Florida in 2012-13:
One year removed from securing their first playoff berth since the 1999-00 season, the Panthers found themselves back on the outside looking in last year, after finishing at the basement of the Southeast Division and NHL (30th out of 30 teams) with a 15-27-6 record for 36 points under head coach Kevin Dineen.
Winning the first three games versus Florida to begin the year, Tampa Bay suffered two straight losses against the Panthers on home ice to end the season, including a 3-2 shootout loss on April 2nd and a 5-3 defeat on the last game of the regular season at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Bolts have compiled a 42-46-10-11 record when facing Florida and have played the second-most games against their intrastate rival (109) behind the Washington Capitals (110) all-time.
The Panthers join the Lightning in the newly-formed Atlantic Division.
Skating in all 48 games, right-winger Thomas Fleischmann tallied 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) to lead the Panthers last season, while Jonathan Huberdeau was named the Rookie of the Year and won the Calder Memorial Trophy after finishing second in scoring. The first-year center collected 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points. Three different goalies spent significant time between the pipes during the 2012-13 campaign for the Panthers including netminder Jacob Markstrom, who appeared in 23 games for an 8-14-1 record, .901 save percentage and 3.22 goals-against average. Scott Clemmensen also posted a .874 save percentage and 3.67 goals-against average in the second-most games for the team (19), while Jose Theodore went 4-6-3 with a .893 save-percentage and 3.29 goals-against average.
Key Acquisitions and Departures:
After splitting time between the Buffalo Sabres and Florida last season, blueliner T.J. Brennan was dealt to the Nashville Predators in June for forward Bobby Butler. In just 19 games with the Panthers, Brennan managed nine points (two goals, seven assists). Florida bought out the contract of former Bolts defenseman Filip Kuba and netminder Jose Theodore also remains an unrestricted free agent.
In the System:
Picking just before the Lightning in the number two spot at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers selected center Aleksander Barkov from Tampere, Finland. The Finnish forward spent the 2012-13 season with Tappara of the SM-liiga in Finland and collected 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) in 53 games. The Panthers made seven other selections in this year’s draft for a total of four defenseman, three forwards and one goaltender. Center Nick Bjugstad, who was selected 19th overall in the 2010 draft and spent three years at the University of Minnesota, also appeared in 11 games with Florida last season, while defenseman Michael Matheson recorded eight goals and 17 assists (25 points) in 36 games with Boston College during the 2012-13 campaign.
Tampa Bay Ties on the Panthers:
Blueliner Matt Gilroy spent 53 games with the Lightning during the 2011-12 season, amassing 17 points (two goals, 15 assists), before suiting up with the Ottawa Senators for the remainder of the campaign.
Tampa Bay and Florida will face each other four times during the 2013-14 season, including the Lightning’s home-opener on Thursday, October 10 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Bolts and Panthers will then square-off twice more during the first half of the regular season when Florida hosts the Lightning for the first time at home on Sunday, October 27 at the BB&T Center and again on Monday, December 23 in Sunrise, Florida. The final came between the two Atlantic Division foes will take place on Thursday, March 13 in Tampa.