(Image Property of Karin Lash)
The Florida Panthers are smack dab in the middle of an 8 game homestand, where right now, each game is important because of where they’ve put themselves in the standings. Friday night’s overtime victory over the much re: drastically improved Buffalo Sabres could be just the kind of win that provides the spark that’s been missing.
There were some lineup changes that coach Bob Boughner make which looked as though helped this win. The defence was shuffled, as Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle were put back together as the number one pair. While they still are an adventure together, more offensive chances were created, as the Panthers had 70 shot attempts taken. Bogdan Kiselevich whom I believe was held out due to sickness (although I could be wrong) was replaced in the lineup by Alex Petrovic who’d been a healthy scratch as of late. Petro provided some needed physicality as he led the team with 7 hits. Something they need from him in order for his game to be effective.
Yet, the biggest change likely was reuniting Jonathan Huberdeau with Aleksander Barkov, while Evgenii Dadonov moved down to the second line. While Huberdeau didn’t score, he had two assists as he how finds himself leading the Panthers in points with 26. Both assists which came on the game tying goal by Evgenii Dadonov on the power play and the game winner by Barkov were primary assists. While Huberdeau can be too much of a passer at times, especially when he plays together with Barkov, it works. Barkov had this to say following the game:
“It was so fun,” Barkov said. “We haven’t played together for a while. It’s fun to play with a guy who thinks about the game the same way.”
Here’s a replay of the winner for you to enjoy one more time:
Tonight the Tampa Bay Lightning come into town for the third meeting of the season between the cross state rivals. The Panthers have dropped both games so far, and of course will be on a back to back, while the Lightning are coming off a physical game victory against the Sabres on Thursday night.
It’s expected that Louis Domingue will be in goal for Tampa. Louis has sported a 9-4-0 record so far, although his GAA is a hefty 3.25 and his save percentage is .899. Not terrific numbers by any means, but when you have 4 lines that are fast, skilled and can score, it doesn’t always matter. The difference is that they can win a bunch of games 5-4 or 3-2. Other teams don’t have that luxury.
Nikita Kucherov leads all Tampa players with 35 points, and Brayden Point has 18 goals. Steven Stamkos, remember him? He’s third in points on the team with 22. Yet, the Panthers need to be aware of where he is at all times and to be tuned in to his adeptness at finding the open areas for his classic one timer. He’s been a Panther killer his entire career. Tampa also doesn’t mind playing on the road, having a 7-3-1 record away from the comforts of home. They rank first in the NHL in goals scored averaging 3.25 per game, and in contrast the Panthers rank 27th in goals allowed at 3.5 per game.
This one is a real test of where the Panthers are. They’ll need to find a way to carry over last night’s emotional victory into tonight. In trying to find out who starts in net, as I type this, the only thing I’ve seen so far is Michael Hutchinson is “expected” in goal. However, that can change, and don’t be surprised if James Reimer comes back again tonight. He didn’t look that great on the first goal last night, but as the game wore on he played better. When you give up two goals in this league you’re giving your team a chance to win. If the Panthers can bury their chances with that kind of goaltending, then there will be more wins than losses.
Game time tonight: 7:00 P.M.
Game day Video: Land of Hope and Dreams.
Game day snack: Popcorn!
Thanks for reading.
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