Jason Spezza potted a hat-trick Tuesday in Tampa. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Game Day Preview: Can Panthers End Senators Dominance?


FLORIDA PANTHERS 27-17-11 (65 PTS)  vs  OTTAWA SENATORS 29-22-8 (66 PTS)




When you think of teams that would be considered a ‘nemesis’ of the Florida Panthers, you’d probably think of quite a few teams first: Any of the New York teams, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens maybe. But, over the last few years, there has been one thorn in the Panthers paw that has been more of a problem than any other: the Ottawa Senators, Wednesday’s opponent at the Bank Atlantic Center.

The Panthers have dropped eight straight contests to the Sens, including the two meetings this season. March 31, 2009 was the last time the Cats left a game with Ottawa with both points in their pockets. Our visitors from the north make have made themselves at home at the BAC, winning 16 games in the past 19 visits. The good news is this year, Florida is one of the best home teams in the league, sporting a record of 14-5-7. Those five regulation losses are the third least in the NHL.

In the two contests this season, the Panthers are 0-1-1. Back on October 27, the Senators broke Florida hearts when Nick Foligno scored the game winning goal with 2.5 seconds left. The dagger came after Kris Versteeg tied the game up with :48 remaining. In the second game, on December 22nd, the Cats were able to grind out a point of a game that had no business doing so before falling 4-3 in overtime.

After a slow January, the Flashmob line is showing serious signs of life these days. Versteeg, along with Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss all enjoyed a fun weekend in the tri-state area with each recording a point in both wins, including two goals where they scooped up all three points, much like they did back in November. Should they continue their hot play, they’d join the blistering line of Sean Bergenheim-Marcel Goc-Mikael Samuelssson. Goc has been one of the best players for the Cats since he’s returned from injury as he’s not only produced points, but contributed heavily on the penalty kill unit. Bergenheim’s scoring has kept been a huge bonus during the past few weeks when the Panthers have struggled to put more than 2 goals on the board.

Ottawa comes into Wednesday’s game following a 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Before that, things hadn’t been so easy as they were 1-6-2 before that, including a seven game losing streak. The hot play of Jason Spezza has helped bring them out of it as he’s collected 9 points in the past three contests, including a hat-trick against the Lightning. Also joining him in the ‘hot’ category, is defenseman Erik Karlsson, with 4 points in the past two games. Karlsson has been to the Senators what Brian Campbell has been to the Panthers. He’s been a prime example of just how much a puck-moving defensman can mean to a team with his ability to get the puck out of his zone and up to his forwards quickly. He may still be somewhat of a liability in is own end of the ice but his benefits have far outweighed his negatives.

Interesting side note to this game: These teams, both in playoff position as of right now, were picked to finish 14th and 15th in the Eastern Conference by The Hockey News.

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Tags: Brian Campbell Erik Karlsson Florida Panthers Jason Spezza Kris Versteeg Ottawa Senators Stephen Weiss Tomas Fleischmann

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