Gameday #20: @ Florida Panthers

penguinsvspanthers

 

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS @ Florida Panthers

BB&T Center, 7:30 PM, Root Sports

Don’t really know what to say about an away game against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers haven’t been very good this year and if not for the Phoenix Coyotes the Panther fan base may be the worst in all of North American professional sports. If anything there are two interesting storylines that we’ll be looking for in this game.

If you talk to fans or have heard any of the local Pittsburgh sports talk it’s hard to not look past this game. Friday the Pens finally play their first game against Jordan Staal and Sunday could very well see the Pens battle the Canadiens for sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. This is a game against one of this year’s (surprisingly) worst team in an incredibly apathetic arena. Nonetheless, the surest key to success in professional sports is to beat the teams you are supposed to beat and we’ll be interested to see if that’s what the Pens can do tonight. If not for letting off the gas against Toronto and Winnipeg early in the season the Pens would be miles ahead of the rest of the east, it’s time to see if they’ve learned anything.

It will be interesting to see how Tomas Vokoun (who is expected to start) will do against his former team. There’s no denying he was horrible against the Flyers last week, but it also isn’t that hard to remember his incredibly poised shutout against the Rangers early in the year. Vokoun should be energized to face his former team, and to use a horrible sports cliche, he’s a veteran and as a veteran he knows that he needs to elevate his game.

According to Seth Rorabaugh’s line projections, after scoring his fantastic first NHL goal, Beau Bennett has effectively been demoted to the third line with Dustin Jeffrey and Tyler Kennedy. In some ways this makes sense though, Jeffrey shows flashes of real playmaking ability and TK is, well, um, younger than Pascal Dupuis. I think the Pens want solid puck protection and zone time from the second line, and they’ll get that from a Cooke-Sutter-Dupuis line.

eaton

If you haven’t heard, former Penguin and Cup winner Mark Eaton has been signed to a one year deal. We’ll write about it someday, especially if he ever actually plays. Eaton was perhaps the greatest 6th defenseman in the world during the back-to-back Cup runs, but after he left town he could never stay healthy, no idea what his game is like now.

I’m allergic to cats. Go Pens.

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