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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.


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

Sunday, 10.9.2011 / 4:48 PM ET / Countdown To Home Opener 2011
By Glenn Odebralski  - FloridaPanthers.com
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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.




1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Jagr 49 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 52 10 27 10 37
A. Barkov 42 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 52 10 25 12 35
V. Trocheck 52 17 16 4 33
R. Smith 52 16 15 11 31
B. Pirri 48 10 13 -4 23
A. Ekblad 48 10 12 21 22
B. Campbell 52 4 16 17 20
N. Bjugstad 37 9 8 -3 17
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 2 1 .931 1.93

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