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Game Day Preview. Panthers vs. Canadiens. JM Under Seige.


Florida Panthers 4-3-0 (8 PTS). vs. Montreal Canadiens 1-4-2 (4 PTS).

Opposition Site: A Winning Habit

There are always a few game day previews that I look forward to writing up with a little special pizzaz.  Tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens and former Florida Panther coach and bumbling GM Jacques Martin is one of them.  I was never a fan of the original hiring of Jacques, and would have gladly drove him to the airport when he ultimately left us and the mess he made behind, but I was busy dropping confetti from Party City in the Rat Trick offices when the announcement of his leaving came.  Many people continue to spew venom about other GM’s that the organEYEzation has had, but nary a mention about the complete setback that Uncle Jack left us with over the past few seasons that has stunted our growth.  New sheriff Dale Tallon is slowly but surely removing anything with Jacques name on it that still might be here.

With that monologue behind me now, the Florida Panthers enter the Centre Bell tonight against a Montreal Canadiens team that is having trouble scoring, playing defence, holding leads, and well just about anything else that you can imagine.  And the leader behind the bench, JM himself is under fire.  Naturally it’s easy to point the finger at the coach, but in this results oriented city, the natives have seen enough, and feel that the seat that Jacques is sitting on isn’t just hot, it’s flaming.  After 7 games the Habs are 1-4-2, in 15th place in the Eastern Conference and fresh off an overtime loss to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, on home ice.

Part of the issue in Montreal many feel is that his lieutenant Kirk Muller is no longer his right hand man behind the bench, having now become a head coach in the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL.  Muller was the go between for the players.  The one to smooth things over for the sometimes aloof and acerbic Martin.  Players seem to be unsure of their roles, the team scheme and what’s expected of them.  Part of the problem for the Habs could be placed on injuries to players like Andrei Markov, Michael Cammalleri, Jaroslav Spacek, Chris Campoli and recently Scott Gomez.  However with players like Erik Cole, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Brian Gionta, scoring and creativity shouldn’t be a problem.  But Cole’s been kept off the power play in favor of players like Mathieu Darche, and the defence although banged up, is doing nothing to help Carey Price, the natives are officially restless.  Reports are that Peter Budaj is getting his first start tonight and is 0-1-0 against Florida with a 1.99 GAA and a .913 SA%.  That said, Martin is on a short leash.  If only you would have asked us first Montreal, we could have warned you.  I know I don’t miss images like this:

The Florida Panthers are coming off an emotional Saturday night win over the New York Islanders, as they beat the Isles 4-2 following the announcement of David Booth being traded to the Vancouver Canucks.  After going two complete games without scoring,  GM Dale Tallon did what Martin was afraid petrified to do…..make a trade.  Refusing to sit idly by and wait for things to work themselves out, Tallon put the players on notice that he expects more.  They responded with a solid effort including an energized performance by Shawn Matthias, and a fantastic relief job from rookie netminder Jacob Markstrom for Jose Theodore, who sat out the third period with soreness in his hip.  Markstrom stood tall and stopped all 18 shots against him in the third period, and earned his first NHL victory.

This three game road trip however will be a strong test to see how the Panthers deal with travel, and playing in boisterous rinks in Montreal, Ottawa and Buffalo.  It will also be good for the “chemistry test” to be together for the week and that includes newcomer Marco Sturm (part of the Booth trade) who is expected to join the team tonight, and could be placed on a line with friend Marcel Goc.  The Panthers will need to continue their puck possession style to continue to frustrate the Canadiens by playing keep away.  Things work best for the Panthers when they stick to this plan, and can also utilize their team speed to keep the opposition off balance.

Inserted into the lineup tonight for the first time this season will be Mike Santorelli, who’s been out with a shoulder injury.  Last year Santorelli was a very pleasant surprise as Dale Tallon with the help of assistant GM Mike Santos, plucked Santorelli from the Nashville Predators.  Santorelli played in all 82 games for the Panthers last season scoring 2o goals and adding 41 assists.  He was awarded with a shiny new 6 year Jacques Martin style two year contract at season’s end for his performance.  Ryan Carter will be the healthy scratch among the forwards tonight.

All eyes will be on rookie defenceman Erik Gudbranson specfically because of this last pre season.  We know that Big G is not going to back down if challenged, and if he is, he’ll be up to the task.  I would like to see him get some more ice time, and hopefully the game will allow for that to happen.  Newcomer Mikael Samuelsson will not be in the lineup tonight as he’s a bit knicked up, but nothing serious.  He’ll be joining the team shortly.  As for the goaltender for tonight, at this typing there is speculation that Jacob Markstrom will be getting his second NHL start.  This could be a game time decision, but feel confident with either him, or Jose Theodore manning the pipes.

Notes de Presse/Game notes:

* Jack Skille plays in his 100th NHL game tonight.

* Tomas Kopecky needs three points to reach 100 in his NHL career.

* “Mad” Max Pacioretty ranks 2nd in the NHL with 34 shots on goal so far this season.

* On October 20th Montreal defenceman Hal Gill was the first defenceman from Massachusetts to play in his 1,000 NHL game.

* Montreal has had 296 consecutive sellouts, including playoffs.

* Michael Cammalleri scored the Canadiens’ 9,000th goal on the road in team’s history (NHA and NHL) (Oct. 9 at WPG).


* Jacques Martin coached the Florida Panthers for three seasons with a 110-100-0-36  record.  He was also the teams GM for two seasons making numerous poor decisions.

* Jose Theodore started his career in Montreal winning the Vezina and Hart trophies in 2001-2002.

* Jaroslav Spacek played parts of three seasons for the Panthers from 1998 to 2001.  IN the 99-00 season he played all 82 games compiling 36 points (10g-26a).

Here’s the TSN Gameday.

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