Thursday, March 3, 2011

Game Day - Panthers vs Canadiens 3/3/11

Florida Panthers (26-30-7 59 points)
Montreal Canadiens (34-23-7 75 points)
Thursday, March 3, 2010 7:30 PM
TV: FS-Florida (Steve Goldstein/Bill Lindsay), RDS (French) (Pierre Houde, Benoît Brunet),TSN-Habs (Dave Randorf, Mike Johnson)
RADIO: 560 WQAM (Miami) (Randy Moller), 800AM CJAD (Montreal-English) (Rick Moffat, Sergio Momesso), 730 AM CKAC (Montreal-French) (Martin Macguire, Dany Dubé)

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The Florida Panthers return home after a brief one-game road trip in Carolina, where they fell 2-1 to the Hurricanes. The Panthers have made one move since Tuesday's loss. They bring up F Bill Thomas and send down F Hugh Jessiman. Jessiman appeared in two games for the Panthers...his first trip to the big show of his career. Jessiman was a 1st round pick by the New York Rangers in 2003 and he became the LAST 2003 1st rounder to make it to the NHL. In his two appearances, Jessiman tallied two shots and a fight. Thomas returns from a brief stay in Rochester where he did not appear in a game after being sent down Feburary 28. The move guarantees the Pittsburgh native a spot on the Amerks playoff roster...if they make it. Thomas will most likely spend the remainder of the regular season on the Panthers roster.

As for the matchup at hand...The Canadiens lead the series 2-1. The Panthers won the first battle on the day before Halloween 3-1. Perhaps they were wearing the costume of a good hockey team as they fell in the following two meetings...on New Years Eve in Overtime at the Bell Centre South (BankAtlantic Center) and on Groundhog Day at the REAL Bell Centre...both matchups ended in a 3-2 Canadiens victory.
PLAYOFFS: The Panthers remain just 10 points back of 8th place Carolina with 19 games to play and a game in hand...they are 11 points back of the 7th place New York Rangers with two games in hand. Montreal has settled into the sixth place spot with 18 games remaining. If the playoffs started today, they would face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1st round.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Look for backup Alex Auld to start for the Canadiens as he has both wins against the Panthers this year. The Panthers penalty kill ranks 3rd in the NHL with an 85.6% kill rate. But don't let that fool you...the Canadiens rank 8th in power play percentage, successfully scoring just under 20% of the time. Both teams are in the bottom half of the league in scoring and in the top half in goals against, so expect a very close game. If history repeats itself, we could see another 3-2 game, and I'd give the slight edge to Montreal in front of a "home" crowd.

NOTABLE DEBUT: Sergei Samsonov is making his Panthers home debut tonight. The 32 year old Russian winger has been ice cold since he scored in the Hurricanes' 3-2 loss to New Jersey on February 16. Samsonov was acquired by Florida for Bryan Allen from Carolina on Monday. Don't expect to see Samsonov's #14 on the ice for longer than a month, though. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season which means he will most likely not be a member of the Florida Panthers next year. Niclas Bergfors also make HIS home debut. The 23-year old winger is also ice cold having not scored in almost a month. The Swede will be a restricted free agent this offseason, and many expect him to re-sign with the Panthers in the offseason.

FLA - Tomas Vokoun 20-22-4 2.55 GAA .922 SV %
MTL - Alex Auld 5-2-1 2.61 GAA .915 SV %

Congratulations to Marty Reasoner on the birth of his Second son: Ryan Martin Reasoner.

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(Note: Justin Cohen is the new blogger for the Florida Panthers on Miami Sports Generation. He attends most home games and is a Panthers and NHL insider. In his off time, he works at both WSVN Channel 7 and WAXY Sports Talk 790 The Ticket. Feel free to e-mail him at with any hockey questions. A pregame and postgame story will appear for each Panthers game in addition to commentary and other NHL stories. Justin will also appear as a blogger for the Florida Marlins when their season begins)

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