Feb 15, 2012; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Sean Bergenheim (20) collides with Ottawa Senators right wing Erik Condra (22) during the second period at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Game Day Preview: Senators vs. Panthers: Wash, Rinse, Gut Check


Feb 15, 2012; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers left wing Sean Bergenheim (20) collides with Ottawa Senators right wing Erik Condra (22) during the second period at the BankAtlantic Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

OTTAWA SENATORS: 34-24-8 (76 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 30-22-12 (72 PTS.)




While I won’t say that last night’s Florida Panther effort against the Nashville Predators was poor, it wasn’t exactly positive.  By giving up the first goal in the first period on a shot that Scott Clemmensen would likely love the have back, the Panthers faced an uphill battle all night long.  After being outscored 10-1 in their past two games, Florida must find their offensive spark and find it quickly.  The Predators gave the Panthers nothing, as each time a pass connected, a Predator player was on top of the Panther player, forcing another pass, or a dump in.  Not the Panthers style of play.

Don’t let the shots fool you either as Florida put 40 on Pekka Rinne, but about 38 of them were of the “easy” variety.  Too often we are seeing shots from poor angles, shots that are too far away, or right at the crest of the goaltender.  Time to get dirty boys as there’s only 18 games left, and you have teams breathing down your neck.  Jerred Smithson of the Panthers has the right attitude regarding tonight’s game:

“We’re gonna have to bear down a little more, get more contributions from everyone on the team and find a way to score more goals … We’ll learn from it, move on – we got a huge game (Sunday) that’s a must have.”

Whether or not that message can resonate to every player in the room, the fact remains that some players need to rise above this issue and perform at their best.  The FlashMob line of Kris Versteeg, Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann has not only been broken up, but is missing Versteeg who is still out with a lower body injury.  The Panthers had relied on that line way too much in the first three months of the season.  It’s caught up to them and has caused the recent inconsistent play and lack of scoring.

Not to be lost in their struggles, and leave it to me to point it out, but Stephen Weiss scored two goals over a 33 game stretch that saw the Panthers go 15-18 overall.  I’ve combined shootout wins and losses to simplify things, but you get the idea.  Weiss has been dropped to the second line, and while his production perked up slightly, he is going to have to be a more significant factor down the stretch.  No exceptions.

As Florida faces an Ottawa team that has had their way with them recently, the news doesn’t get much better.  In the last nine games against the Sens, Florida is 0-8-1 and has been outscored 38-18.  On a positive note Wojtek Wolski has two goals and one assist since the trade that brought him here a week ago in the five games he’s played.  He’ll have to continue that pace, and it would be important if other players were able to follow suit.

You can expect to see Jose Theodore in net for Florida, and the Panthers will have to give him support, as well as keep the crease area free and clear.  If I’m an opposing coach, I tell my players to create traffic, and block his vision in order to make life difficult.  The Panthers have yet to learn their lesson in this area of the game, and it’s costing them dearly.

Ottawa is coming off a 2-1 loss to the Blackhawks on Friday that saw the Hawks come out flying and controlling most of the play early on.  Goaltender Robin Lehner who most likely starts this evening saw 39 shots, and was tested often.  Lehner has apparently taken the starting position as former Panther Craig Anderson recovers from a hand injury (tendon) suffered at home while making a sandwich.

Milan Michalek leads Ottawa in goals with 29 and has seven points in his previous five games.  Jason Spezza is streaking with 21 points in his last 10 games, and young defenceman Erik Karlsson has 13 points in his past 6 games.  Daniel Alfredsson loves playing Florida and in 54 games, the Ottawa captain has 57 points (26g 31a).

Not much more can be said about this game.  Tampa and Buffalo are surging.  It’s time to dig deep and show up.

Nerdy Notes/Numbers:

* Florida is 11-3-2 against Canadian teams.  6-1-1 on home ice.

* Florida has outshot their opponent in six of the last seven games 246-189.  They are 3-3-1 in that span.

* Florida is 11-20-5 when allowing the first goal of a game.

* Florida is 21-2-7 when scoring on the power play.

* Of Milan Michalek’s 29 goals, 17 have come on the road.

* Jason Spezza (14g 21a) leads Ottaw with 35 road points.

* Ottawa has won six times when trailing after two periods, and 10 when trailing after one.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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Tags: Daniel Alfredsson Erik Karlsson Flashmob Line Florida Panthers Kris Versteeg Nashville Predators Ottawa Senators Pekka Rinne Stephen Weiss Tomas Fleichmann

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