LBC Game Preview: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

Florida attempts to get back on the horse in the 110th contest against their closest neighbor, the 2-1 Lightning. Can the Cats ruin Tampa's home opener? Or will Stamkos and Co. send them to Sunrise with just one victory on the season?

The Panthers visit the Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa for the first of four contests this season. They'll meet again in Tampa on March 13th, and play twice at the BB&T Center in the meantime, on October 27th and December 23rd. Florida is closing up a four game season-opening road trip. They started it out with a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday, and continued with an embarrassing 7-0 shutout at the hands of the St. Louis Blues Saturday. On Tuesday, they played very well but came out with a moral victory and an injured goaltender in a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Lightning opened the season with three on the road. They dropped the opener to the Boston Bruins, 3-1 last Thursday before defeating the Chicago BlackHawks, 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday and the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night.

A Look Back

These two last faced off April 27th to close out the shortened 2013 season. The 18-25-4 Bolts played host to the 14-27-6 Cats for nothing more than bragging rights. 10 different Cats registered at least one point in the 5-3 Panthers win. Tomas Fleischmann scored twice, Jonathan Huberdeau racked up three assists, and Jacob Markstrom stopped 28-of-31 shots. Matt Carle, Ryan Malone, and Martin St. Louis tallied markers for Tampa Bay. According to NHL.COM:

Florida won the season finale for both teams by rallying to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Tampa Bay Times Forum. But St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, giving him 60 points for the season and virtually assuring him of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer.

St. Louis also won the Art Ross in 2003-04 -- the nine-year gap would be the longest between wins by any player in NHL history when the regular season ends Sunday. At age 37, he's the oldest player to win the scoring championship, displacing Bill Cook, who was 36 when he won it while playing for the 1932-33 New York Rangers. * Full Recap * Box Score

Panthers @ Lightning 04/27/13 (via NHL)

Panthers rookie Nick Bjugstad also scored his first NHL goal:

That was pretty exciting for me. I didn't really expect it. I knew I had to get pucks in net. It's tough in the NHL getting shots so I just put it on net and it went in.

In Florida's last game, the Panthers played well but ended up dropping a 2-1 decision to the Flyers. Brayden Schenn and Braydon Coburn scored on lucky bounces against Tim Thomas in the first period, the second one actually injuring the old guy before Jacob Markstrom came on to make 25 saves in relief. For the Cats, Brad Boyes scored with assists from Brian Campbell and Aleksander Barkov. The real star of the game was Philly netminder Steve Mason, who turned away all but one of the 34 shots he faced.

Brad Boyes records first goal as a Panther 10/8/13 (via NHL)


GameTime: 7:30 PM ET, FS-FLA, FS-SW, WQAM, LBC GameThread at 7:00

All-Time Record: Florida is 57-32-10-10, earning 61.5% of possible points in matchups with the Lightning. It's Florida's best win percentage against NHL opponents.

Season Series: First meeting


Florida Panthers, 1-2-0, .333, 2 points, on pace for 54 points. Seventh in the Atlantic Division, tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference, tied for 18th in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1-0, .667, 4 points, on pace for 108 points. Tied for third in the Atlantic Division, tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference, tied for seventh in the NHL.

Common Thread


Panthers Milestones


F Shawn Matthias will play in his 257th game, breaking a tie with former captain Brian Skrudland and moving into 30th and into a tie for 28th with Kristian Huselius and Mike Van Ryn. With Ed Jovanovski on the injured reserve list, Matthias is the longest tenured Panther on the roster.


Tomas Kopecky and Kris Versteeg each have 25 career Panthers goals, tied for 47th. A 26th goal for either will break a tie with Mike Van Ryn. Shawn Matthias and Tomas Fleischmann have 39 goals apiece, tied for 29th all time, a goal for either will move them into a tie for 28th with Juraj Kolnik.


Matthias, with 42 assists, is tied with Gary Roberts for 49th all-time. Fleischmann tallied an assist on Thursday, giving him 58 with the Panthers. He is currently tied with Paul Laus for 33rd. Dmitry Kulikov's next assist will be his 65th, moving him into a tie at 29th with captain Ed Jovanovski. Brian Campbell currently has 71 assists, and will move into a tie for 21st place with Stu Barnes with his next helper.


Coyote Shane Doan turns 37, 1999-00 Hart Memorial Trophy winner Chris Pronger turns 39, and former Panther "next-big-thing" Rostislav Olesz will celebrate his 28th birthday.

Probable Starting Lineups

Florida Panthers

Tampa Bay Lightning

Check out Raw Charge for more on the Bolts, and keep it tuned right here for the LBC GameThread, going live around 7 p.m.