The Florida Panthers are hosting the New York Rangers on Wednesday night for the first of four contests between the two contenders this season. Florida is 4-2-3 at home, and the Rangers boast a 5-3-2 record away from Madison Square Garden. This is the third game of a four game homestand for the Cats, who will finish it up against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday in the first game of a back-to-back round-robin series. The Rangers will go on to face the Washington Capitals on Friday in the nation's capital before heading home for a five game homestand.
The teams last met in March, with Tomas Vokoun stopping nearly everything the Rangers threw at him, making 32 of a possible 33 saves. Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn't offer Vokie any support, as the Cats were shut out by Henrik Lundqvist (22 saves), 1-0.
Panthers @ Rangers 3/22/11 (via NHLVideo)
When we last tuned in, the Panthers had spotted the New Jersey Devils a three goal first period lead on Monday night before making a game out of it. Kris Versteeg connected with two goals in the second, Stephen Weiss added a shorthanded marker on an odd-man rush in the third, and a patient Tomas Fleischmann outwaited Devils netminder Martin Brodeur for the game winner with two minutes remaining in regulation.
Devils @ Panthers 11/21/11 (via NHLVideo)
Meanwhile, the Rangers were shut out by their ungracious hosts, the Montreal Canadians, 4-0. The boys in blue only mustered 17 shots on goal, hardly testing Habs goaltender, Carey Price. Brian Gionta netted two for Montreal.
Rangers @ Canadiens 11/19/11 (via NHLVideo)
Season Series: 0-0-0
All-Time Series: 29-33-11
Game Time: 7:30 EST
Florida Panthers: 11-6-3, 25 points, first SE Division, third Eastern Conference, seventh NHL, on pace for 103 points.
New York Rangers: 10-4-3, 23 points, third Atlantic Division, seventh Eastern Conference, 14th NHL, on pace for 111 points.
The Panthers have had injury issues to several forwards. Mikael Samuellson is currently on the injured reserve, having yet to skate with the Cats. Scottie Upshall and Matt Bradley are also still out of commission. Marcel Goc was out with an undisclosed injury, but is skating with the team and should see ice time against the Rangers. Scott Clemmensen is also out. To counter, the Panthers have Evgeny Dadonov, Tim Kennedy and Michal Repik on the active roster, along with goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
Jose Theodore (8-4-2) will likely make the start for Florida, although coach Dineen may surprise us with another look at Markstrom (2-2-1). New York should start Henrik Lundqvist (7-3-3) in the crease.
1. Fleischmann - Weiss - Versteeg
2. Bergenheim - Kopecky - Goc
3. Santorelli - Sturm - Skille
4. Repik - Matthias - Dadonov
1. Campbell - Garrison
2. Jovanovski - Ellerby/Gudbranson
3. Kulikov - Weaver
Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger played in nine games with Florida in 2008-09, netting one goal, a plus-one rating and six penalty minutes.
Ed Jovanovski's next goal will be his 32nd, which will move him into a tie for 32nd with Richard Zednik. His next assist will give him 58 with the Panthers, tying him with Paul Laus, in 30th.
Mike Santorelli's next goal will be number 24 as a Panther, moving him into a tie with Dave Gagner in 45th place all-time.
Dmitry Kulikov's next assist will give him 48 for his career, moving him into a tie for 39th with Keith Ballard.
With Stephen Weiss' next point, he will move past Scott Mellanby into second place, all-time with 355.
Kris Versteeg - 11
Tomas Fleischmann - 9
Stephen Weiss - 8
Brian Campbell - 16
Dmitry Kulikov, Kris Versteeg - 14
Kris Versteeg - 25
Stephen Weiss - 21
Tomas Fleischmann - 20
Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss - plus-14
Kris Versteeg - plus-12