Despite everything that has gone wrong for the Florida Panthers during their current six-game losing streak, they had to like their chances of ending it Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes spent Monday night/Tuesday morning traveling back to Raleigh following their loss to the New York Rangers, meaning they wouldn’t exactly have their legs under them for this game. Of course, the last time the same scenario presented itself, the Montreal Canadiens skated the Cats out of their own building. This time, however, the Panthers took advantage and rode a four goal third period to a 4-1 win in their farewell to Carolina as a Southeast division opponent.
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FLORIDA PANTHERS: 7-16-6 (20 PTS.) vs. CAROLINA HURRICANES: 15-11-1 (31 PTS.)
GAMEDAY SONG: Lost In The Flood
The hits just keep on coming this season for the Florida Panthers as two more players have gone down with injuries. Ed Jovanovski returned after missing 21 games Saturday night when the Panthers took on the New York Islanders, finds himself back on the shelf again. After playing just over 10 minutes in the first two periods, Jovanovski did not reappear for the remainder of the game. At Monday’s practice it was revealed that Jovo will be re-evaluated after the Panthers return home from their five game, eight day road trip that starts tonight in Carolina. In addition to Jovanovski, tough guy George Parros is also out of the lineup. Parros who fought Eric Boulton in Saturday’s game landed hard on the ice at the tail end of the fight, and that is likely what injured him. The Panthers have recalled Eric Selleck from San Antonio to take Parros’s spot in the lineup. The list of injured players is almost long enough to put two lines together.
The Panthers have now lost six in a row, and also dropped nine of its past 10. And 11 of its past 13. And 16 of 19. That hurt to type as much as I’m sure it hurt to read. Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders finds the Panthers with a 4-8-5 record on home ice this season. During this recent six game skid which sees them at 0-5-1, they’ve been outscored 26-11. Going on a road trip may be just what they need, however if you think you don’t recognize them now, who knows what we’ll find when they come back. The next home game will be Thursday the 28th against Buffalo, and if the slide continues, Dale Tallon may not wait till the deadline of April 3rd to start making changes.
We are about 45 days into the shortened season, which means we are nearing the half-way point of the 2013 NHL regular season. With the majority of teams already playing at least 22 games each, we’ve been able to take a good look at the players who have been showing this 48-game season what they’re made of. As usual, guys like Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos are sticking to the status quo and owning the top of the stats charts. But I’m not here to state the obvious. I’m here to give a nod to the players whom I believe have been the biggest surprises thus far.
Below are my top 7 player picks for this seasons biggest surprises:
Shortly after Scott Clemmensen surrendered the second goal of the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night, the boos began to rain down from the stands. A chant of “We want Markstrom” formed shortly after. It appeared that the Panthers crowd finally lost all patience with the veteran backstop, and for good reason: Clemmensen’s stats this year are simply subpar to say the least, and four crappy periods against the division rival Hurricanes would sink his numbers even further.
At intermission, the venom spewed in Clemmensen’s direction was reaching an all-time high: fans on Twitter demanded that Clemmensen be subbed out in favor of the young Jacob Markstrom, who was totally not in a position to play after not practicing for days and just getting his pads at around the time the puck dropped. At least a couple fans even maintained that they would refuse to renew their season tickets if Dineen didn’t pull Clemmensen. And maybe the Panthers coach might’ve consideredswitching the struggling netminder out in favor of the potentialed Swede, if he thought it would make any difference.
WINNIPEG JETS: 10-10-1 (21 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 6-11-5 (17 PTS)
Tonight’s meeting between the Winnipeg Jets and the Florida Panthers will be the third of five between the two Southeast division teams. Each team has won a game on home ice, with the Panthers winning 6-3 on January 31st when Alex Kovalev scored the winning goal, and Winnipeg won on February 5th in overtime when Brian Little scored the game winner as the Jets beat the Panthers 3-2. The Jets begin a four game road swing that takes them to Tampa on Thursday and then right back here in Sunrise on Friday before they head to New Jersey on Sunday to finish their trip. They’ll be looking for their third consecutive road win this evening and are 6-4-1 away from the MTS Center overall.
The Jets now find themselves in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt after winning three of their last four which included two victories New Jersey Devils and one against the New York Rangers. The winning streak came to a halt when the Jets were shutout by the Washington Capitals 3-0 in a game that saw Winnipeg outshoot the Caps 31-8 in the first two periods. Brayden Holtby of Washington however played an outstanding game for Washington, and held the Jets at bay. One of the problems for the Jets has been their power play which sits near the bottom of the league with a 14.3% success percentage. Claude Noel the Winnipeg coach spoke about it after the loss to Washington:
“We probably could have used one on the power play,” coach Claude Noel said. “The power play will probably be a topic because [the media] can’t think past the stats. I thought that our power play was better than it has been.”
CAROLINA HURRICANES: 11-8-1 (23 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 6-10-5 (17 PTS.)
Someone once told me that” it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it”.
Not much to say in today’s preview, but that statement will may not more meaning than it does tonight when the Florida Panthers try to avenge themselves for last night’s beating at the hands of division leading rival Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers who were chewed out by coach Kevin Dineen, and rightfully so for their slow start, and poor preparation, fell further behind the division lead in what could be their only hope for a playoff birth this season:
“You can blame it on injuries but that’s the ultimate cop out. It was a big game against the divisional leader and we could have reeled them in. We weren’t prepared from the drop of the puck. And that leads to injury. If you don’t have your game face, well, it’s a man’s game out there.”
