Seems like the past few previews have all had the same message. Must win game. huge game. Big points on the line. Tonight’s match up between the Florida Panthers and the Atlanta Thrashers is just as big, if not bigger than the others. A victory tonight out the Panthers five points behind a struggling Atlanta team. Need I say more about the importance of this game?
Since the Thrashers won here in South Florida on January 5th by a score of 3-2, they’ve gone 0-3-1 in that time, falling further in the conference standings and now sit in the eighth spot. Dustin Byfuglien who leads Atlanta with 41 points has no points in his last 4 games while Atlanta has been outscored 24-9 during this tailspin that they’re on.
So while the Thrashers struggle to keep themselves in a playoff position, the Florida Panthers find themselves seven points behind Atlanta and gaining ground. However, the Cats will have to deal with their own little bit of trouble as they will be without defenceman and captain Bryan McCabe who is out for a few weeks (?) with a broken jaw suffered Saturday night in the win against the New Jersey Devils. McCabe was also playing with a broken finger. Keaton Ellerby has been called up to take his place and prove he can play here in the NHL.
Scott Clemmensen will get his third straight start tonight in goal. A situation that seems to have made Tomas Vokoun a bit edgy, yet he understands. On Frozen Pond has some of the more in depth details on the issue. Regardless of who’s in net, the Panthers must continue to play hard for 60 minutes and pounce on their chances. They’ve even scored some goals recently on the power play, and have been working on other areas of their game as they shoot for four in a row this evening.
Dmitry Kulikov who scored the winner in overtime against the Devils will most likely get some additional ice time and some of the more important assignments with McCabe out of the lineup. all in all, the entire defensive unit of the Panthers will need to step up, as McCabe logged a lot of ice time. Dennis Wideman and Mike Weaver who has been so steady this year will lead the pack.
Offensively the goals are being spread around which is a good thing, however Steve Bernier has become invisible. Evgeny Dadonov has cooled off a touch, but he scored a nasty goal on Marty Broduer that goes to show this kid has the tools to be a real stud in this league.
I can’t express enough how big this game is tonight. The mental toughness and the concentration that the boys need tonight must last for the entire 60 minutes. There can be no let up, and no let down. Take the play to Atlanta and take advantage of the fact they are the one’s with their backs against the wall. Not us! They’re the one’s falling.
Remember to check in on FanVibe during the game and chat with other Panther fans.
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