Game Day Preview: Sabres vs. Panthers. Come on, Look In My Direction.



GAME DAY SONG: Expressway To Your Heart Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Heading into tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Florida Panthers finally have some positives to build on during this six game home stand.  The effort over the last 8 periods of hockey that’s been played here in Sunrise has been much more consistent, and the team actually is beginning to look competitive.  Aside from the first period against the Boston Bruins on Thursday October 17th, the Panthers have played with more determination, and a little bit of desperation.  Granted, it hasn’t looked pretty, or always exciting, but if the last 8 periods are any indication of how they can play when the entire team puts their mind to it, then things could be looking up.  The effort against Chicago on Tuesday was valiant, especially coming from behind and scoring two goals in the third period, taking the game to overtime, and finally losing in a shootout.  The game plan was to be simple, and the Panthers kept it that way.  As talented as the Blackhawks are, Florida did its best to minimize scoring chances, not give up too much space, and do their best to frustrate Chicago’s talent laden roster.

The Panthers who now have three points in the last two games, will be looking for two more against the last place Sabres, a team whom they’ve had some recent success against.  In the last six games against Buffalo, Florida is 4-0-2, and is 2-0-1 in the past three tilts at home.  While none of those statistics are meant to have this contest taken for granted, Florida needs to go into this game with confidence, and play to their strenghts.  It may be hard to do with Tim Thomas back on the shelf with a wonky groin, an injury that re-surfaced in the final minutes of regulation Tuesday against the Blackhawks.  Thomas missed four games earlier this season due to the same injury, and thus is the chance you take when you have a 39 year old net minder who missed an entire season.  That however doesn’t mean he can’t have a quick recovery, however, if he comes back too soon, this is the type of injury that could be bothersome for all year long.  Coach Kevin Dineen doesn’t expect this injury to be long term, and is hopeful that Thomas returns quickly:

“We’re confident that he’s not going to be long term. (Thomas is) a quick healer,” coach Kevin Dineen told the team’s official website. “He played very well. He played well against Boston. He played fabulous against Minnesota, and we had a really good game going against Chicago so it’s unfortunate.”

With Thomas on the shelf, the reigns fall back to Jacob Markstrom who has struggled mightily this season.  Appearing in seven games so far, Markstrom is 1-3-1 with a 3.51 GAA and a gargantuan .884 save percentage.  Numbers that must improve immediately if not sooner during the absence of Thomas, who kept the Panthers games close.  Backing up Markstrom will be veteran Scott Clemmenson who was recalled from San Antonio (weird to type that), as he begins the first leg of the San Antonio to Sunrise shuffle.

Another bright spot is the return of winger Sean Bergenheim.  Bergenheim missed all of last season with a lower body injury, and his place in the lineup tonight was decided this morning- Sean Bergenheim will play. Eventually, he will likely be reunited with Tomas Kopecky and Marcel Goc.  This trio formed in 2011-2012, played as though they were teammates for the past five seasons, and if they are connected again, the energy that they all bring will be a welcomed sight.  It could also be just what Tomas Kopecky needs to get himself going, and Kopecky is still looking for his first goal of the season. But for tonight, Bergenheim will play on the 4th line with Scott Gomez and Jesse Winchester to get into his groove again

Buffalo comes in struggling, and with a little less toughness.  Ok, maybe a lot, as Patrick Kaleta is serving a 10 game suspension for his hit on Columbus Blue Jacket defenceman Jack Johnson.  And yesterday John Scott was suspended indefinitely for his blatant elbow to the head of Boston’s Loui Eriksson on Wednesday.  Buffalo still has the impulsive Steve Ott on the roster, and it would be a good idea for the Panthers to keep their heads on a swivel, as Ott is a known enforcer.

The Sabres are off to their worst start in their history, and have given up 33 goals, while only scoring 15 in their first 11 games.  Cody Hodgson and Tomas Vanek, a perennial Panther killer, lead the Sabres in scoring with three goals apiece.

Ryan Miller who has been the suspect of trade rumors over the past two seasons, still carries the load in goal for Buffalo, yet his frustration could be reaching epic levels.  He has a 1-7-0 record in eight games with a 3.01 GAA, and a respectable .918 save percentage.  yet with no goal support, something Panther fans are all too familiar with, his patience is obviously being tested.

The Panthers have to continue playing the way they have the past two plus games.  They need to focus on keeping their game simple, and not let a team like Buffalo, who is on a three game losing streak, feel any ounce of hope.

Like today’s game day song from Bruce, go out and have some fun, and stop holding the sticks so tight.  When you do, you’re a much better team, and your results show it.

UPDATED:  Jhonas Enroth will be playing in net tonight vs. the Panthers. Enroth has appeared in 3 games this season, with a 0-2-1 record.

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.

Panthers Fall Behind Early, Bested By Sabres in Shootout

On a night in which the Florida Panthers played possibly one of their best all-around games of the season, the unlucky Cats still could not pull off a victory over the Buffalo Sabres, inevitably losing 4-3 in a shootout.

The action at the BB&T Center kicked off early on on Thursday night as George Parros and John Scott squared off for a heavyweight bout only 2:37 into the game. Although Parros was able to get in a few good punches, Scott eventually dropped Parros’ to his knees - giving him his second victory against the veteran figther this season. Parros last chance to beat Scott this year will come when the Panthers face the Sabres for the final time during the regular season on March 28th.

After the dust had settled from the brawl, the real action got underway as the Panthers and Sabres combined for an astounding 5 goals during the first period of play alone. Although he was impressive in his shutout relief appearance of Jose Theodore on Tuesday night, backup Scott Clemmensen just didn’t seem to have his head on straight Thursday against the Sabres. Clemmensen allowed 3 goals on just 10 shots before being pulled in favor of Jose Theodore. Much like Theodore’s performance on Tuesday night, Clemmensen fell victim to allowing soft and costly goals - a trend that hopefully won’t continue for either netminder.

[Read more...]


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