There's plenty to talk about in this game: Roberto Luongo in net against his former club; Shawn Matthias returning to Florida in another sweater; David Booth, Chris Higgins, Jason Garrison, Mike Santorelli and Jacob Markstrom all back in Florida for the first time in awhile. The Panthers could care less about these storylines though and should be focused on posting a little win streak after surprising the New Jersey Devils 5-3 on Friday. The Panthers scored four unanswered goals to walk away with two points in regulation and their first win since March 7.
Vancouver has had more than their fair share of troubles this season, including another public fiasco from fireball coach John Tortorella, a goaltending shakeup resulting in the Luongo trade to Florida, drama surrounding Ryan Kesler requesting a trade, and just overall disappointment from the fans and the Canucks organization itself for underachieving despite a pretty solid roster on paper. Whether it's coaching or otherwise, the Canucks have been a whipping boy for the media and fans this season, especially GM Mike Gillis, and it will be interesting to see how all the moves that Gillis has made will pan out long-term.
All the storylines and drama aside, we've got a hockey game to play (or watch, fellow armchair NHL'ers). Luongo will likely want to stick it to the Canucks, as will Matthias (and others) to the Cats, so look for a bunch of players to be energized for this tilt, even with the unusual 3PM start time. We should be in for a good one, so tune in and join us at the LBC GameThread for some fun.
Players to Watch
Roberto Luongo - Lou is gonna be pumped up to walk away with a win and shove it to the club that treated him relatively poorly over the last several seasons. Look for him to have possibly his best game of the season today. I say possibly because it greatly depends on the porous Panther defense in front of him, as well as the inconsistent forwards backchecking and recovering.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin - With 41 and 40 points respectively, this is the worst statistical season for the twins since 2004. They are the offensive engine of the Canucks and with them performing badly, so go the Canucks. If the Sedins can turn it around the Canucks can still have a shot at competing for a wild card spot in the West, but the goaltending in Vancouver, which is now considered very shaky, will have to hold up as well.
Jonathan Huberdeau - Huberdeau posted some points last game through some hard work, which is a good sign. He's had a pretty bad season by his standards, but he's learning what's required to get through it and still be an effective player at the NHL level. It's only a matter of time before that work ethic and his talent combine to elevate him as a consistent threat for the Panthers in the long-term.