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The Panthers 2011-12 season is quickly approaching and with that, floridapanthers.com is going 15 in 15 by taking a look at the top five questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 15th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top five on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.

PURCHASE TICKETS TO THE HOME OPENER

Countdown 6: No. 2 Game; November 3 vs Chicago

Sunday, 10.09.2011 / 4:47 PM
By Glenn Odebralski - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011
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Countdown To Home Opener 2011
Countdown 6: No. 2 Game; November 3 vs Chicago

Forwards Kris Versteeg (left) and Michael Frolik (right) will be switching jerseys from the time they faced off against one another in Helsinki two seasons ago. November 3rd will be Versteeg's first time playing against his former team, the Blackhawks. (Getty Images)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Chicago Blackhawks on November 3rd in the Top 5 Games this season.

While it's often tough to start a rivalry with a Western Conference team due to the lack of meetings in a given season, the Panthers could easily have that against the Chicago Blackhawks. That rivalry, if there is one, is all of the personal variety as seven players (and a General Manager) have spent playing time on the other team.

Forwards Jack Skille (one game) and Michael Frolik (two games) have already played against their former teams after being traded in a February 9th deal that involved five players.

Then there is veteran defenseman Steve Montador who spent three seasons in South Florida (2005-2008) who will suit up for the Blackhawks for the first time in a Chicago jersey but has faced the Panthers seven times either with Anaheim or Buffalo.

Where the game gets really interesting is it will be the first time against their former team for four players with three of them wearing the opposite jerseys as late as the Western Conference first round. Brian Campbell's arrival in South Florida was the kick-off for General Manager Dale Tallon (who everyone knows that he has Chicago roots) to his makeover of the Panthers this past summer. Tallon acquired Campbell at the NHL Draft on June 24th for forward Rostislav Olesz. Tallon then acquired forward Tomas Kopecky for a conditional seventh-rounder three days later. On July 1, after signing several free-agents early in the day, Tallon swung a deal for former Blackhawk Kris Versteeg (spent last season split between Toronto and Philadelphia). Campbell, Kopecky, Versteeg and Olesz will all be playing against their former team for the first time on November 3rd.

What makes this meeting all the more story like is that it's the first of two meetings between the two. The two teams will meet again on January 20th in Chicago. The schedule makers have seemed to want to start a bit of a rivalry as this will be the third consecutive season that the teams meet twice. Florida and Chicago has split each of their games the previous two seasons. Florida has won both of their games (in Helsinki to open 2009-10 season and last March in Sunrise) by a one-goal margin while Chicago dominated in their two victories (in Helsinki in the second game of the 2009-10 season and last March in Chicago) by identical 4-0 shutouts.

The Blackhawks, while losing a lot of parts of the roster that earned them a Stanley Cup (including Campbell, Kopecky and Versteeg) two seasons ago, still have a lot of firepower. Led up front by captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp. They have two of the game's best on the blueline in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook while goaltender Corey Crawford had a breakout season last year as he went 33-18-6 with a 2.30 goals against average and .917 save percentage.

It will be a tough task but the Panthers, led by their new charges, will be juiced up for their first action against their former team, thus making for a great game on November 3rd.
 
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