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Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers: Get them in the (cat) box!

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Five questions with Litterboxcat’s Todd Little.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Florida Panthers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers: GAME #13

Time: 7:30 Eastern Time

Location: BB&T Center

Broadcast / Streaming: FS-F, Sun

Opponent SBNation Site: Litterbox Cats

Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning last saw the Florida Panthers at the very start of the season, before they went on their historic consecutive win run (now the team is at 9-2-1). As Alan explained, some of this was due to Andrei Vasilevskiy and puck luck. Coming into this game against the Cats after losing to Anaheim, what challenges do the Bolts face in tonight’s game? The Panthers have had our number so far this season despite splitting the season series, and have outplayed us in both games.

Alan was kind enough to pull this season’s numbers for us:

When the Panthers are doing well, they are great at generating high-danger shots at 5v5, at a much better rate than Tampa. They are also better at suppressing dangerous shots. Taken together, the Cats' numbers show that even if Tampa spends a lot of time putting low-danger shots on the net, the Cats can block Tampa's offense and sneak off to generate their own dangerous looks on Tampa’s goalie.

The one way that Tampa can get to them is through special teams. Look at that terrible penalty kill, compared to the Bolts’ power play. We have to hope that Jon Cooper deploys Jake Dotchin as much as possible to draw penalties and keep a man in the box at all times.

Inexplicably, the Panthers just lost to the Red Wings, who seem to have a lot more swagger against this team that they do against Tampa — Oh, it was a win against James Reimer that had to go to a shoot out. Never mind.

I sent a few questions over to Todd Little of Litterboxcats, who was kind enough to answer them for us.

Five questions with Litterboxcats:

Raw Charge: So far we've split the season series, with Florida arguably being the better team on the ice both times. What should Florida do to make sure they win this one?

LBC: Keep up the relentless attack that characterized the first two meetings and stay out of the penalty box. Florida's penalty kill was perfect against Anaheim and Detroit, but still sits at 29th in the league. That's an area Tampa Bay can exploit.

Raw Charge: The season sees Florida at 4-5-1 so far, with a -1 goal differential. Florida has done oddly well against Western Conference teams (St. Louis and Anaheim), and poorly against Eastern Conference ones. Can you explain what you think is going on here?

LBC: So far, the Panthers have been much better at home than on the road, so the wins against quality opponents St. Louis and Anaheim could be more a result of catching them at the right time on their respective road trips as opposed to an Eastern/Western Conference thing.

Unfortunately, the Panthers caught Montreal and Detroit at times when both sputtering clubs were desperate (and due) for a win. They probably would have won the game against the Red Wings, if not for a huge performance by Jimmy Howard. Except for the aforementioned Canadiens game and an embarrassing second period meltdown against Philadelphia, the Cats have played pretty well overall. Two games against both the powerful Lightning and Penguins (1-3) have not helped the bottom line.

Raw Charge: What players have stood out for you so far this season?

Evgenii Dadonov needed a few games to adjust to being back in the NHL, but he has looked very, very good as the season has progressed. As much as it hurts to say on some level, he has been an upgrade over Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov has been a little inconsistent art times, but he is starting to shine more often.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck have also been good. These are the players that are going to need to help carry the Panthers to the postseason, so that all four are currently averaging a point-per-game or more is very encouraging. Among the lesser known names, Connor Brickley has been impressive when in the lineup and rookie defenseman Ian McCoshen has not looked out of place, playing 9 out of 10 games.

Raw Charge: What players do you and Bob Boughner disagree about most regarding deployment?

LBC: I think the biggest disagreement I (and a lot of others) have with coach Boughner is keeping the defense pairing of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle together. I also think the Panthers should send Owen Tippett back to Missassauga, but that decision is probably coming from higher up.

They also might want to return Denis Malgin to AHL Springfield. He hasn't been very effective as the spare forward when in the lineup and Boughner only gave him four shifts against Detroit. Might want to give someone else a try in that spot. Getting Jared McCann, Colton Sceviour, and Brickley back will make that somewhat of a moot point.

Raw Charge: What do you anticipate the Cats' record will be like in a month, at the end of November?

LBC: At the end of November the Panthers will have played 24 games, so I am going to give you an actual prediction here. I think Florida will be 9-12-3 once December rolls around. Their schedule remains tough with some difficult road games ahead, so even if they start playing better, I think stringing together any kind of long winning streak is going to be easier said than done.

Raw Charge: Thank you as always, Todd!

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines:

Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde

Chris Kunitz - JT Brown/Gabriel Dumont - Ryan Callahan

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson

Defense Pairings:

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi

Slater Koekkoek/Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Florida Panthers

Forwards:

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadanov

Jamie McGinn - Vincent Trocheck - Radim Vrbata

Chase Balisy - Derek MacKenzie - Nick Bjugstad

Michael Haley - Denis Malgin - Owen Tippett

Defense Pairings:

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Ian McCoshen - Mark Pysyk

Michael Matheson - MacKenzie Weegar

Goaltenders:

James Reimer

Antti Niemi — O hi, we remember you.