Saturday, March 12, 2011 7:00 PM BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL
TV: FS-Florida (Panthers Territory), SUN Sports (Lightning Territory)
RADIO: 560 WQAM (Miami) 620 WDAE (Tampa)
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The Florida Panthers return to action Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams ran into a suddenly hot Ottawa Senators team in their last games, with the Panthers and Lightning both falling 2-1 in regulation to the Sens. This series has been strangely lopsided, with the playoff-bound Lightning falling on the wrong side of the win column 3 out of the 4 games. Florida dominated Tampa Bay in their opener back in October, with the Cats taking the game 6-0. Florida followed up with an encore in November, taking the second game at the Ice Palace (St. Pete Times Forum) 4-3. Then the Lightning returned the favor with a 2-1 defeat at the Billboard, before Florida came back with another 1 goal victory, 3-2 in Tampa in February. The teams will meet again on April 8 in Tampa.
RETOOLING: Florida cannot complain about Ottawa's recent performance. Florida now sits 3 points behind Colorado for a chance at the number 1 overall pick. The players and coaches won't admit it, but the number 1 pick could help the Panthers for years to come as Dale Tallon continues to build his "blueprint".
CITRUS SERIES: They don't call it that (it's actually called the Sunshine State Series, but I think that's lame!), but the Panthers would win the hockey version the citrus series with a win. The REAL "citrus series" is a 6 game series between the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays during interleague play. WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Steven Stamkos is a STUD! I put him in my top 5 list of players. Stamkos leads the league in goals (42) and with 40 assists, is second in the NHL with 82 total points. Stamkos had an assist in the game Friday night, but look for him to shine tonight. With Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lacavalier leading a cast of characters that includes Ryan Malone and Simon Gagne, it's no wonder this team is vying for the top spot in the Southeast Division. Suprisingly, it is actually Sean Bergenheim who is the only Lightning player with multiple goals against the Panthers this season. He has two goals, and with those goals, is tied for the lead in the series for points...with 2. David Booth has the "series hat trick" with three goals this season against Tampa.
CHANGE YOUR CLOCKS: Remember when you get home from the game, change you clock forward 1 hour. 2 AM is 3 AM tonight! Enjoy losing an hour of sleep...or an hour of partying postgame!