The Panthers will try to begin their first winning streak of the season this evening at BankAtlantic Center when they play host to the Lightning at 7 p.m.
For the Panthers, it’s a chance to avenge Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in Tampa. Coming off a 3-0 victory here Thursday evening against the Devils, the Panthers are looking forward to stringing two victories together before hitting the road next week for three games in Canada.
“To go on the road after two wins at home is a much better feeling,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin after Saturday morning’s pre-game skate.
The challenge for the Panthers will be stopping the Lightning’s ‘Big Three’ – Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards. Lecavalier, last year’s leading goal scorer, had two breakaways Wednesday evening and also hit the post. Lecavalier, St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal are a formidable No. 1 line.
“They’re a threat every time they’re on the ice,” said Panther forward Gregory Campbell of Lecavalier and St. Louis. “They’ve played together long enough to know where each other is. It’s actually kind of neat to watch them, to see how well they work together. They don’t even look where they’re passing. They just know where the other is going to be. We have to respect them on the power play.
“But even penalty killing they’re a huge threat. You know they’re going to take chances and come at you hard. They don’t sit back. They go at the puck. Instead of just scaring you they actually try to get the puck.”
Martin, who said the difference in Wednesday’s loss was the Lightning’s two power play goals, said the Panthers have to keep the Lightning’s top players off the scoreboard and play better in the offensive zone.
“I think we need to do a better job on their specialty teams and, no doubt, we need to have a little more traffic in front of their goal,” he said. “(Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist) was able to see a lot of the pucks (Wednesday). Any goalie in the National Hockey League, if they have a clear view of the puck, it’s tough to score, so we need to have more traffic.”
Defenseman Steve Montador (knee) skated with the team Saturday. Martin said he’ll likely travel with the Panthers to Canada next week but may not play until the following week.