FLORIDA PANTHERS: (1-0-0) 2 Pts. vs PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: (2-0-1) 3 Pts.
Opposition site: PensLabyrinth
After winning their opening game of the new season, the Florida Panthers get a real test tonight as they take on the Sidney Crosbyless Pittsburgh Penguins who will be playing their third game in four nights, and fourth in six, after a western road swing. With wins in Vancouver and Calgary, the Pens then dropped one to the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1 in a shootout. The Oilers scored with less than five minutes left in regulation to tie the game, and then the Penguins who appeared to be out of gas, failed to score on a five minute power play. The game in Edmonton was played without Evgeni Malkin who also missed the third period of the Calgary game with an unknown injury(lower body?), and he’ll miss tonight’s tilt as well.
A good start to the season nonetheless as the Pens have picked up five out of six points to start, on what is normally a difficult road trip for anyone, let alone a team missing it’s two top players for parts of the trip. Pittsburgh however is looking for some offence from some others this season to help pick up the slack while Crosby is out. James Neal a young and talented forward who was acquired last season for the playoff drive was a disappointment as he scored only once while getting 6 points in 20 games. Neal has 2 points in three games so far and many are thinking that having spent the offseason working out with fitness guru Gary Roberts will make a huge difference in his game. Steve Sullivan acquired as a free agent this summer is also expected to inject spunk into the lineup. Teamed with Malkin and Neal, this has been the most dangerous and creative line for coach Dan Bylsma.
As for our new look Florida Panthers, head coach Kevin Dineen is maintaining the same lineup he employed on Saturday against the Islanders, which means that Jose Theodore will start again after throwing his 31st career shutout. In one of the most complete efforts seen by a Panthers team, the uptempo style was refreshing, exciting, and most of all controlled. Brian Campbell who we all just can’t say enough about, played half the game (30:04), and showed why Dale Tallon believes in him so much. Fluid skating, creative playmaking, and controlling the breakout, Campbell is a site for sore eyes, and has won us over already. I think that we all agree that the fun, energetic, and hardwork that this team showed us is going to result in a winning attitude, and a breathe of fresh air. It was a complete effort from top to bottom as Jose Theodore had this to say after the win:
“Everybody came through tonight,” Theodore said. “They were clearing the rebounds (and) I was seeing the puck. We really worked well as a unit. They were letting me see the puck. We were all on the same page.”
Tonight however will require more of the same, and an even stronger effort will be needed. Sure Pittsburgh has played a lot of hockey early on, but sometimes your home crowd can give you enough of an energy boost to carry you through. The difference for this Panther club as compared to others is they are faster, more skilled and more talented. It’s entirely possible for Florida to keep pace with this Penguins team, and dare I say go into this game confident?
Interesting stats for the nerd in us:
* Both teams are at 100% efficiency on the PK. Florida has killed all three, while the Pens have killed all 11 chances.
* On the power play Florida is 1 for 5 (20%) and Pittsburgh is 5 for 16 (31.3%).
* The Penguins have won 3 of their last five home openers and are 35-29-5 overall against the Panthers.
* The Pens have killed 23 of the last 25 power play attempts against Florida (The Jim Hulton Era).
* Connections: Steve MacIntyre played 18 games for Florida, and on Sunday played a very Peter DeBoerish 1:27 against the Edmonton Oilers. Matt Bradley played all 82 games for Pittsburgh in 2003-2004, with 16 points, seven of which were goals.
* Look for Sean Bergenheim to be the “secret weapon” tonight, as he scored three times against Pittsburgh in last season’s playoffs.
Here’s the TSN Gameday.
Keys to the game:
* Fast start for Florida, and get the crowd out of the game.
* Stay out of the penalty box, and don’t give the Penguins any chances on the man advantage. Too dangerous.
* Do not, and I mean DO NOT under any circumstances let Matt Cooke score.
* The “high” that we’re on from Saturday should be over with. Get down to business.
* Get an early lead, and keep up the pressure. We don’t play until Saturday so let the tank go to empty.
Our only appearance on National T.V. as the game is being televised on Versus.
I don’t like the Pittsburgh Penguins. At all. If you follow this site, that’s not news, but just in case I wanted to remind you.
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