Kris Versteeg leads the Florida Panthers with 17 points in 16 games. ( Robert Mayer / October 15, 2011 )

Welcome To The Wild Wild East!

With the Florida Panthers opening eyes around the NHL many Panther fans down here don’t seem to be too surprised at all. It seems as if every analyst, reporter or commentator around the NHL saw the Florida Panthers once again being a basement team. After a solid 8-5-3 start the Florida Panthers are right in the mix of things in the Eastern Conference. After a successful Canadian road trip where the Florida Panthers outscored their opponents 10-3 and went 2-0-0, the Panthers suffered a hard fought loss Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.  That game Sunday night is just the beginning of the wave of quality teams the Florida Panthers are going to have to face in the near future.

The Florida Panthers are getting ready for probably one of the toughest stretches they’ll have to face this season. Although many of the upcoming games are at home, they’re certainly not against any “basement” teams.

As we all know, the Dallas Stars have probably been one of the most surprising teams thus far. The Florida Panthers played the Stars twice during the preseason and they definitely looked like a potent team, especially with Kari Lehtonen guarding the net. Although they don’t attract many fans, they’re a tough team to face at home with a 6-1-0 record. Then Thursday night, the Panthers travel to St. Louis to play the St. Louis Blues who are another quality team at home with a 5-1-1 record and are currently battling in the Western Conference for a playoff spot.

Then the fun begins.

The Florida Panthers organization has really been emphasizing the importance of this 4 game home stand coming up during the Thanksgiving week. The Panthers will welcome into their den the Pittsburgh Penguins, where rumors have been spread that the Penguins seem to be ready to put Sidney Crosby back into the action. The Penguins currently sit atop the conference and with a player like Crosby back, watch out.

The Panthers then welcome the New Jersey Devils who have battled their way back into the mix of things of late with strong play from Patrik Elias. Players like Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise will definitely make you a little worried when every time they’re on the ice. It’ll also be our first real look at rookie Adam Larsson. To close out the home stand the Panthers will welcome the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers have probably been the hottest team as of late but we shall see which Rangers team will show up in a little over a week.

The Panthers then play the Lightning once again but in Tampa Bay, followed by a trip to Carolina to play the Carolina Hurricanes which as of today seems like the easiest team to play thus far. The Panthers then travel all the way to the West coast to face the high powered Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, if those two teams don’t make you a little intimidating I don’t know what will.

Throughout the month of December the Panthers will play the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins (2), Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers (2), New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadians.

The Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators are the only teams below .500 as of today. And with the Montreal Canadians and Boston Bruins finally playing better after horrid starts, nothing is going to come easy. Simply put, the Florida Panthers are going to have to play very consistent hockey throughout the entire year. The Eastern Conference is loaded this season and as of today 1st place and 8th place are separated by a mere 5 points. The Florida Panthers are definitely a team that can compete this year but they’re going to have to play well and stay healthy if they want to remain in the top 8 in the eastern conference. We’re going to learn a lot about this team in the next month and a half, and lastly the Panthers MUST start winning their home games, but that’s for another post.

Thank you for reading and make sure to comment on mine and everyone else here at The Rat Trick!

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God Bless and hope too hear from you soon! WE SEE RED!

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