If you’re the Florida Panthers, you might want to have a chartered jet on standby on a runway in San Antonio. Jose Theodore, Scottie Upshall and Dmitry Kulikov all left with injuries Saturday night’s thrashing at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, forcing an already short-handed team looking towards their American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, for help.
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FLORIDA PANTHERS: 6-9-5 (17 PTS.) vs. CAROLINA HURRICANES: 10-8-1 (21 PTS.)
There are times when you’re able to be in charge of your own destiny. The next two days could prove to be just that, as the Florida Panthers take on Southeast division rival Carolina in a home and home weekend battle. Four points separate the two teams, and if Florida has any expectations of making the playoffs, getting all four points would have to be a necessity. In the past whenever the Panthers were close to claiming the division lead, or grabbing a spot in the top eight of the conference, the Carolina Hurricanes always stood in their way. This weekend is no different, and while there’s still a little more than half a season remaining, the Panthers need to treat this weekend as a playoff type atmosphere.
The good news for the Hurricanes is that four players have recently returned from injury. Jeff Skinner, Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain and Tim Brent are all back after missing action. Getting four regulars back not only injects some confidence in the lineup, but makes coach Kirk Muller’s job a little easier:
“It was nice getting some healthy bodies back,” coach Kirk Muller said. “It gave us a chance to go four lines. It gave us a higher tempo and energy.”
The bad news for Carolina is that while they are 10-3-1 outside the division, they’re 0-5-0 against Southeast division opponents. In those five games which includes the Panthers opening night victory of 5-1, the Canes have been outscored 21-7. Looking for consistency is something Carolina is aiming for as well, as they followed up Tuesday nights shutout loss to the Capitals (3-0) with a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the Penguins game the line of Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal and Alex Semin combined for eight points. Staal leads the Hurricanes in points with 22 (10 goals, 12 assists), followed by Alex Semin who has 4 goals and 12 assists for 16 points.
Carolina Hurricanes: 33-33-16 (82 PTS.) vs . Florida Panthers: 38-16-18 (94 PTS.)
Game day Song: Prove It All Night (with intro). Bruce Springsteen
Tonight promises to be a special night in Sunrise, Florida and if you’re fortunate enough to be in attendance at the BB & T Center, you will see the Florida Panthers raise their fist ever Southeast Division Championship banner! In remembrance of the tremendous accomplishment, all fans attending will receive a commemorative banner themselves. It is expected that the building will be full since there were less than 1,000 tickets available Thursday, and that will add to the electric atmosphere of the NHL’s opening night.
The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off a sub par season which caused a head coach to be fired (Paul Maurice) and saw a former player make his debut as one (Kirk Muller). The Canes certainly played better in the second half of last season compared to the first, but still fell short of the playoffs finishing 12th overall in the Eastern Conference. This poor showing caused management to make some adjustments to the roster in an effort to turn things around. Jordan Staal the younger brother of Carolina captain Eric, was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canes gave up Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and a first round pick in the 2012 draft to acquire Staal who will likely be the teams number two center. Staal has his best season as a pro last year scoring 50 points on 25 goals and 25 helpers while playing in only 62 games. Teaming up with his brother Eric, this duo promises to provide a two skilled centers with size and scoring ability which is going to make them difficult to match up against, especially for smaller teams. Both brothers are listed at 6′ 4″, and they promise to be difficult to defend.
Another addition to the team is the enigmatic, yet highly skilled Alexander Semin, who finally wore out his welcome in Washington after six years of inconsistent, and sometimes lethargic play. Semin who was mildly sought after by many teams, was a concern for most GM’s because of his attitude, signed a one year deal with Carolina for $7 million dollars. We will see if things have changed, and the challenge for the 28 year old right winger will be if he can rise to the occasion, and shed his poor image. Semin has the talent to score 40 or more goals in an 82 game season, which he did in 2009-2010, yet the hockey world is waiting to see if he can provide that kind of offence on a regular basis.
Hockey is Back! Last night in front of a standing room only crowd at the Saveology.com Iceplex, the Florida Panthers held a scrimmage in preparation for Saturday’s opening game against the Carolina Hurricanes. If you didn’t get to the practice facility well before the start time of 7:00 P.M., you likely were forced to stand amongst the throngs of Panther faithful who came out to cheer on their team. It was great to see so many familiar faces as well as numerous new ones in the crowd.
The teams were divided into two squads (red & white), and played two 15 minute periods, and a couple sets of five minute overtimes. There were a few scoring chances created, however I would say that I was most impressed with what I saw from Peter Mueller as well as Alex Kovalev. There was a pretty pass from Mueller to Kovalev that took place right in front of where I stood, with goaltender Scott Clemmensen making the save. After each 15 minute period was played, the two sides took turns at the shootout. Among the noteable happenings, Jonathan Huberdeau, Peter Mueller, Mike Santorelli and Marek Svatos all scored off of Clemmensen. Shawn Matthias also scored top shelf on a nifty backhander. Jose Theodore held his ground on shots from Stephen Weiss, Scottie Upshall, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.