Florida Panthers Visit Columbus Blue Jackets: Game 78 Preview

The Panthers visit the Blue Jackets tonight at the Nationwide Center in Columbus, Ohio at 7:00 PM ET. This will be the only time this season the two have squared off. The Panthers have a 17-15-6 (.526) road record, the Blue Jackets are 15-21-3 (.423) at home.

Florida will be playing in their third game of a four game roadtrip. They beat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday night and lost to the Minnesota Wild, also 3-2 in overtime last night. They'll finish up on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings. Florida's current magic numbers are five for a playoff berth and for a division title (over conference ninth place and division second place Washington). A win tonight reduces that number to three.

Videos and more after the jump.

The Blue Jackets are closing out a quick two game homestand. They started out by handing the Detroit Red Wings a surprising 4-2 loss on Wednesday night, and head out onto the road for a three game roadtrip afterwards, with stops against the St. Louis Blues, the Phoenix Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche. The Jackets have no magic number, and were the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention this season, Western Conference or otherwise.

These teams last faced each other a year and a day ago, on March 29th, 2011. Columbus took the match, 3-2 in a shootout. Scottie Upshall (21) and Antoine Vermette (18) scored for the Blue Jackets, David Booth (22) and Evgeny Dadonov (8) tallied Florida's goals. Maksim Mayorov was the only player for either team to score in the shootout. Scott Clemmensen stopped 30-of-32 shots for Florida, Steve Mason stopped 29-of-31 for the win. Panthers ex-coach Pete Deboer explained the Panthers futility after the game,

"We looked like we were playing our fifth game in seven nights," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "It was a real gutsy effort by our group. The last game of a road trip that hasn't been easy."

Panthers @ Blue Jackets 3/29/11 (via NHLVideo)


Tomas Fleischmann (25) each scored on the power play for the Panthers, while Brian Campbell assisted on each. Jose Theodore (22-14-10, 9.20, 2.36) stopped 22-of-25 shots, including one with 31 seconds remaining in regulation to Erik Christensen (6) and the winner just 15 seconds into overtime to Mikko Koivu (12). Kyle Brodziak (21) also scored for the Wild. Niklas Backstrom (18-17-6, .920, 2.43) stopped 25-of-27 shots for the victory. Jose Theodore lamented a few unlucky bounces afterwards,

"It's a tough one. You're 30 seconds away, the puck hits a skate, hits a post and then he banged it in," Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore said. "We still got a big point, but when you're 30 seconds away, you want to get the win."

Click here for the Minnesota take.

The Blue Jackets claimed an unexpected victory over the Detroit Red Wings, 4-2 on Wednesday. Vinny Prospal (14), Derek Dorsett (11), Derick Brassard (14) and RJ Umberger (15) scored on Wings goaltender Ty Conklin (27-of-31, 5-6-1, .884, 3.28). Allen York (29-of-31, 1-1-0, .900. 2.77) allowed power play goals to Henrik Zetterberg (22) and Niklas Kronwall (15). Red Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke afterwards,

"That was a poor effort," Babcock said. "We weren't good throughout our lineup. Give them credit. They got embarrassed the other night in our rink and showed they're professionals and came out and competed hard. Our effort was ... I was surprised, to say the least."

For more, check out the Red Wings blog.

Common Thread:

Panthers left winger Scottie Upshall played 21 games for Columbus last season, scoring six goals and an assist with a minus-12 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

Jackets center Vinny Prospal played 31 games for the Panthers in the second half of the 2000-01 season. He scored four goals and 12 assists with a minus-2 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

Panthers Milestones:
Games:
Shawn Matthias will tie Bret Hedican in 38th with his 202nd Panther game tonight.


Goals:
Kris Versteeg sits in 50th with 22 goals scored. Jason Garrison has 23 in 49th. Shawn Matthias and Tomas Fleischmann are tied in 45th with Mike Van Ryn, with 25 each. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovski will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik.

Assists:
Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Keith Ballard in 40th all-time with his 48th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will pass Martin Gelinas into 34th all-time with his 55th assist.

Panthers Leaders:
Games:
Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 77

Goals:
Tomas Fleischmann - 25
Kris Versteeg - 22
Stephen Weiss - 19
Sean Bergenheim - 17

Assists:
Brian Campbell - 47
Stephen Weiss - 36
Tomas Fleischmann - 33

Points:
Tomas Fleischmann - 58
Stephen Weiss - 55
Brian Campbell - 51
Kris Versteeg - 49

Plus/Minus:
Stephen Weiss - plus-8
Jason Garrison - plus-6
Marcel Goc, Kris Versteeg - plus-4

Point Shares:
Brian Campbell - 13.9
Jose Theodore - 13.8
Mike Weaver - 6.2
Stephen Weiss - 4.0
Kris Versteeg - 3.6
Tomas Fleischmann - 3.5

Panthers Injuries:
Jack Skille and Matt Bradley are both out, Skille for the season, and Bradley until April at the earliest.

Panthers Starting Lineup:
Forwards:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Defensemen:
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Goalie:
Jose Theodore took last nights overtime loss, look for Scott Clemmensen (13-6-5, .908, 2.71) to get the start between the pipes tonight.

Blue Jackets Starting Lineup:
Forwards:
R.J. Umberger - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal - Mark Letestu - Rick Nash
Ryan Russell - Ryan Johansen - Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies - Darryl Boyce - Jared Boll

Defensemen:
Jack Johnson - Daulton Prout
John Moore - Brett Lebda
Nikita Nikitin - Aaron Johnson

Goalie:
Allen York (1-1-0, .900. 2.77) has been confirmed for tonight.

Corsi Ratings: (last five games)

Florida Panthers:
Sean Bergenheim - .611
Marcel Goc - .608
Jerred Smithson - .596
Dmitry Kulikov - .576
Scottie Upshall - .574

Columbus Blue Jackets:
Derick Brassard - .548
RJ Umberger - .527
Derek Dorsett - .511
Vinny Prospal - .507
Nikita Nikitin - .506

Standings:

Florida Panthers: 37-24-16, 90 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 11th NHL, on pace for 96 points. Last five: L-O-O-W-O. Playoff odds: 97.8%

Columbus Blue Jackets: 25-45-7, 57 points, fifth Central Division, 15th Western Conference, 30th NHL, on pace for 61 points. Last five: L-W-L-L-W. Playoff odds: 0%

Season Series: 0-0-0

All-Time Series: 4-3-4 (.545)

For more on tonights matchup, check out The Cannon.

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