FLORIDA PANTHERS: 16-8-5: (37 PTS.) vs. NEW YORK RANGERS: 16-6-4 (36 PTS.)
GAME TIME: 7:30 P.M. EASTERN
OPPOSITION SITE: BLUE LINE STATION
The Florida Panthers go into tonight’s game against the New York Rangers with what hopefully is some “youthful” energy based on their outdoor practice Saturday in Central Park. It was a fund 90 minutes, and the boys all seemed to enjoy themselves from the outdoor workout. The coaching staff participated in the fun as well sporting ski caps with the NYFD logo on them. Stephen Weiss showed up wearing eye black and Erik Gudbranson represented his howetown of Kingston, Ontario with a large K on his hat. All in all it seemed like a fun time for all, and you can get a glimpse of the day from George Richards’ site On Frozen Pond.
The Panthers are looking to bounce back form their 2-1 loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres Friday night and pad their six point lead over the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division. While the Sabres only managed 20 shots against goaltender Scott Clemmensen, the Panthers were held at bay by Buffalo’s Ryan Miller who allowed only one tally from the Cats. Clemmensen was able to find the bright side from the loss:
“It was disappointing we lost, but the disappointment we feel is positive,” said backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who made 18 saves and lost for the first time in four starts this season.
“Not everything is going to be perfect. We got a point, so we need to look at the bright side.”
The Panthers should feel good going into this game as they have won three of the past four meetings against the Rangers and have won four of the last six at the Garden, will being held scoreless on the power play in their last 14 attempts. That could change if the Panthers and Jason Garrison get a chance to take some shots from the point. Garrison recorded his ninth goal against the Sabres on Friday with another “bomb” past Miller. It was Garrison’s first goal in eight games.
Kris Versteeg who leads the team with 13 goals as part of the FlashMob Line has only one goal in his past seven games, but the good news is that the Panthers secondary scoring is finally coming through. Though Versteeg does have 17 points in his last 14 games, the defence with players like Dmitry Kulikov are chipping in as are players like Sean Bergenheim, and Tomas Kopecky who notched his first goal in a while against the Bruins on Thursday. The addition of Mikael Samuelsson who is likely to play tonight after sitting out the Buffalo game on Friday, will add some offensive punch to the lineup.
Jose Theodore will get the start tonight as he has won five of his past seven starts with a 1.57 GAA and has won four games in a row against the Rangers. In Theodore’s last three starts against the Rangers he’s faced 91 shots and has allowed only two goals.
The Rangers are coming off a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres last night, avoiding a third consecutive loss. Goals were scored by Carl Hagelin who has two, and Ryan Callahan added one of two shortie’s for the win. Hagelin was playing in his eighth NHL game. Since his November 23rd call up Hagelin now has three goals and three assists. Marian Gaborik is the leader in goals for the Rangers with 14 and has five goals in his last eight games and four with five assists in his last 10 against the Panthers. He’s one of 10 hot players listed in the TSN Gameday preview with 19 points in 19 games. That list includes Brad Richards, and Ryan Callahan, giving the Rangers a fairly well balanced scoring attack. coach John Tortorella has them playing a hard nosed game, and this contest shouldn’t be any different.
Marty Biron ( a favourite of @LilMissRatTrick) was in goal last night for the win, and has five victories in seven games, gives New York a very solid back up goaltender. However it’s expected that Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes tonight. Lundqvist is 7-2-1 with a 1.99 GAA in his past 10 games, and is 12-7-1 lifetime against the Panthers with a 1.81 GAA. He’s consistently been one of the tougher netminders for the Panthers to figure out.
With Samuelsson back from injury and Matt Bradley and Marcel Goc hopefully getting closer to coming back the Panthers returned Evgenii Dadonov to San Antonio of the AHL yesterday. Coach Kevin Dineen hadn’t been too pleased with the young forwards play as of late. You can also rest knowing that the Panthers will not be releasing young defenceman Erik Gudbranson for the World Junior Championships. The organEYEzation feels that it’s in both parties best interest to keep the young and developing defender here with the big club.
* Marc Staal of the Rangers has missed 26 games with concussion symptoms.
* The Rangers rank 21st in the NHL on the power play and eighth overall in killing penalties.
* The Rangers are 2-0-1 in the second of back to back games.
* Last night’s victory over Buffalo was the 2,500th in the team’s history making them the fifth team to do so. Others are Boston, Montreal, Detroit, and Toronto.
* When Brandon Prust is assessed a fighting major in the first two minutes of the game, the Rangers are 7-0-0.
* Kris Versteeg needs one more assist for 100 in his career.
* Mike Santorelli is one point away from 50 in his career.
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