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Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers preview: Battle of Florida part 2

Second in division meets last in division.

Florida Panthers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers: GAME 13

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: BB&T Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: FS-F, SUN, Lightning Radio

Opponent SBNation Site: Litterbox Cats

Preview:

Todd Little of Litterbox Cats was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the Panthers’ unexpectedly slow start, and how he feels the team should work out of it.

The Cats got off to a slow start this season, currently 5-6-1 and 8th in the division. What do you feel has gone into this slow start, and what do the Panthers need to do to get out of it?

Todd: The Panthers have been done in by a lack of scoring, some untimely defensive lapses and a wonky power play. The first of those two things aren't really that surprising when you consider the all new additions made over the offseason and the fact that three (Jonathan Huberdeau, Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad) of the team's top seven forwards are out. I expected there to be some growing pains over the first quarter of the season as the new arrivals and incumbent players got use to each other, and this has been exacerbated by the bite of the injury bug. Even with the injuries, the power play should be better. That's an area the Cats need to help them win games, especially until they are at full strength.

So. Jonathan Marchessault, eh? Tell us what you like about this much-missed TBL player so that we can be deeply jealous.

Todd: I think almost everyone had a feeling that signing Marchessault was going to be a good thing. That he is leading the team in goals, assists, and points is a pleasant, and most welcome, surprise. Marchessault comes to play every night and really has been the only Panther skater to contribute offense on any kind of consistent basis. As we talked about in the previous question, the team is off to a slow start. Things would be even worse without Marchessault's unexpected exploits.

Do you feel like having players at the World Cup helped or hurt the start to your season?

Todd: It definitely seemed to hurt the Panthers. Aaron Ekblad didn't get to play much at the World Cup as he suffered a whiplash injury early on and was sent home. After a good first game or two he hasn't started to seem like himself until just recently. Jussi Jokinen injured his knee during the tournament and although he did manage to appear in the first four regular season games, has been out recuperating from that for the last couple weeks. Like the rest of his Finnish teammates, Aleksander Barkov did little to nothing in Toronto. He seemed to click with Marchessault at the start of the season and put up five points in four games, but he has gone cold and is mired in an eight-game scoring drought going into tonight's game. That's one of the biggest reasons why the Cats are currently in last place. Barkov (and Jagr) seems to miss Huberdeau greatly.

Interesting. I never really took apart Huberdeau's game before -- but it's very enlightening to think of him as the prime mover for Barkov and Jagr. Definitely worth the money of his contract if he can feed his line to that extent. When are the missing players expected back?

Todd: Jokinen and Bjugstad sometime this week maybe. Huberdeau who knows - hopefully by February.

Any particular players (aside from Marchessault) who have shown signs of brilliance so far this season?

Todd: That may seem like a simple question, but it's a pointed one for the Panthers. The games the Cats have won have largely come due to one particular player having a big night. That's been Marchessault a couple times, and fellow smart free-agent pickup Colton Sceviour's hat trick got the club its first and only road win in Detroit last week. Another player showing Florida fans something is Swiss rookie Denis Malgin. Malgin turned heads with a strong performance at the summer rookie tournament and carried that momentum into training camp and found himself as the Cats' third line center due to the Bjugstad injury. After a slow start (one assist in 8 games) that had some grumbling that he needed to go down to the AHL, Malgin is riding a four-game point streak with 2 goals and 2 helpers over that span. He is worth keeping an eye on tonight.

Thanks, Todd!

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Vlad Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point

Ryan Callahan - Valtteri Filppula - Alex Killorn

J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette / Cory Conacher

Defence Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Nikita Nesterov

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Florida Panthers

Forward Lines

Jonathan Marchessault - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Colton Sceviour - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Jared McCann - Denis Malgin - Kyle Rau

Derek MacKenzie - Greg McKegg - Shane Harper

Defence Pairings

Keith Yandle - Jason Demers

Michael Matheson - Aaron Ekblad

Mark Pysyk - Alex Petrovic

Goaltenders

Roberto Luongo

James Reimer

(It’s possible that Jagr will be scratched with a groin inury.)

Line information will be updated as it emerges.