Game Day Preview: Sabres vs. Panthers. Come on, Look In My Direction.



GAME DAY SONG: Expressway To Your Heart Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Heading into tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Florida Panthers finally have some positives to build on during this six game home stand.  The effort over the last 8 periods of hockey that’s been played here in Sunrise has been much more consistent, and the team actually is beginning to look competitive.  Aside from the first period against the Boston Bruins on Thursday October 17th, the Panthers have played with more determination, and a little bit of desperation.  Granted, it hasn’t looked pretty, or always exciting, but if the last 8 periods are any indication of how they can play when the entire team puts their mind to it, then things could be looking up.  The effort against Chicago on Tuesday was valiant, especially coming from behind and scoring two goals in the third period, taking the game to overtime, and finally losing in a shootout.  The game plan was to be simple, and the Panthers kept it that way.  As talented as the Blackhawks are, Florida did its best to minimize scoring chances, not give up too much space, and do their best to frustrate Chicago’s talent laden roster.

The Panthers who now have three points in the last two games, will be looking for two more against the last place Sabres, a team whom they’ve had some recent success against.  In the last six games against Buffalo, Florida is 4-0-2, and is 2-0-1 in the past three tilts at home.  While none of those statistics are meant to have this contest taken for granted, Florida needs to go into this game with confidence, and play to their strenghts.  It may be hard to do with Tim Thomas back on the shelf with a wonky groin, an injury that re-surfaced in the final minutes of regulation Tuesday against the Blackhawks.  Thomas missed four games earlier this season due to the same injury, and thus is the chance you take when you have a 39 year old net minder who missed an entire season.  That however doesn’t mean he can’t have a quick recovery, however, if he comes back too soon, this is the type of injury that could be bothersome for all year long.  Coach Kevin Dineen doesn’t expect this injury to be long term, and is hopeful that Thomas returns quickly:

“We’re confident that he’s not going to be long term. (Thomas is) a quick healer,” coach Kevin Dineen told the team’s official website. “He played very well. He played well against Boston. He played fabulous against Minnesota, and we had a really good game going against Chicago so it’s unfortunate.”

With Thomas on the shelf, the reigns fall back to Jacob Markstrom who has struggled mightily this season.  Appearing in seven games so far, Markstrom is 1-3-1 with a 3.51 GAA and a gargantuan .884 save percentage.  Numbers that must improve immediately if not sooner during the absence of Thomas, who kept the Panthers games close.  Backing up Markstrom will be veteran Scott Clemmenson who was recalled from San Antonio (weird to type that), as he begins the first leg of the San Antonio to Sunrise shuffle.

Another bright spot is the return of winger Sean Bergenheim.  Bergenheim missed all of last season with a lower body injury, and his place in the lineup tonight was decided this morning- Sean Bergenheim will play. Eventually, he will likely be reunited with Tomas Kopecky and Marcel Goc.  This trio formed in 2011-2012, played as though they were teammates for the past five seasons, and if they are connected again, the energy that they all bring will be a welcomed sight.  It could also be just what Tomas Kopecky needs to get himself going, and Kopecky is still looking for his first goal of the season. But for tonight, Bergenheim will play on the 4th line with Scott Gomez and Jesse Winchester to get into his groove again

Buffalo comes in struggling, and with a little less toughness.  Ok, maybe a lot, as Patrick Kaleta is serving a 10 game suspension for his hit on Columbus Blue Jacket defenceman Jack Johnson.  And yesterday John Scott was suspended indefinitely for his blatant elbow to the head of Boston’s Loui Eriksson on Wednesday.  Buffalo still has the impulsive Steve Ott on the roster, and it would be a good idea for the Panthers to keep their heads on a swivel, as Ott is a known enforcer.

The Sabres are off to their worst start in their history, and have given up 33 goals, while only scoring 15 in their first 11 games.  Cody Hodgson and Tomas Vanek, a perennial Panther killer, lead the Sabres in scoring with three goals apiece.

Ryan Miller who has been the suspect of trade rumors over the past two seasons, still carries the load in goal for Buffalo, yet his frustration could be reaching epic levels.  He has a 1-7-0 record in eight games with a 3.01 GAA, and a respectable .918 save percentage.  yet with no goal support, something Panther fans are all too familiar with, his patience is obviously being tested.

The Panthers have to continue playing the way they have the past two plus games.  They need to focus on keeping their game simple, and not let a team like Buffalo, who is on a three game losing streak, feel any ounce of hope.

Like today’s game day song from Bruce, go out and have some fun, and stop holding the sticks so tight.  When you do, you’re a much better team, and your results show it.

UPDATED:  Jhonas Enroth will be playing in net tonight vs. the Panthers. Enroth has appeared in 3 games this season, with a 0-2-1 record.

Thanks for reading.  We welcome your comments and opinions.

Follow the Panther Parkway crew on Twitter: Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Jameson Cooper @JamesonCoop, and Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530.  Also, please join our FaceBook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.

Panthers Grind Out Shootout Win over Wild

It wasn’t pretty but, it’s a win nonetheless. Saturday night, the Florida Panthers were able to snap a three-game losing skid with a 2-1 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild in a game that will not be remembered for its offensive display. For the fourth consecutive game, the Panthers put less than 30 pucks on the opposing net but Tim Thomas made it stand as he stopped 30 of the 31 he faced.
[Read more...]

Late Goal Spoils Tim Thomas’ Big Night (Quotes)

Sunrise, Fla. — Over a year of controversy and anticipation came down to just the final 59 seconds of Thursday night’s game as a bouncing puck made its’ way past Panthers’ goaltender Tim Thomas to give his former team, the Boston Bruins, a heartbreaking 3-2 victory in front of a divided crowd at the BB&T Center.

