The Colorado Rockies Avalanche take on the Florida Marlins Panthers tonight at the Bank Atlantic Center as the Panthers attempt to use their home field ice advantage to turn around their current five game losing skid. The Panthers have been in the news recently but as we all know it’s not for their solid play or even for their losing streak. Matter of fact I can’t remember the last time the Panthers were part of ESPN’s highlights, but the Keith Ballard story has been beaten to death with a stick. Opps. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Enough said.
Florida doesn’t fair well with Colorado especially here at home with an overall record of 2-10-1. The Avalanche are on their Florida road trip and coming off a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. They arrive in town with an overall record of 15-8-5 but are 3-5-3 in their last eleven games.
We won’t get the goaltending matchup we all have been looking for, as it’s not likely that Tomas Vokoun will start tonight after the slap in the head from Panther defenceman Keith Ballard. However you can expect to see former Panther Craig Anderson in net for the Avs, as he is having a career year so far.
Anderson has never had the opportunity to play as the number one goalie for any team and while he displayed spurts of solid play with Florida, Tomas Vokoun was always breathing down his neck. Anderson is on pace for 40 wins this year and would be the free agent steal of the decade if he can pull that off and get the Avs to the playoffs. Question is, is Anderson really this good, or is he playing over his head?
Colorado features a couple rookies that are contributing to the surpirse play of the Avs. First round pick in this past year’s draft Matt Duchene has started to come on as of late after a slow beginning, and Ryan O’Reilly a second round pick has played well overall, although he has slowed down some lately. These are two good looking kids who are going to become solid NHL players for years to come. If only the Panthers could draft like this.
Milan Hejduk a player that I have always liked leads the Avs in goals with eleven, but is day to day with a knee injury. Colorado’s leading point getter is Paul Stasny with 26. The play of Anderson and the two youngsters, Duchene and O’Reilly have been the main reason that Colorado has surprised so many people as they were not expected to be anywhere near a playoff spot coming into the season. It remains to be seen if they’ll make it as they play in not only a tough division, but an even tougher conference.
The Panthers need a win and they need it tonight. While they are not getting blown out of games, they are suffering from poor special teams, mainly a powerless power play and not being able to hold leads. Something has to change and the season is going to slip away if it’s not turned around soon. Goal scoring which has been an issue for ten years is still the main problem and with winger David Booth still recovering from a concussion, the Panther brain trust has done ZERO to replace his potential 35 goals.
Rhino has cooled off since linemate Cory Stillman has been out with a knee injury. While Rhino is on pace for a career year, I would not expect that to happen as he is coming back to reality. It would be nice for him to score 25 goals this season, but look for him to be around the 20 mark at best.(Please make me wrong)
There are a number of Panthers who need to pick up the pace and chip in collectively to help turn this around, but I wouldn’t count on it. With the roster depleted and loaded with 3rd and 4th liners, and no one waiting in the wings to come up and be a nice surprise, the season will continue to be mediocre. Every player that was here last year was/is expected to play even better this year. That is alot to ask of this group, as the pieces that were added were not the pieces to help this team advance. Matter of fact there are a few players that have taken a step backwards. Mainly defenceman Keith Ballard who is not playing nearly as good as he did in his first Panther season which earned him what now looks like an overpayed contract that locks him up for six years.
Nice going Jacques! Ballard has been in a bit of a slump with no points in his last 4 games. I think that would make him 0 for 4!
Some roster moves that have been made. Forwards Shawn Matthias and Steve MacIntyre have been sent to Rochester and forwards Jeff Taffe, Mike Duco and goaltender Alexander Salak have been called up for tonights game. The Panthers website has called this a roster shakeup. I would prefer to phrase it as a shuffling of the deck. Still dealing from the same hand as these players are pretty interchangeable with nothing great to be expected.
I’ll be at this one myself in person. Section 117 row 28. Stop by say hello.
Thanks for reading.