Oct 19, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) is congratulated by right wing Patrick Kane (88) and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (39) for a victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Florida Panthers Vs. Chicago Blackhawks

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Chicago Blackhawks (5-1-2) at Florida Panthers (3-6-0) 7:30 p.m.

The Florida Panthers take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the BB&T Center.

After their 2-1 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild, the Panthers will be looking for their first winning streak of the season. So far the Panthers have followed up each of their wins with three game losing streaks.

The Panthers have lost three straight games to the Blackhawks. Their last win over Chicago came at home, a 3-2 win in March of 2011.

The Blackhawks are off to a strong start this season and hold the second spot in the Central Division with 12 points trailing only the Colorado Avalanche who have 14. A large part of that early season success is due to the play of Hawks goalie Corey Crawford. With his partner from last season, Ray Emery, off to Philadelphia, Crawford has settled into the full time role. Through seven starts, he has a 2.07 GAA and a .922 Sv %.

Brandon Saad, in his second season, leads the Hawks in scoring with six points (2-4-6). Saad finished third in last year’s rookie of the year voting behind Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Huberdeau. Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane leads the team in goals with four. Kane has ten points (5-5-10) in eight career games against Florida.

It always feels like a family reunion of sorts when the these two teams get together. Dale Tallon was the Blackhawks’ general manager from 03-09 and he is widely credited as the man responsible for building the 2010 Blackhawks squad that won the cup. Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, and Kris Versteeg are all current Panthers that were a part of that 2010 Cup team. Tallon imported the trio to Florida prior to the 2011-12 season.

The Blackhawks are the favorite going into tonight’s game but do not rule the Panthers out. So far this season, the Panthers have proven to be a tough team to beat at home. Although just 2-2 at the BB&T Center, they did beat two tough opponents in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota Wild. They also came within a minute of taking the Boston Bruins to overtime.

I expect that Tim Thomas will be back in the net for the Panthers and while Sean Bergenheim practiced with the team yesterday, he will not be back in the lineup tonight.

Here is the roster I think we could see from the Panthers:

Fleischmann-Barkov-Boyes

Huberdeau-Goc-Kopecky

Upshall-Gomez-Versteeg

Winchester-Bjugstad-Matthias

Gilbert-Campbell

Kulikov-Weaver

Gilroy-Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Tickets to see the Panthers take on the defending Stanley Cup champions start at just $8. See this game and others by getting your Florida Panthers tickets here.

UPDATE: I was way off with the lines. Looks like Dineen is changing things up, here are the lineups for Panthers-Blackhawks (NHL.com)

Florida Panthers

Tomas Fleischmann – Aleksander Barkov – Kris Versteeg

Jonathan Huberdeau – Nick Bjugstad – Jesse Winchester

Shawn Matthias – Marcel Goc – Tomas Kopecky

Scottie Upshall – Scott Gomez – Brad Boyes

Dmitry Kulikov – Brian Campbell

Tom Gilbert – Mike Weaver

Matt Gilroy – Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa

Patrick Kane – Michal Handzus – Patrick Sharp

Bryan Bickell – Marcus Kruger – Andrew Shaw

Brandon Bollig – Brandon Pirri – Ben Smith

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy – Michael Kostka

Corey Crawford

 

 

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Tags: Chicago Blackhawks Florida Panthers

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