Game Day Preview: Panthers vs. Canadiens. The Hungry & The Hunted….

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 11-17-5 (27 PTS.) vs. MONTREAL CANADIENS: 20-11-3 (43 PTS).


GAME DAY SONG: Jungleland. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band

The Florida Panthers embark on a four game Candian road trip tonight that I honestly wish I was joining them on.  With tonight’s tilt starting in Montreal, the Cats will travel to Toronto, Ottawa, and close things out in Winnipeg on Friday before coming back to sunny South Florida.  It’s an opportunity for team bonding, getting to know each other, and make up some ground in the Atlantic Division where the Panthers are 12 points behind both Tampa Bay and Detroit.

The Panthers have admittedly had an up and down season so far that’s been loaded with inconsistency, yet they appear to be jelling under new coach Peter Horachek.  Not sure what he’s doing either in the dressing room or on the ice, but it appears that the Panthers are starting to put things together slightly.  They’ve won four of their last five games that included an epic shootout victory over the Washington Capitals on Friday night,in a game that was very fast paced and entertaining.  As much as this writer feels that the shootout should be abolished, I have to say that I was very pleased for Panther netminder Scott Clemmensen who normally gets eaten alive in those skill competitions.  Friday night, Clemmer stood tall to the task en route to the win.

Part of what Horachek has done is settled things down with his lines.  Prior to his arrival, Kevin Dineen was mixing things up not only each game, but at times each line change looking for consistency.  Horachek meanwhile has stuck with his lines for the most part, only making subtle changes on occasion, which gives the units a better chance to develop that ever eluding chemistry.  Not to continue to gloat about this defensive paring, but the Dylan Olsen and Erik Gudbranson pairing is making Horachek look like a genuis.  Olsen has six points in his last five games and Gudbranson has 3 in his last five, and was virtually invisible offensively until Olsen arrived in Florida in the Kris Versteeg trade.

Special teams could play a significant role in this contest as the Panthers are 0 for thier last 14 power play chances, and Montreal has killed 25 of the last 26 chances against them.  Both teams are fast and when they use their speed, can produce offensive chances, but the Panthers will need to be careful to stay out of the penalty box. 

Montreal has gone 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, and is coming off an overtime victory last night against the New York Islanders when Max Pacioretty scored the game winner (the only goal of the contest).  The Canadiens also recently went a stretch of 10 games where they allowed only 19 goals.  They’ve given up 73 on the season which puts them at 5th best in the NHL, as Carey Price has a solid 2.00 GAA on the year.

Pacioretty leads Montreal in goals with 12, followed by Tomas Plekanec with 11.  Defenceman P.K. Subban leads the team in points with 34, as he makes his push for Team Canada. 

Montreal is is 14-6-1 against the Panthers since December of 2007, which includes a 6-2-1 record at home.  The Panthers hopefully can catch the Habs on tired legs, and score an early goal to take the crowd out of it.  According to George Richards of the Miami Herald, Scott Clemmenson was the first off the ice at totday’s morning skate, a good indication that he’ll be in goal tonight for the Panthers.  Panther forward Jonathan Huberdeau took a shot off his foot yesterday, is a gametime decision.  If Johnny is out, Jesse Winchester will be back in the lineup with Scott Gomez and Mike Mottau the scratches for the Panthers.

Remember, kickoff faceoff is 6:00 P.M. Eastern time.  Watch today’s game day video.  One of the greatest saxophone solo’s you’ll ever see.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

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