The week long South East Division battle continues tonight as the Florida Panthers host the Atlanta Thrashershawks in their third game in four nights. The Thrashers have a significantly different look this year, as Dustin Byfuglien leads the team in scoring with 41 points. Playing defence! Big Buff has played so well this season that there has even been talk of him being a Norris Trophy candidate this season. He must be doing something right as head coach Craig Ramsey has also awarded Buff with the A on his sweater, as he compliments team captain and former Blackhawk teammate Andrew Ladd.
Byfuglien just happens to be on a goal scoring tear right now as he scored the winning goal in Sunday’s overtime victory over the Montreal Canadiens and has five goals in his last seven games. Five players have 10 goals or more for Atlanta including ex Panther Anthony Stewart who has 10 himself.
Another major storyline for Atlanta is the play of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec who was the losing goaltender the last time these two teams met in November as the Panthers won 2-1, has been on a hot streak of his own. Pavelec has gone 13-4-2 and has a2.14 GAA since that November game. The Thrashers who have won two of their last three after going on a four game losing streak come into town a confident team, that is fun to watch, even without Ilya Kovalchuk who seems to be a distant memory now.
Evander Kane has nine points in his last nine games as he seems to be fitting in quite nicely with the Thrashers.
The Florida Panthers meanwhile are streaking themselves. 3-0-2 in their last five and 5-1-2 in their last eight, are hoping to continue a three game winning streak. Coming off a huge overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes where the gave up a two goal lead in the third period, Bryan Allen scored the overtime winner to give the Panthers redemption.
We could be seeing the breaking out of forward Chris Higgins though. Scoring in four goals in his last five games, he’s displaying the skill that he was known for. As the Panthers continue their push to stay above .500 he’s going to need to be one of the more consistent contributors.
Tomas Vokoun who was very sharp in Sunday’s victory over the New York Rangers was given Monday night off, and we expect him to be back in goal tonight. His overall record against the Thrashers is 11-4-1 with a 2.38 GAA in 17 games.
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