and emotional stress of the first few games can now be replaced with the pressure of producing. Something which the youngster is ready for. The Panthers have been outscored 18-3 during the skid, and need to have a breakout game. Defenceman Brian Campbell leads the team in goals (2) and points with (4), but the oddity is that all of those points have come on the power play. Six other players have accounted for one goal each, proving that the offence has been sputtering.
Look for the defence to have a much better outing tonight. Ed Jovanovski who was visibly dejected after the Flyers loss knows that the Panthers have to get back to working hard, keep their feet moving, and winning the battles. Playing better in all three zones is how they’ve been successful in the past. If this streak is going to stop, they need to get back to the basics, and soon. The issues have been turnovers, too many odd man rushes against, and plays being made where the shooter has time to eat a steak sandwich, take a shot on goal, and finish his beer afterwards. Joking aside, this has to stop. In addition there’s too many lazy penalties. Hooking, holding and tripping generally result from carelessness, and being out of position. I’d rather see roughing, and high sticking since those usually indicate getting in someone’s face.
Jose Theodore who was pulled on Saturday night after the team surrendered three first period goals, will get the start tonight. Theodore is 5-0-0 in his last five starts against Tampa with a 2.01 GAA, and despite the Panthers record, has been solid in net.
What you need to know:
* Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback recorded the only shutout of his career on December 11, 2010, in his only apprearance against Florida. This coming as a member of the Nashville Predators.
* Vincent Lecavalier became the 280th player all time, and 29th active to reach 1,000 NHL games. He is also the 49th player to play 1,000 games for one franchise.
* Tampa has scored 13 of their 24 goals in the third period this season.
* Rookie Cory Conacher of Tampa ranks second in rookie scoring with 7 points. 2 goals, & 5 assists.
* In 23 games against Florida, Steven Stamkos has 24 points. 13 goals and 11 assists.
* This is the 105th meeting between the two clubs. The Panthers lead the series 55-30-10-9.
* Defenceman Filip Kuba of the Panthers played for two seasons in Tampa. A total of 156 games totaling 68 points. 21 goals and 47 assists.
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