Season Series: First of six meetings between these Southeast Division rivals, and the beginning of a home-and-home that culminates in Tampa Bay's opener at the St. Pete Times Forum on Monday. Although the Lightning would make it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals while the Panthers missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, Florida won four of the matchups on the 2010-11 slate. David Booth led all scorers with 4 goals. Vincent Lecavalier paced the Bolts with 3 goals.
Big Story: The schedule-maker didn't do the Lightning any favors to begin this season, saddling them with a five-game road trip right off the bat. Tampa Bay has scored 12 goals over that span, but 10 of them came in a 5-1 opening-night win in Carolina and a 6-5 shootout loss in Washington. Meanwhile, the team has given up 16 goals, an average of four per game.
"We want adversity now so it shakes us and we pay attention to details," coach Guy Boucher told the St. Petersburg Times after a 5-1 loss Thursday to the Islanders. "And I think players understand now that all these teams are fighting for the playoffs and anybody can make the playoffs right now."
Lightning: The acquisition of Dwayne Roloson on New Year's Day helped transform Tampa Bay from an up-and-coming group into a Stanley Cup contender last season, but it's been a rough start for the veteran, who turned 42 on Wednesday. Returning to Long Island the following night, Roloson was chased in the second period after giving up all five Islanders goals on 18 shots. His goals-against average rose to 4.34 and his save percentage fell to .883 with the defeat. Roloson could hardly be singled out on the Lightning when it came to poor performances, though.
"This League is an unforgiving League," Martin St. Louis told the Times. "You have to earn it every day. You look at (defending Stanley Cup champion) Boston is 1-3. It's the National Hockey League. Every team, whenever the year starts, it starts from scratch. Nobody is going to give you wins; you have to earn it. And we haven't done that."
Panthers: It's the home opener for Florida, which didn't have nearly as grueling a journey at the start as its Sunshine State neighbor. The Panthers opened the season by blanking the Islanders, before falling 4-2 to the Penguins on Wednesday. Two of their many newcomers, Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann, were the goal scorers, and another one, goaltender Jose Theodore, stopped 25 shots after recording a shutout in his debut with the team.
"I thought we could come in here and be the more energetic team and I thought we were at times," rookie coach Kevin Dineen said. "I thought that was really inconsistent. We had our moments, but overall we have to have more consistency to our game."
Who's Hot: Both penalty kills -- the Lightning (21-for-21) and Panthers (7-for-7) are two of three teams that have yet to allow a power-play goal this season. The Devils (14-for-14) are the other.
Injury Report: Tampa Bay defenseman Mattias Ohlund is on injured reserve following arthroscopic knee surgery. … Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen (knee) and forward Mike Santorelli (shoulder) are on in injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Thursday's loss dropped the Lightning below .500 for the first time under Boucher, who is in his second season behind the bench. … Theodore began his Panthers career with a shutout streak of 74 minutes, 52 seconds.
Puck Drop:Sean Bergenheim was a playoff hero for Tampa Bay last season, finishing second on the team with 9 goals. He signed a four-year deal with Florida over the summer and is still looking for his first point -- however, he does lead the team with 10 shots over the first two games.