Florida Panthers (1-2-0) at Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0)
The Florida Panthers finish their season-opening four game road trip tonight when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. The Panthers are coming off a pair of losses to the Blues and Flyers after winning their opener at Dallas.
The Panthers will be without goaltender Tim Thomas who suffered a slight groin strain while attempting to make a save in the first period of Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Jacob Markstrom, 23, will get the start in Thomas’ place tonight. Markstrom stopped all 25 shots he faced against the Flyers after he replaced Thomas in the first period. Veteran netminder Scott Clemmensen, 36, was called up yesterday to back-up Markstrom. In order to make room on the roster for Clemmensen, the Panthers sent forward Drew Shore down to AHL San Antonio Rampage.
The Tampa Bay Lightning wrapped up a three game road trip on Tuesday with a 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres. The win was the Lightning’s second straight post-regulation victory as the team picked up a 3-2 shootout win against the Blackhawks Saturday night in Chicago. Tampa has benefited from 26-year-old Ben Bishop‘s strong play in net. Bishop backstopped the Lightning to both of their wins stopping 58 of the 62 shots he faced as well as stopping all three of the Blackhawks’ shootout attempts.
Tonight will be the Lightning’s home opener. Tampa Bay has a 10-7-3 all time record in home openers and they are 0-2-0 in their two home-openers against the Panthers.
Players To Watch:
Steven Stamkos has zero goals through the first three games. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, Stamkos leads the NHL with 185 scores but through three games this season he has only managed two assists. In 28 games against the Panthers, Stamkos has 30 points (17-13-30).
The Lightning have a number of young players to watch. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik spent last season dominating the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch on a line known as the Top Gun Line. All three made the Lightning roster out of training camp and all three are 23 or younger.
More Power Please:
Last season the Panthers ranked 6th in the league on the power play (20.4%) and last on the penalty kill (74.2%). Through three games this season the team has seen a reversal of fortunes. Florida is 0-16 on power play chances this year but have only been scored on once in 12 shorthanded opportunities. Florida’s offense as a whole has been sluggish this season averaging just 1.7 goals per game.
The Lightning have not been much better averaging 2.0 goals per game. The big difference? Tampa has only allowed 2.3 goals per game while the Panthers have allowed 3.7 (granted that number is distorted by the seven goals they gave up in St. Louis).