Monday, March 9, 2009

Panthers Ready for the Fight

Strap up your ice skates, button you chin strap and hold on tight. The most important stretch in the Panthers Season is begins on Tuesday.

The Panthers have started off 3-1 in the month of March and are coming off a win against St. Louis. They are 24-1-1 when going into the third period with the lead. They are in sixth place in the standings and are 4 points behind fourth place Philadelphia. Only 4 points separate 5th place and 10th place. Lose one game and you’re out of the playoff picture. Lose two games and you have to climb Mt. Everest to get back in.

Out of the 16 games they have remaining, 11 of them are against playoff contending teams. Nine of those games are at home including a 5 game home stand. The Panthers are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Here is in inside look at their remaining schedule.

Pittsburgh Penguins (@3/10, vs. 4/5)
Season Series: Tied 1-1

The Penguins and the Panthers are the 2 hottest teams in the NHL since the start of 2009. The Panthers 4-1 loss to them on March 5th is still fresh on their minds. Pittsburgh’s Evengi Malkin leads the league in points (94) and assists (65). Sidney Crosby is third in the league in points (82) and second in assists (57).

Buffalo Sabers (@3/12, @3/25)
Season Series: Tied 1-1

Sabers starting Goalie Ryan Miller is currently on the injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. This is good news for the Cats. Miller is third in the league in wins. Sabers got back their leading scorer Thomas Vanek for their push after he missed 9 games.

Tampa Bay Lightning (vs. 3/14)
Season Series: Panthers 3-2

The Lightning is a team far from their 2004 Stanley Cup Championship. They have struggled against the southeast division, posting a 4-11-1-2 record and were not able to recover from a 7-25 start.

Washington Capitals (vs. 3/17, vs. 4/11)
Season Series: Tied 2-2

The Capitols are in first place in the Southeast division. They have arguably the best all around player in the league, Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin leads the league in Goals with 46 and is second in the league in points with 83. The Panthers have the best division record at 11-5-2.

Toronto Maple Leafs (vs. 3/19)
Season Series: Panthers 3-0

The Maple Leafs is the only team in the last stretch that the Panthers are undefeated against this year. They have struggled this year after losing their Captain, Mats Sundin, in free agency. Toronto has a 4-8-4 record against the Southeast Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets (vs. 3/21)
Season Series: Haven’t played

The Blue Jackets are in the midst of a playoff birth in the Western Conference. They look to stating in the hunt by defeating the Panthers to go undefeated against the southeast division. Vokoun will face his former backup in Nashville, Steve Mason, and forward Rick Nash has 7 points in his last 4 games.

Carolina Hurricanes (vs. 3/23)
Season Series: Panthers 3-2

This game against Carolina is the last game of the 5 game Homestand. The Panthers will have a better picture of their chances after this game. Carolina Has stepped up their playoff push efforts as of late and refuse to give up. Last time these two teams met Vokoun shoutout the Canes 5-0.

Philadelphia Flyers (@ 3/26, @4/7)

Season Series: Tied 1-1

This is the team Florida is chasing. If we want to get home ice advantage, we need these two games. All-star Center Danny Briere has only played 12 games this year due to a groin injury. He is day-to-day a might be available by the time the Panthers visit the Flyers. Foward Jeff Carter is 3rd in the league with 36 goals.

Dallas Stars (@ 3/28)
Season Series: Stars 1-0

Marty Turko is a solid goalie. He is third in the league in wins. Turko has played more games (62) then any other goalie this year. Dallas is in the same position that we are in. Lose one game and you can be out of the race. Look for both teams to leave it all on the ice.

Ottawa Senators (vs. 3/31)

Season Series: Panthers 2-1

Don't let Ottawa's record fool you. Their top line of Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza is one of the best in the NHL. Goalie Alex Auld, Voloun's back up in his first year with the Cats, has failed to find his niche as a starter.

Atlanta Thrashers (vs. 4/3, @ 4/9)

Season Series: Panthers 3-1

Ilya Kovalchuk is on track to surpass his career high of 46 assists. He has benn Atlanta's Star player since 2001. The Thrashers are on the brink of missing the playoffs for the second straight year. They will be looking to play the role of spoilers as we make our push. Two out of our last five are against the Southeast Division foe.

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