Thursday, February 12, 2009

Game Night!

No questions about this one. Tonight's game might be the most important February contest the Panthers have played since pre-Y2K. The Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes are separated by a single point in the standings, Florida holding the 8th and final playoff spot. Both teams come into the game riding a high. Carolina is coming off a west coast road trip that saw them take 4 of a possible 6 points, with impressive wins over San Jose and Phoenix. Florida erased a 4-1, 3rd period deficit on Tuesday night against Toronto to claim an important 2 points in overtime.

Carolina has as strong, if not stronger then the Panthers, defensive core. In their last 8 games, the 'Canes are averaging under 2 goals against a game. Meanwhile, Florida's offense has caught a spark. The Cats' have won 10 of their last 16, scoring almost 5 goals a game in those 10 W's. Richard Zednik has finally found his groove, with 5 points (3G, 2A) in his last 3 games. The 3rd period of the Toronto game saw Pete DeBoer mix up his lines, and it worked to perfection. Florida scored 4 unanswered goals in the 3rd period and OT after the changes. It'll be interesting to see who skates with who tonight. Or is it whom...

There's nothing that can really be said about this that isn't obvious. These will be two teams fighting for playoff spots up until the end of the year. They only meet once more after tonight. Either Florida will gain an incredibly important confidence boost and 3 point lead over 9th place, or Carolina will jump the Cats into that 8th seed and keep that nagging doubt in the back of the young Panthers team mind. Let's face it, not many on the Panthers' roster has played a game as important as this in years. This is still a young core of players that need to prove they can handle pressure. It's a big one, no doubt. Puck drops at 7:00.

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