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POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.12.2011 / 4:00 PM ET
By James Kent - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011

David Booth and the Panthers look to start the home slate off against Pavel Kubina and the Lightning just like last year's opening game. (Eliot J. Schechter)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 15th in the Top 5 Games this season.

After two road games to start the season, the Panthers return to South Florida for their home opener at the Bank Atlantic Center October 15, against Eastern Conference rival Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers look to open up at home against the Lightning the same way they did on the road, with a victory. As the Lightning look to return to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row the Cats will look to calm the storm and establish themselves as the top dog in Florida.

The Panthers, who have themed this season in a way with the slogan “We See Red”, will sport their new red jerseys in Saturday’s game in hopes that new jerseys and a revamped lineup, featuring three former Stanley Cup Champions in Thomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell, will help the Panthers finally make it back to the playoffs where they have not been in over a decade. GM Dale Tallon thinks that with the panthers very active offseason there’s no reason this team can’t make the playoffs this season.

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning, look to pick up right where they left off last season; however the Panthers and newly acquired all-star defensive duo, Ed Jovanovski and Campbell have other plans for Mr. Stamkos when he takes the ice at the BankAtlantic Center. Campbell and Jovonovski will provide leadership and experience to a very young and talented defensive unit that includes the 3rd overall draft pick (Erik Gudbranson) in the NHL entry draft in 2010.

On the other side of the ice the Panthers have brought in some firepower on offense as well to lend a hand to fan favorite David Booth.  The Panthers lack of experience showed at times last season, but Tallon and Dineen refuse to make the same mistake two years in a row so on top of recruiting top defensemen this off-season the panthers loaded their offense with more experienced players but the question with guys like Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann is, will they stay healthy?  

It will be the second year in a row that the Panthers open their home schedule against their cross-state rivals. In last season's home opener, the Panthers scored four times in the first twenty minutes on their way to a 6-0 victory.

It's the home opener so why wouldn't this be the top game of the season? A chance to see the new team up close for the first time during the regular season coupled with the fact of seeing the new jersey and a whole new game presentation for the upcoming season.
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
5 PIT 77 42 24 11 211 194 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 PHI 77 31 29 17 202 220 79
12 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 78 29 43 6 204 249 64
16 BUF 77 22 47 8 152 258 52

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 74 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 76 8 33 -4 41
B. Boyes 74 13 23 10 36
A. Ekblad 76 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 67 18 14 -6 32
A. Barkov 66 14 17 -3 31
B. Campbell 77 3 23 2 26
B. Pirri 44 21 2 6 23
D. Bolland 48 5 16 1 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 18 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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