FLORIDA PANTHERS: 3-5-0 (6 PTS.) vs. WINNIPEG JETS: 3-4-1 (7 PTS.)
Game Day Song: Roulette, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
The Florida Panthers are in Winnipeg tonight for game two of a four game road trip that has started off with grit, character, and a much needed come from behind win. After being down for the count 3-1 against the Buffalo Sabres Sunday afternoon, the Panthers literally shut down the line of Tomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson after the trio put the Sabres on top 3-1, on their way to a 4-3 victory. What was most impressive about the win was that the Panthers held the Sabres to only 10 shots on goal in the final 40 minutes making the job of Jose Theodore that much easier. The lunch bucket style victory was a perfect example of what a road win should be as the Panthers simplified their game by woerking hard,minimizing their mistakes, and actually played some puck possession hockey. All elements that lead to their success last season.
Tonight the Panthers will go for their third win in a row against a Winnipeg Jets team that has lost three in a row. We all know these games can go one way or the other, but the Panthers would be doing themselves a huge favor if they can jump out to an early lead and quite the usually raucous crown of the MTS Center. The effort that we’ve seen over the past two games has been a complete turnaround from the style of play previous to that for Florida. Instead of standing around, missing passes, and making glaring mistakes, the Cats have regrouped, gone back to their old ways, and are beginning to play more as a team than a group of individuals. Brian Campbell who tied for second on the team in scoring summed it up best:
“We’re starting to come as a team a bit more now and have faith in coming back,” said Campbell, who had the go-ahead goal in the third Sunday. “Earlier in the season, we didn’t have a whole lot of faith and confidence. But now we’re starting to see our team develop.”
Peter Mueller continued his hot streak and awesome play by scoring in his fourth consecutive game. The line of Mueller, rookie Jonathan Huberdeau and another rookie, Drew Shore have created the most offence as a unit as of late, and seem to be a trio on the verge of great things. Another player that has quitely been impressive is veteran Tomas Kopecky. Tied with Mueller for second on the team in scoring, Kopecky has also been doing things that haven’t shown up on the score sheet. He blocked a key shot in the Buffalo game, has been great defensively, and has been driving to the net, working the corners, and providing leadership. But hey, that’s what winners do, and Kopecky who has two Stanley Cup rings knows a thing or two about winning…..as well as sacrifice.
The Panthers would be wise to take advantage of any power play time that they get as Winnipeg has only killed 59.3% of the penalties agaisnt them. While the Jets have yielded only 27 power-play chances to the opposition in eight games, they’ve have surrendered 11 goals in those situations.
Tonight should also mark the season debut of defenceman Erik Gudbranson, who will hopefully appear in his first NHL game of the season after playing two games with the San Antonio Rampage following the recovery of his off season shoulder injury. Gudbranson’s physicality, and big body presence will make the Panthers that much tougher to play against. As of this typing it was noted that it will be a game time decision on whether he plays or not.
Winnipeg is going the opposite way of the Panthers and have been outscored 18-9 in their last three games including an 8-3 pounding from the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that game the Jets were traling 6-0 after 26 minutes as Ondrej Pavelec gave up five goals on 14 shots and Al Montoya gave up three on 11. Head coach Claude Noel feels the Jets (like the Panthers during their losing streak) need to get back to the things they normally do that they’ve gotten away from:
“Sometimes you’ve got to hit rock bottom or whatever to figure out that you’ve had enough of this stuff,” coach Claude Noel said. “Our job is to find solutions to these things, and for me, I know how our team can play and that’s what we have to get back to doing.”
The Jets gave up three power play goals in the first period against Tampa, and have allowed the opposition to score in nine of 18 chancws in the last four games. This stat alone should make the Panthers hungry for their second consecutive road win. Part of Winnipeg’s problems could be the fact that Dustin Byfuglien has been out of action for the past three games. Big Buff is an important part of this Jets team, and it’s clear they miss his presence.
The Jets have won their last two home games, and haven’t lost four straight since November 5th to the 12th when they went 0-2-3.
There can’t be enough emphasis on the Panthers scoring early and even often to take the crowd out of the game. Keep things simple, don’t be cute, and keep their foot on the gas pedal. Winnipeg is down, they could come out with a lot of energy, and the Panthers will need to push back, and set the tone right away.
* This will be the 76th meeting between the two clubs. Florida is 30-30-5 overall and that includes the Panthers’ 6-3 win on Januray 31st.
* Kris Versteeg has 12 points in six games against Winnipeg dating back to last season, and that includes eight goals.
* Shawn Matthias and George Parros each scored their first goals of the season on Sunday against Buffalo, and Drew Shore picked up an assist on a goal by Peter Mueller for his first NHL point.
* Brian Campbell has six points (4 G- 2A). All have come on the power play.
* Winnipeg defenceman Toby Enstrom is in the middle of a six game point streak, while leading all defencemen in assists 9, and points 11.
* Evander Kane is one of two players (David Clarkson the other) to lead his team in hits (30) and is tied for first in shots on goal (25).
* In 10 games against his former team, Olli Jokinen has seven points. 4 goals and 3 assists.
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