Panthers (1-1-0) at Lightning (0-2-0)
Preseason Series: Historically the Lightning and Panthers have been familiar exhibition opponents since each team’s inception, but have yet to meet thus far in 2011. After the Bolts took a pair of consecutive meetings from their in-state rivals a year ago in the preseason, Florida is looking to avenge last season’s shortcomings as it meets the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight in the first game of a back-to-back home and home series. The clubs will again meet tomorrow night for the finale at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise before playing out the remainder of their respective exhibition schedules.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay enters tonight’s game 0-2-0 in the preseason for the first time in franchise history. Still seeking their first win in the new season, the Lightning dropped a pair of back-to-back meetings to St. Louis earlier in the week. The majority of fans in attendance will also see the newly-renovated St. Pete Times Forum for the first time, which includes brand new seats and upgraded sightlines among a number of other greatly improved amenities for guests.
LIGHTNING – The Lightning departed Orlando following Wednesday night’s 4-3 defeat to St. Louis at the Amway Center and arrived back in Tampa around midnight. The team held a morning skate at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum yesterday where the Lightning coaching staff and management continued to evaluate talent as they make their selections for the final roster cuts. One player in particular who they have had their eye on is Cory Conacher, who scored one of three Lightning power-play goals in the team’s last outing. Marc-Andre Bergeron also tallied for the Bolts in the loss and Eric Brewer beat one of his former Blues teammates to cap the scoring for Tampa Bay. Dwayne Roloson started in net for the Lightning and played well, allowing one goal on nine shots before yielding net minding duties to prospect Jaroslav Janus, who was bested three times in the game.
PANTHERS – Florida comes into the newly-renovated St. Pete Times Forum tonight after splitting a two-game series with Nashville. The Panthers dropped the exhibition opener on Monday afternoon 5-3 only to rebound just a few hours later to win the second game of the doubleheader by a one-goal margin. Florida went through a drastic makeover during the summer and so far, the results have been favorable. With a nice mix of veterans such as Kris Versteeg, Ed Jovanovski, Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell combined with young talent in the likes of Erik Gudbransson and Jonathan Huberdeau, expectations have been set high this season.
Who To Watch For: Much like on Wednesday night in Orlando, Tampa Bay’s stars will return to the ice in front of the home crowd at the Times Forum. Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon are expected to split time in goal, while Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell are also expected to skate, which should provide insight into a preview of the line pairings for at least the start of the regular season.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Scott Jackson (offseason knee surgery, out indefinitely), Charles Landry (upper body, day-to-day) and Dustin Tokarski (mid body, day-to-day). PANTHERS – None reported.
Notable Quotable: “I think everybody’s got in their minds what we were at the end of last year and that’s not where we’re going to be to start the year. That’s unrealistic to think that. It’s going to be a long process, just like it was last year and we don’t want to waste anymore time. Today was just one more step towards that process.” – Head Coach Guy Boucher, on the mindset of his team entering the new upcoming season.