Florida Panthers (0-0-0) vs. New York Islanders (0-0-0)
Opposition site: Eye On Isles
LIVE CHAT : 7:45 P.M.
Welcome the the first preview of the new season. This one was a pleasure to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it. After a summer of drafting, trading and spending, the Florida Panthers begin tonight their most anticipated season since their inception back in 1993. New faces include players who have won Stanley Cups, and old friend who’s coming back home, and a youngster who will make his NHL debut. As we have spent the entire summer listening to pundits indicate that we won’t be any better than last season, the talk stops and proving in on the ice begins now.
The Panthers were 2-1- against the Isles last season and have won 12 of the last 17. The biggest news between the two was the play of Islander forward Michael Grabner. Grabner who came to the Panthers last season in the trade that send Keith Ballard to Vancouver showed virtually nothing in training camp, forcing Florida to waive the young and talented winger. The Isles picked him up and for whatever reason he flourished, challenging for the Calder Trophy by scoring 34 goals in his first full NHL season. Moving on from that, the Islanders do feature some very skillfull youth at the forward position.
John Tavares led the team in scoring last season with 67 points of which 27 of were goals. Tavares who’s 21 was signed to a six year $33 million dollar deal, is the present and the future of this club. Matt Moulson who scored 31 times for the Islanders last season was also signed to a long term deal as well. P.A Parenteau a former 9th round pick of the Anaheim Ducks had 20 goals and 33 assists in his first full season in the NHL.
The Islanders are certainly full of young talent and potential goal scorers, however they have an issue in goal, where Rick Di Pietro has struggled with injuries after signing an outrageous contract for 15 years, and has only played in 39 games over the past three seasons. His record last season was 8-14-4 and his GAA was 3.44. His backup, or eventual starter is former San Jose Shark Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov was claimed off of waivers last season, but refused to play for the Isles, was 44-16-10 with a 2.43 GAA in 2009-2010 with the Sharks. Jack Capuano who will be in his first full season behind the bench for New York after taking over for Scott Gordon in mid-November, had the benefit of a full training camp with his club. They Isles play hard, and won’t make this game an easy one for our new look Panthers.
As for our Florida Panthers, tonight will be the first night that the new team will be together on the ice. The housecleaning that was performed by Dale Tallon brought in 11 new players, and while some feel this team isn’t any better, I think we know that’s not the case. Dale had this to say yesterday in his most recent G.M. Journal that appears on the team’s website:
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the next chapter in our plan. Beginning with our game against the Islanders, we’ll start to get a true understanding of where we stand as a franchise and how much better we really are.
Jose Theodore and four time 30 game winner in his career gets the start tonight after a rocky training camp. Concern about his game is out there, but Jose is a professional and is not going to let a couple poor outings get in the way of his performance. He’ll prove that he’s much better than what we’ve seen, mostly due to the mental toughness he has.
Offensively look for excitement from Kris Versteeg, (who we will refer to as Steeger going forward), Scottie Upshall and the free wheeling skating of defenceman Brian Campbell. This team is going to be fun to watch as Tallon has added speed, along with hockey sense and skill. Not to be forgotten are Sean Bergenheim who came out of nowhere last season with a successful playoff run with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Tomas Fleischmann (Flash from now on), who is fully recovered from the blood clot that sidelined him during the latter part of last season.
Making his NHL debut tonight is Erik Gudbranson (BigG). The big young defenceman earned his spot on the roster (again) this camp, and also has a nifty three year contract to go along with him. He’ll be paired with Ed Jovanovski as the two hulking defenceman will be the shut down pair for the Panthers. Big G has to survive the 9 game test, and I see no reason why he won’t. He doesn’t have to be fancy, just himself. Let him grow into the position everyone, he’ll be just fine. New coach Kevin Dineen is excited about his first NHL job and this Panthers club:
“You see the potential that’s there,” Dineen said. “The youth, the veterans, the skill that was added this summer, you have a lot of reason for optimism. It makes for a very exciting time.
It’s going to be a fun year, but the most important thing the Panthers can do and must do is have a quick start to the season. A few quick wins in October to give them the confidence and help carry them through the year.
Are you ready? I am. Let’s drop the puck already and get this REDvolution started!
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