Florida Panthers (6-13-4) at Calgary Flames (7-11-4)
The Florida Panthers will look to end their five game road trip on a positive note tonight when they travel to Calgary to take on the Flames at 9:00 p.m. ET. The Flames have lost eight of their last ten games meanwhile the Panthers have won three of five.
The Panthers are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers last night, a game in which the burdens of the road were certainly starting to show. The Panthers were doomed by a slow start in Edmonton but they should have some fresh legs in the lineup tonight but not for reasons you want to see. Both Jesse Winchester (lower body) and Tomas Kopecky (wrist) left last night’s game with injuries and both are unlikely to play tonight. Winchester has been one of the Panthers most consistent forwards and he has eight points (four goals, four assists) in 2o games. Kopecky started the season ice cold going pointless through the first 16 games. He has however been coming around recently scoring two goals and one assist in his last four games.
Replacing the two injured Panthers will probably be Scott Gomez and Sean Bergenheim. The duo should have plenty in the tank as Gomez last played November 7th in Boston while Bergenheim’s last game was November 15th in Minnesota. We could also see Scott Clemmensen and Mike Weaver back in the lineup tonight as the Panthers play the second game of a back-to-back. Weaver who has been suffering with the flu has been out since the game in Minnesota. Clemmensen will be in the net if head coach Peter Horachek elects to give Tim Thomas the night off. Thomas has played in seven straight games for the Panthers.
The Flames were an early season surprise as they started off 3-0-2. The wheels have since fallen off as they have gone 4-11-2 since the hot start. Calgary has been led on offense by Jiri Hudler who has 21 points (7 goals, 14 assists) through 22 games. Another player to watch on the Flames is 19 year old Sean Monahan who is second on the team in goals and points (8-6-14). Monahan was taken with the 6th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
The Flames have been okay offensively this season (their 2.68 G/game ranks 15th in the league) but they have been a mess defensively. They have allowed a league high 3.64 goals per game and a large part of that is their NHL worst .879 save percentage. Retto Berra (.889 Sv%) Karri Ramo (.882) and Joey MacDonald (.885) have been the culprits in net thus far and tonight chances are that we will be seeing Berra.
If the Panthers win tonight, they will finish their season-long five game road trip with a 3-2 record. If that is indeed the case, the trip will have to be considered a huge success. Going into the trip, Florida had only one road win all season so grabbing a couple W’s on a travel intensive trip against tough opponents is a good sign. Who knows, maybe the Panthers will use their momentum from the trip to actually beat an Eastern Conference opponent for a change (Florida is 1-7-2 against the East this season).
With the injuries to Winchester and Kopecky, here is the lineup I could see the Panthers going with tonight: