PANTHERS (1-0-0) at BLUES (1-0-0)
TV: FS-F, FS-MW
Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues. David Backes scored twice and Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in their most recent matchup, a 4-1 win by the Blues at Scottrade Center on Nov. 17, 2011.
Big story: Each team will be seeking a 2-0-0 start. Starting with back-to-back wins would especially mean a lot to the Panthers, who finished at the bottom of the NHL standings a season ago. Tim Thomas, who made a triumphant return to the League on Thursday, could be in line for a second consecutive start.
Panthers: It was all about the old and the new in Florida's 4-2 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center that got the season off to a flying start.
Thomas, who turns 40 in April, stopped 25 of 27 shots in his first NHL game in more than 17 months and the first not wearing a Boston Bruins sweater. Veteran Scott Gomez scored the opening goal for the Panthers, but with the team trailing 2-1 in the third, Aleksander Barkov, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, became the youngest player in almost 70 years to score an NHL goal. That tied it, and a pair of late goals from Marcel Goc made the difference.
"It had a lot of aspects to it," coach Kevin Dineen said of the win. "Our young players coming through and making a difference, a really nice goal, our veteran guys stepping up when they needed to. It was a mixture of things. That was a hard-fought win."
Blues: Expectations are far greater in St. Louis this season, and the Blues took step one toward meeting them with Thursday's 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators in which they chased goalie Pekka Rinne less than 10 minutes into the first period.
Backes started the scoring with a power-play goal at 2:05, then Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie followed to give the home team a commanding lead. The Predators did close the gap to one, but another power-play goal by Alexander Steen capped the offense as Halak made 28 saves.
"It was pretty ideal the first 10 minutes," Backes said. "I don't know if we got complacent, but that level … we played pretty well that first 10 and maybe took a step back.
"They're a team that just keeps coming at you, they found a couple and kind of woke us up there where we had to play our style of hockey. It's a result we love and it's one step along the way."
Who's hot: Goc had his first two-goal game for the Panthers, his last one came Nov. 18, 2010, for the Predators against the Montreal Canadiens. … In addition to his goal, Sobotka delivered two hits and won 78 percent of his faceoffs in the Blues' win.
Injury report: Florida forwards Nick Bjugstad (concussion), Steven Pinizzotto (hip) and Sean Bergenheim (hip/abdomen) are on injured reserve. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) is day-to-day. Goalie Scott Clemmensen (knee) is expected to report to San Antonio of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes. .. The Blues report no injuries.
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