Game Day Preview # 4. Panthers vs. Lightning. Part 2.





Tonight the Florida Panthers who are coming off an exhilarting home opener victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning will be begin a span of four games in six nights as they take on their cross-state rivals in Tampa.  Tonight’s game will also be the home opener for the Lightning, and I’m sure the Panthers would love nothing more than to spoil it by handing Tampa their fifth consecutive loss since their opening night victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.  The two teams will be facing off for the 100th time against each other in the newly renovated St. Pete Times Forum.  The renovation of the arena cost $40 million dollars and was all privately funded with no financial contributions from the community.  New features include newly upholstered seats with cup holders, renovated suites, a new outdoor party deck, a good old fashioned hockey pipe organ, and two Tesla coils that will shoot bolts of lightning each time Florida Tampa scores.

The loss on Saturday for Tampa just added to their frustrations, as they were held scoreless in the shootout, and they are 0 for 5 in shootout attempts this season and have lost 6 of  their last 7.  A very odd and concerning statistic with all the scoring talent that they possess.  Here’s another look at the shootout from Saturday night.  The goals also aren’t coming from the top six either, and Marc-Andre Bergeron had both goals in Saturday’s contest to continue the funk that players like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecalvalier are in.  Stamkos has one goal this season so far, but more interestingly has only scored once in his last seven games against the Panthers.  This is a team however that won’t give up, and with all the firepower they have, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

In addition to the matchup being a home opener for Tampa, you can bet all eyes will be on Steve Downie and Erik Gudbranson, who fought in Saturday night’s affair with Gudbranson having the distinct advantage.  While many times a rematch is expected, most of the time it’s all hype and nothing really comes of it.  It will be interesting to see who blinks first.  Will Guy Boucher put Downie on the ice while Big G is out there, and will Kevin Dineen, leave Big G out there when Downie hops the boards.

For Florida this will be the first of back to back games during this busy week, and staying fresh will be key.  Nothing fancy is needed in this road game, and the ability of coach Dineen to be able to roll four lines will contribute to that.  Jose Theodore has been very very good in his first three games, could be looking at a breather either tonight or tomorrow against Washington.

This should be a festive affair with both teams having much to prove.  If the Panthers can play a simple road game and continue to limit Tampa’s scoring opportunities, chances are they can be victorious.

Nerdy stats for us:

* Tampa has 12 players  with at least two points in the season tying them for second with the St. Louis Blues.  Pittsburgh has 14.

* Tampa’s Steven Stamkos who has one goal in 7 games so far has 97 since 2009-2010.  The most in the NHL.

* Tampa is 9-6-2-1 all time in home openers.

* Vincent Lecavalier (56) and Martin St. Louis (50) are among the top six all time leading point producers against Florida.

* Steve Downie is two points shy of 100 and Dominic Moore is one assist away from 100, and Ed Jovanovski is two assists away from 350.

* Soupy is second in the NHL with an average of 29:18 minutes of ice time so far.

* The penalty kill unit for Florida is perfect having killed all 9 attempts against them.

As always thank you for reading.  We welcome your comments.

Pregame for tonight coming later today.  Don’t forget our first Rat Trick Road Watch Party.

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