Saturday, March 19, 2011 7:00 PM BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL
TV: FS-Florida, MSG Plus (Long Island)
RADIO: 560 WQAM (Miami) 88.7 WHRU (Hempstead, NY)
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THE BEST MATCH-UP YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE: The Florida Panthers take on the New York Islanders tonight from the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL. Both of these teams come in with records not equal to their performance. The Panthers have played in 44 one-goal games. They've been on the losing end of most of those games, and one could only imagine where they'd be if one or two bounces went their way. Meanwhile, the Islanders have been a surprising offensive power, with three players: Matt Moulson (30 goals, he had a hat trick in the last game between the two teams), Michael Grabner (29 goals), and John Tavaras (26 goals and 60 total points), scoring more goals than the Panthers' leading scorer, David Booth (21 goals). Not to mention the surprise Blake Comeau (20 goals) and an under-performing Kyle Okposo (just 4 goals in 28 games), and you can see why this is the most entertaining team you've never heard of.
ROOKIE SENSATION: The Islanders have hit on rookies well over the past few years. Okposo has 18 and 19 goals in his first two full seasons with the Isles. Tavaras has already exlipsed his goal total from his rookie season, which was 24. Grabner was cut by the Panthers to make room for Mike Santorelli, who has had a decent year in Florida, but Grabner has been constantly talked about as a potential rookie of the year in the league. Grabner did score 5 goals in 20 games with the Vancouver Canucks last year, but is still classified as a rookie this season. He fell into a scoring drought, but appears to be coming out of it with three goals in his last five games, including a 2 point night last night in Carolina
SPEAKING OF ROOKIES: A young player who Florida had hoped would be battling to be the league's top rookie returns tonight. Floirda's only All Star representative (OK, so he only played in the skills competition), Evgeny Dadanov, hasn't played since getting hurt February 2nd in Montreal. We'll see how he does in his return.
AND SPEAKING OF RETURNS: Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro is expected to make his return between the pipes. He last played the day of the now infamous goalie fight with Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson. Johnson's punches gave the 29 year old facial fractures. Al Montoya, who the Isles acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes, did a stellar job filling in for DiPietro, going 7-3-4 with a 2.39 GAA over the month DiPietro was out.