Tonight the Carolina Hurricanes head South to take on the Florida Panthers for an Eastern Conference battle. This will be a rematch from the Eastern Conference Finals last spring.
The last time the Canes made a visit to South Florida, there season ended. A bit of revenge would be nice to start this Florida state swing before heading home to meet the Philadelphia Flyers at PNC Arena.
The Panthers “cinderella” run last season in the playoffs ran out in the Stanley Cup Finals when they lost to Vegas Golden Knights.
Paul Maurice has continued to keep his squad playing good hockey this season. The Panthers are currently 7-4-1 and sit in 4th place in the Atlantic Division.
Florida has won their last two matches with an overtime victory against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday by a score of 4-3.
With 15 points on the season, the Panthers have protected their net well this season, allowing just 35 goals in 12 games. This is good for 5th in the league.
Sergei Bobrovsky has continued his brilliant play by posting a 2.71 GAA and .904 save percentage. Playing 10 of the 12 games, it is a safe bet to say he will be in between the pipes tonight. Anthony Stolarz has played the other 2 matches, grabbing one victory.
This off-season, the defending Eastern Conference champions added two significant names to the roster. Defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson signed a minimal deal with Florida after being bought out by the Vancouver Canucks.
Ekman-Larsson’s game had dropped off the past few seasons in Vancouver but has had a solid start for the Panthers with 3 goals and 4 assists. He has averaged 23:57 minutes of ice time and helped replace the minutes left when Radko Gudas left for Anaheim.
The other new face is Evan Rodrigues, formally of the Colorado Avalanche and Pittsburgh Penguins. Rodrigues is a solid and versatile center that can add some offense. So far this season he has 10 points which is good for 4th on the roster.
Sam Reinhart is off to an unbelievable season with 9 goals in 12 games and a total of 15 points.
Of course, the Panthers have playoff hero Matthew Tkachuk, who has 12 points but just 4 goals so far in the young season.
This is a hockey club that will bring their best game every night. Maurice has this team playing physical and opening some space for the skill guys to work.
Getting pucks through to the net will be the biggest obstacle for the Canes and then they will have to deal with a hot goaltender.