This week for the Florida Panthers: Four on the floor
Sunday's intriguing match with the Canucks highlights a hectic week for the Cats.
Tuesday vs. Phoenix Coyotes
The Panthers will do battle with the Coyotes (30-24-11) for the first time since Phoenix took a 2-1 decision on December 20, 2011. The Desert Dogs will be coming off Monday night's shootout win over Tampa Bay, so the Cats should boast the fresher legs. Phoenix is still in the playoff chase, so they will be looking to leave Sunrise with a much-needed two points.The teams will meet again next Thursday in Glendale to conclude the two-game season series.
Keith Yandle leads the Coyotes with 44 points, while Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata are right behind him with 43 apiece. Antoine Vermette is the Coyotes top goal-getter with 22. Florida will be looking to dent 2014 Canadian Olympian Mike Smith or his more than capable backup Thomas Greiss.
Thursday at Tampa Bay Lightning
The Cats head to Florida's Gulf Coast to face the Lightning for the fourth and final time this season. Tampa Bay (34-24-7) has won all three meetings so far, with the Panthers mustering up a single point in a shootout loss back in October. The Bolts will be looking to complete the season sweep and move back into the top three of the Atlantic Division.
Center Valterri Filppula leads the Bolts in scoring with 43 points. Superstar Steven Stamkos, who has 14 goals in 20 games, is back from IR and trying to round into top game shape for the playoffs. The Cats will likely be shooting at workhorse Ben Bishop, who will be looking for his 30th win of the season.
Friday vs. New Jersey Devils
Florida will welcome the New Jersey Devils (28-24-13) Friday night for the second of three meetings between the two clubs this season. New Jersey skated to a 2-1 overtime win over the Cats on January 11th at the Prudential Center. The Devils will be in the middle of a three-game road that sees them play the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and finish up in Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr paces the New Jersey offense with 20 goals and 55 points. Adam Henrique is having an impressive season with 23 goals. The Cats will have their hands full trying to beat Cory Schneider, who stymied them the last time out, or they could face the legen-wait for it-dary Martin Brodeur for perhaps the final time.
Sunday vs. Vancouver Canucks
Florida will finish off the week with a Sunday matinee against the struggling Vancouver Canucks (or Panthers Northwest, if you like) before embarking on a four-game road trip against Pacific Division foes. The Canucks (29-28-10) will be facing Roberto Luongo for the first since last week's trade that sent the star goaltender back to the Panthers for Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom. The Cats took a 3-2 shootout decision in the first meeting between the teams earlier this season.
Henrik Sedin has the Vancouver lead in points with 41, while twin brother Daniel and Ryan Kesler are right behind him with 40 each. Kesler has notched a team-best 22 goals. The Panthers will either be taking aim at new number one Eddie Lack or better yet, former goalie of the future, Jacob "The Alien" Markstrom (crossing fingers!).
So how do you see this week shaking out for the Panthers? The Cats started the Neo-Luongo Era off with a solid 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres before getting manhandled again by the big, bad Boston Bruins on Sunday. Don't forget to read the tea leaves and vote in our LBC poll.
How many points will the Panthers collect this week?