Florida Panthers (1-3-0) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (3-0-0)
The Florida Panthers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the BB&T Center at 7:30 p.m. Tonight will be the Panthers first home game of the season and the team is returning to South Florida after having lost three in a row by a combined score of 16-3.
The Panthers are celebrating their 20th anniversary this season and the game tonight against Pittsburgh is a nod to their history as the Panthers played the Penguins in their first ever home game way back on October 12, 1993. The game, which was held at Miami Arena, was won by the Penguins 2-1. The Panthers have played well in recent home openers winning their last three including a 5-1 victory last season over the Carolina Hurricanes.
If the Panthers want to keep that streak alive, they will have to do so against a Penguins team that many think are this year’s Stanley Cup favorite. The Penguins are 3-0-0 so far this season and have not played since Tuesday. The Panthers on the other hand played are in the middle of a stretch that sees them play three games in four nights.
For the Panthers to be successful tonight they will have to stop Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin but even if they manage that, the Pens have a plethora of other ways to win games. Jussi Jokinen leads the team with three goals and peripheral scorers like Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz will hurt you also if you spend too much time focusing on the big guns.
One thing in the Panthers favor is they will be facing Jeff Zatkoff in net tonight and not Marc-Andre Fleury. Zatkoff, 26, is making his NHL debut after making the team as a replacement for the injured Tomas Vokoun. Zatkoff was a 3rd round (76th overall) draft pick of the LA Kings in the 2006 draft. Last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, he accumulated a record of 26-20-0 to go along with a 1.93 GAA and .920 SV%.
The Panthers are hoping their home ice will turn around a dismal start to the season. After beating the Dallas Stars 4-2 in their season opener, Florida has lost the the Blues (7-0), the Flyers (2-1) and the Lightning (7-2). Jacob Markstrom, filling in for the injured Tim Thomas, got the start last night in Tampa but was pulled in the third after giving up five goals on 24 shots.
Florida snapped an 0-17 streak on the power play last night when Brad Boyes struck with the man-advantage in the second period. The goal was Boyes’ second in two games. Brian Campbell assisted on the goal and he now has four assists in four games to lead the Panthers in scoring. Perhaps the highlight of the night was Jonathan Huberdeau‘s third period goal in which he gathered the puck on a breakaway and executed a beautiful deke in-tight on goalie Ben Bishop.
Panther fans will be coming to the rink tonight hoping to see some more of that magic and perhaps a little less of the opposing team celebrating on the ice. Share your thoughts about the game in the comments section below and follow The Rat Trick on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest.