The Panthers downed the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in what this humble contributing writer feels was the most entertaining game Florida has put together this season.
The game had everything: great goals, feisty/spirited play, goalie “drama,” special teams dominance by the good guys (going 4/8), a goal and a fight by tough guy Givani Smith, a questionable big hit from a former player, and everything in between. When it was all said and done, the Cats took home the 6-2 W.
Can’t ask for a better note to end a brief road trip on as a very good Minnesota Wild team — who sit in third place of the Central Division — comes into town.
Some quick notes heading into this tilt:
1. Spencer Knight has been assigned to the AHL Charolette Checkers on a rehab stint and could be back with the team as soon as Monday
2. Mack Guzda has been recalled from the Checkers to back up Alex Lyon
3. Bob’s injury appears to be much better than initially thought and will most likely miss about three games
4. Eric Staal was placed on IR and is in concussion protocol
Speaking of Alex Lyon…it was awesome seeing a fresh look in the blue paint — even better when the new guy makes some incredible saves. I also really like his number and pad setup.
Despite going 6-2-1 over their last nine, the Cats will need to have good mojo going against a 25-5-4 Wild team that is pretty solid all the way around. In the psychological warfare department, Florida should be feeling good coming off their team bonding win over Montreal, while Minnesota saw their three-game winning streak come to an end Thursday night in a 5-2 loss against the Hurricanes. Let’s not forget about home-ice advantage (though that doesn’t really apply with the Cats this year it seems).
The most interesting aspect of tonight’s game will once again be in the crease. Instead of getting Bob and MAF, we’ll be treated to Lyon and Gustavsson. While Lyon is a virtual unknown commodity at this point, Gustavsson is 11-6-1 with a 2.16 GAA and .926 SV%.
The best way for Florida to support Lyon tonight is to obviously play solid defensively, but since that’s their Achilles Heel, it will be up to the offensive to load up the back of Minnesota’s net. Since the defense is broken for the Cats, they’ll have to win games in high-scoring slugfests going forward.
Big test tonight…let’s get it done!