Thomas, a longtime staple of the professional sports culture in Boston, suited up for the first time against the Bruins since his controversial decision to take a leave of absence following the 2011-2012 season. While with the Bruins, Thomas earned a  921 SV% / 2.48 GAA with a career record of 196-121-45 in 378 games played.

Based on his history with Boston - both positive and negative - it suffices to say that this wasn’t just a normal regular season matchup by any means for either party involved.

[Read more...]

Panthers Fall Short In Final Minute Against Bruins

You hear the cliche from hockey players all the time about playing ‘a full 60 minutes’ many times throughout the season. You can blame games like Thursday night’s tilt between the Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins as one of the reasons. After digging themselves a two-goal, first period hole, the Cats spent the next 39 minutes clawing their way back into the game, tying it with six minutes left. It was the final minute of the game that did the Panthers in. After losing a defensive zone face-off, Reilly Smith was able to corral a lose puck and backhand it past Tim Thomas with 59 seconds left, giving the Bruins a 3-2 win.
[Read more...]

Panthers Begin Crucial Six-Game Home Stand

Sunrise, Fla. — After losing five of their first seven games, the Florida Panthers will look to get back on the right track against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night as they begin a crucial six-game home stand at the BB&T Center. Amazingly, even with their early struggles this season, the Panthers don’t find themselves too deep in the cellar of the Eastern Conference standings just yet.

Coming off a 4-3 road loss to the Nashville Predators, the Panthers currently sit in 7th place in the newly formed Atlantic Division, but have yet to lose too much ground in the Eastern Conference standings as the Western Conference continues to dominate their eastern opponents in the early stages of this season’s inter-conference match-ups.

If the Panthers hope to amend the current course of their season, they will begin with the daunting task of besting last season’s Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Bruins.

[Read more...]

Game Day Preview and Discussion: Lightning vs. Panthers

FLORIDA PANTHERS: 1-2-0 (2 PTS) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: 2-1-0 (4 PTS)


Game Day Song: “I Can Change” - LCD Soundsystem 

In the last leg of a grueling four game road-trip to begin their 2013-2014 campaign, the Florida Panthers will get their first taste of the Sunshine State rivalry this season tonight as they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning before heading home to take on the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Not suiting up for the Panthers tonight will be starting goaltender Tim Thomas who suffered a “slight groin pull” in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. However, fans should still have reason to feel optimistic as youthful goaltender Jacob Markstrom will get the start in net tonight after stopping all 25 shots he faced in relief against the Flyers. Though it is reported that Thomas’ injury most likely won’t keep him out for an extended period of time, Markstrom could still grasp this opportunity and use it to earn more starts down the line as he still looks to prove himself as an everyday NHL goaltender early on in his career.

While you may think that losing their starting goaltender three games into the season would be the Panthers’ biggest cause for concern at this point, that is sadly the least of their worries. Heading into tonight’s game in Tampa, the Panthers have still yet to register a power play goal - going an astounding 0-16 with an extra man this season thus far. Although the Panthers’ power play has proven to be formidable in the past - 6th in the league last season - it is possible that the arrival of so many new faces has disrupted the Panthers’ once potent chemistry on the power play. For example, Tom Gilbert, who joined the team right before the season started, has clocked the 2nd most power play minutes on the team this season. Hopefully for the Panthers’ sake, once the team is given more time gel, the power play will start to click once again.

[Read more...]

Panthers Improved Play Not Enough To Overcome Flyers

Following Saturday night’s debacle in St Louis, a 7-0 loss, there was no way to go but up for the Florida Panthers. Tuesday night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers saw the Cats thoroughly outplay their opponent but still walk away with a 2-1 loss.

[Read more...]

Tim Thomas Injured, Scott Clemmensen Recalled From San Antonio

After allowing the second of two very flukey first period goals against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night, Panthers’ goaltender Tim Thomas exited the game after suffering an injury while attempting to make a save on the Flyers’ second goal of the evening. While Thomas has yet to receive a full diagnosis, the team is currently saying that Thomas’ suffered a lower-body injury and that it is not thought to be serious at this time. Prior to tonight’s game, Thomas had a 4.20 GAA / .873 SV% while going 1-1-0 for the Panthers.

Until the full extent of Thomas’ injury is known, the Florida Panthers are expected to recall veteran backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen from the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. Coming off a knee surgery that kept him out for three weeks, Clemmensen won his only start for the Rampage thus far while allowing just 1 goal on 25 shots faced. While it looks like Jacob Markstrom will now receive the bulk of the starts until Thomas’ return, the return of Clemmensen’s veteran presence to the dressing room should prove to be beneficial to the Panthers.

We will continue to update you on the extent of Thomas’ injury as more information comes forward.

Update: Tim Thomas reportedly has a “slight groin pull”, not expected to be serious, but Clemmensen should join the team in Tampa.

[Read more...]

Panthers Hit Sour Note In St Louis

In a season-opening win Thursday night over the Dallas Stars, the Florida Panthers showed much of the resolve they showed while shocking the hockey world and winning the now-extinct Southeast Division two season ago. For Panthers fans, it was a welcome sight after last year’s 30th place finish. Unfortunately, Florida fans received a stark reminder of last season Saturday night as the Panthers were beaten soundly by the St Louis Blues 7-0.

[Read more...]

Strong Third Period Propels Panthers In Season Debut

The Florida Panthers have waited since April to wash the horrible taste of last season out of their collective mouth. After giving up a goal very reminiscent of last season with 12:28 left in the third period to fall into a 2-1 deficit, it appeared that the Cats may have to wait another night to do so. Rather than fold, Florida rallied with three unanswered goals in the game’s final ten minutes to down the Dallas Stars 4-2 in the season opener for both teams.

[Read more...]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,353 other followers

%d bloggers like this: