Lightning (5-1-0, preseason) vs. Panthers (2-1-3, preseason)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers meet for the third time in one week Saturday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. Forward Nikita Kucherov helped the Bolts win their second overtime game against the Panthers Thursday in the last minute of the extra frame. Tonight’s 7 p.m. game will be the final time the two teams meet in exhibition play before their first slated regular season game against each other on October 10 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Bolts' home opener.
The Big Story:
Earning their third overtime victory Thursday, 3-2, Tampa Bay has won five of six preseason tilts with their only loss coming earlier this week to the Nashville Predators. Both wins against the Panthers have come in overtime, with last Saturday’s game being decided in the shootout. Seven different players (Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis, J.T. Brown, Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Kucherov) have scored a goal against the Atlantic Division Foes, while Jonathan Drouin added a game-winning shootout goal. Goalie Ben Bishop has logged all ice time against the Panthers this preseason.
LIGHTNING – Practicing at the home of their ECHL affiliate, the Florida Everblades, this week at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida, the Bolts play their seventh and final preseason game Saturday. Finding a way to end up on the winning side of a 3-2 score Thursday, three rookies tallied goals (Johnson, Panik, Kucherov). Thursday’s game brought positive feedback on a handful of prospects from head coach Jon Cooper, who said that the line of Ondrej Palat, Johnson and Panik made a strong case to make the team, while No. 3 overall draft pick Drouin played his best game of this year’s preseason. After missing from practice and Thursday’s contest, Malone appeared back on the ice Friday, but isn’t expected to play tonight. Netminder Anders Lindback is scheduled to start in net tonight.
PANTHERS – Losing four-straight games, Florida looks for their first win since taking a double header to open the preseason on Monday, September 16. Tonight’s tilt is also their third consecutive game versus Tampa Bay. Florida signed former Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Tim Thomas to a one-year contract on Thursday. Thomas saw his first action in net that night since the 2011-12 playoffs, playing for 30 minutes against the Lightning. A day later the Panthers were bought by Vincent Viola. Friday also marked a number of roster moves, as Florida sent forward Quinton Howden and goalie Michael Houser to their AHL affiliate in San Antonio and forward Bobby Butler was placed on waivers, bringing their training camp roster to 27.
Scoring the Bolts first short-handed goal of the preseason, forward Panik tallied his second goal in three games Thursday. Goaltender Bishop manned the crease for the entire game last contest and has now been in net for a team-leading 161 minutes. Bishop stopped 26 of 28 saves in his second win of the season over Florida.
LIGHTNING – No Reported Injuries; PANTHERS – No Reported Injuries.
Blueliner Matt Gilroy played 53 games with the Lightning during the 2011-12 season, amassing 17 points (two goals, 15 assists), before being traded to the Ottawa Senators for the remainder of the campaign.
Twitter Stat Pack:
Tampa Bay has amassed 20 goals and 33 assists, alongside 76 penalty minutes in six preseason contests.
Forward Richard Panik’s shorthanded goal in Thursday’s game versus Florida was the first of its type since the 2011-12 season for the Bolts.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos leads all skaters with five points (three goals, two assists).
With just one loss thus far this preseason for Tampa Bay, the Boston Bruins are the only other team in the NHL to drop a single game in 2013-14.
The Lightning’s roster currently stands at 36 after releasing 22 players last weekend, although there are only 32 players with the team in Estero.
“I’m completely convinced that they can be, if not now, NHL players. If you separate the three of them I think they’re really good NHL players, but if the three of them play together they can be great players and that’s chemistry. We haven’t set a roster yet, who knows what’s going to happen moving forward, but those three, especially after Thursday’s performance have made a really strong case to make this team.” – Head coach Jon Cooper on the line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik.
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