Florida Panthers (1-4-0) at Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-0)
The Florida Panthers will be taking on their cross-state rival the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at 7:30 PM in Tampa. This will be the first of five meetings between the teams this year. Tonight’s game will be between two teams moving in opposite directions at this early stage of the season. The Lightning are currently riding a three game win streak and sit atop the Southeast division. Their goal differential of +11 is tops in the Eastern Conference. They are coming off a 5-1 win over Philadelphia on Sunday. The Panthers on the other hand were picked apart to the tune of 7-1 to that same Philadelphia team on Saturday night. The loss extended their losing streak to four games to go along with an NHL worst -11 goal differential.
This is the first meeting this season between these division rivals. Last season, Tampa Bay took the series winning four out of the six games. After the Panthers won the first two early season games, Tampa seemingly figured the Panthers out sweeping the last four. The teams played each other close last year, except when they didn’t. Three of the six games were decide in overtime or a shootout while the other three were lopsided affairs. Scores included a 7-4 Panthers win and Tampa Bay victories of 5-1 and 6-3. (Source)
Players to Watch:
Familiar faces are leading the Lightning’s early season scoring. Martin St Louis leads the team with 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists), and right behind St Louis is Steven Stamkos with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists). (Source) For the Panthers, Kris Versteeg should be making his return to the lineup and the Panthers are hoping he will provided a boost to their woeful offense.
As mentioned above, Kris Versteeg should be back tonight to make his season debut after sitting out the beginning of the season with a lower body injury. Erik Gudbranson remains out along with Marcel Goc, Stephen Weiss, and Sean Bergenheim. Here is the projected Panthers lineup per NHL.com:
- Jonathan Huberdeau will be staying with the Florida Panthers for the rest of the season and will not be sent back to his junior team the St. John Sea Dogs. By playing in tonights game, his 6th NHL game, Huberdeau’s Entry Level Contract will go into effect. There was not much doubt that Huberdeau would be with the Panthers the entire year, and the number of early season injuries only served to further cement Huberdeau’s spot on the roster.
- Drew Shore was recalled by the Panthers today and should be in tonight’s lineup. Shore has impressed and the only reason he was sent back to the Panther’s AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage was so he could participate in the AHL All-Star Game, a game in which he had a goal and an assist.
- Shore is looking more and more like he may remain with the Panthers for an extended amount of time. Head coach Kevin Dineen recently said of Shore, “I think he’s made a statement that he’s going to do everything he can to stay here”.
- Quinton Howden was not recalled by the Panthers after being sent back to San Antonio after Saturday night’s game. The return of Versteeg means the Panthers do not need Howden to fill out their roster and he will remain in San Antonio to gain further experience.