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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 3: No. 1 Game; October 15 vs Tampa Bay

Wednesday, 10.12.2011 / 4:00 PM ET
By James Kent - FloridaPanthers.com / Countdown To Home Opener 2011
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Countdown To Home Opener 2011
Countdown 3: No. 1 Game; October 15 vs Tampa Bay

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.

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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