Game Day Preview: Hurricanes vs. Panthers: It’s All Come Down To This


 CAROLINA HURRICANES: 33-32-16 (82 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 37-26-18 (92 PTS.)




The Florida Panthers will play their final regular season game of the year tonight against divisional rival the Carolina Hurricanes.  Having clinched a playoff birth for the first time on Thursday night, no thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers, Florida needs to win this game in order to clinch the Southeast division title.  It would be their first division title ever, and what better place to clinch than on hime ice before what is expected to be a sold out Bank Atlantic Center.

While it’s true that the Panthers only need one point tonight to clinch, or a loss by the Washington Capitals who take on the New York Rangers, it’s critical to head into the post season with a win.  From a pshycological standpoint as well as a mental one, the Panthers need to be believers in themselves, and each other.  I wouldn’t expect the Hurricanes to dive lay down for this one, and will have some extra jump in their lineup with recently signed forward Jeremy Welsh, who was just signed out of Union College.

Veteran Ed Jovanovski gave his side of what this game means, as well as what it means to win the division:

"“We’ve got one more game, and we know what’s at stake,” veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “It would be nice to put a banner in our building. I think any time you win a division, you have to be proud of that. If someone told me at the beginning of the year that it was going to come down to the last game, I’d take it.”"

The good news for the Panthers is that they have won four of the five meetings against Carolina this season, and hopefully take that as a confidence builder into the game.

As the Panthers look to enter the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, forward Stephen Weiss who has been here through all the changes gave his feelings on what this means to him:

"It’s been tough,” said center Stephen Weiss, who has spent all 10 seasons with the franchise. “You go home early in the summer and you wonder if you’re doing the right thing for yourself, for your career. You want to be loyal, but at the same time you only get so many years to play, and you want to try and play playoff hockey and win Stanley Cups. I’m excited to get my first taste.”"

Leading scorer Tomas Fleischmann who has seven goals and seven assists in his last 15 games will be looked upon tonight to be one of the leaders on the offensive side.  Having recently put the FlashMob line back together, they have shown signs of their early season magic, and Flash has been the major reason why.

The importance of winning the division outright gives us home ice advantage at least in the first round.  That would allow us to matchup against the New Jersey Devils and former Panther bench boss Peter DeBoer.  This will be the third time that the panthers have tried to clinch the division.

I borrowed this quote from a former NHL coach “Playing tense is debilitating.  Playing with intensity is energizing”.

Here’s to hoping that three really is a charm.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

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