Florida Panthers (1-5-0) vs Winnipeg Jets (3-2-1)
The Florida Panthers will be taking on the Winnipeg Jets at 7:30 tonight at the BB&T Center. The Panthers will be looking to snap a five game losing streak and they will be doing so against a Jet team that has been playing well this season. The Panthers are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning while the Jets are coming off a loss of their own dropping a game Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens 4-3. Marcel Goc should be making his return to the Panthers lineup bringing the team one step closer to full strength.
Tonight will be the first of five meetings between the Jets and Panthers. Last season, the first for “Jets redux” after having moved from Atlanta, the teams split their six games. The Panthers were 1-0-2 in their three home games against Winnipeg managing to get at least a point in every game. (Source) At the rate the Panthers are going now, a point would be a welcome outcome.
Players to Watch:
The Jets lineup will feature some familiar faces. Longtime Panther Olli Jokinen will be returning to his old stomping grounds except this time he will be wearing a Jets sweater. The Panthers waived forward James Wright at the beginning of the season, and he was picked up by the Jets. He will be playing on their fourth line tonight. The Cats will have to keep an eye on hulking defender Dustin Byfuglien. With three goals and four assists already on the season, its clear Byfuglien is not shy about unleashing his howitzer of a slap shot.
For the Panthers, Peter Mueller has goals in back-to-back games. He will be teaming up with youngsters Huberdeau and Shore on a line with huge upside.
Ed Jovanovski will be sitting tonight and he will be replaced by Tyson Strachan. Dineen has made it clear that Jovo will be receiving “maintenance days” here and there to assure his health going forward. Forward Marcel Goc will be making his season debut. He will be centering the top line alongside Fleischmann and Versteeg. Forwards Weiss and Bergenheim remain out.
Erik Gudbranson is healthy but will be making his season debut Friday with the Panthers AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage. The Panthers brass want Gudbranson to get some time in on the farm so they can see where he is at before they bring him back up to the big show. Here is what Dineen had to say about the move, “It depends on what we think of him, we’ll see where he’s at. We’ll watch the game tomorrow night and see how he’s doing and go from there. He’s got to go down and establish his play, and play.”
Here is the Panthers lineup per NHL.com
Pre Game Points
- With the return of Goc, Scottie Upshall will be a healthy scratch. As more and more forwards return from injury, Dineen will have an increasingly flexible roster. I would count on seeing George Parros as a healthy scratch some nights when Dineen wants to go with a smaller more skilled line-up. Jerred Smithson could be the odd man some nights as well.
- Gudbranson was not the only player loaned to the Rampage. Forward Mike Santorelliwas sent down as well. After hinting at his potential with 20 goals in 2010-11, Santo was a disappointment last year only scoring nine goals and two assists. Held without a point so far this year, Santorelli will have to
demonstrate an improvement in his game if he wants to find playing time amidst the crowded stable of forwards the Panthers have accumulated.
- The Panthers second line of Huberdeau-Shore-Mueller should be fun to watch. Shore has played his way into the picture this year when many expected him to spend most of his season in San Antonio fine tuning his game. The Shore-Huberdeau combo could be anchoring the Florida Panthers offensively for the next five years.
- It goes without saying, but tonight’s game is huge for the Panthers. Five game losing streaks are tough to overcome in a regular 82 game season and with this years short season they are almost enough to prematurely destroy a season. Look at it this way, with the 48 game schedule, five games is more than 10% of the season! The Panthers need two points tonight. Another loss and we could be looking at the longest short season ever.
Enjoy the game tonight. Your friendly local Panthers marketing team would also like to remind you to GET IT ON!