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Lightning (2-1-1) at Panthers (3-1-0)
2009-10: Tampa Bay (34-36-12, 80 Points, 12th East); Florida (32-37-13, 77 Points, 14th East)
Inside The Series: Tonight’s game marks the 26th exhibition meeting between the Lightning and Panthers, and the first since October 2, 2005. Tampa Bay posts an all-time preseason record of 15-10-1-0 against Florida.
The Big Story: Florida has won three of four and look to extend the winning trend, while Tampa Bay has gained at least a point in three of its last four, and seek to return home for the preseason finale tomorrow night with an additional two points under their belts. Tonight’s game also marks the first time the Bolts will play against the Panthers without their top forward Nathan Horton, who was acquired by the Boston Bruins during the summer. Tampa Bay will face off against former teammate Cory Stillman, while Lightning forward Dominic Moore will see his new team play against his former club.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays its final road game of the preseason tonight after enjoying a week off of rest following a successful road trip in which the team accumulated five out of eight points. The team held its first full practices at the St. Pete Times Forum throughout the week, mostly fine tuning the nuances of Head Coach Guy Boucher’s system. The week off also provided some of the team’s key components to get healthy after sustaining minor injuries. Mike Smith will return to action during the weekend after overcoming a fracture to his finger tip and Sean Bergenheim is also scheduled to skate in the games following off-season surgery. As camp closes and more and more available roster spots are being filled, the Lightning assigned center Marc-Antoine Pouliot to the club’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk as the team closes in on reaching its opening night line up.
PANTHERS – Florida plays its only and final preseason game at home tonight before traveling to Tampa Bay tomorrow night to wrap up the exhibition season with the second leg of the home and home series. The Panthers last played on Monday night after a scheduled game for Wednesday was cancelled due to inclement weather. Florida has won three of its four preseason game, averaging three goals per game in each of those contests.
Who To Watch For: Tampa Bay’s usual suspects are featured on the roster for tonight including Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone and Simon Gagne, with each ranking among league leaders in goals and points through all preseason games. Florida boasts former Lightning Stanley Cup champion Cory Stillman, who has consistently found success against his former team, and top forwards David Booth, Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik. The Panthers’ third overall selection in the 2010 Draft, defenseman Erik Gudbranson, is also scheduled to skate over the weekend.
Quotable: “Does a guy want more or less? Is he listening? Is he eager? I'm a really big fan of people who want more. Work ethic for me is extremely high. I'm talking about being relentless. Guys who work hard are not good enough. And the last thing is discipline, sticking to the plan, can they adapt?” – Head Coach Guy Boucher, on what he is looking for in players as roster decisions loom