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Panthers hope to rebound against Leafs

by Davis Harper
PANTHERS (6-4-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (9-4-1)


Last 10: Florida 4-3-3; Toronto 6-4-0.

Season Series: This is the first of four meetings. The teams split the 2010-11 season series, with the host winning each time.

Big Story: Two teams that have overachieved to start the season are coming off losses, each demoralizing in its own way. For the Panthers, an impressive 6-4-0 start has been derailed by three consecutive home shootout losses, the most recent of which came after Florida squandered a 3-0 advantage to rival Tampa Bay on Sunday. Toronto, still tops in the Northeast, was crushed Saturday against Boston, which shut them out, 7-0, at the Air Canada Centre. Both squads are out to prove their positive starts aren't as transparent as these recent losses would suggest.
Team Scope:

Panthers: The Panthers are still picking up points, with at least one in six of their last seven games, but coach Kevin Dineen told reporters after the Lightning loss that his team must learn to persevere for a full 60 minutes.

"Preventable plays at key moments. For 35 minutes we played a really solid game, fell off at the last five of the second, picked it back up in the third, and then it just turned into the Wild West there at the end," Dineen said. "A little bit of the same old story for us. When you're up 3-0 you like to close that door. Instead, we found a way to lose it."

When good, Florida is very good indeed. The Panthers were immense in the first period Sunday, with Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Mike Santorelli all netting against an overwhelmed Bolts defense. In the next two periods, however, Florida appeared in cruise control as Tampa Bay clawed its way back.

"We threw it on a plate for them and said, 'Here you go,'" Florida's Ed Jovanovski said. "Down 3-0, you'd think it's tough to come back but when you stop playing and start watching it comes back to bite you."

Maple Leafs: In the midst of Toronto's best start since the 2004 lockout, the band aids coach Ron Wilson had been applying to recent problems were painfully peeled back against Boston. After stopping 38 of 39 shots against Columbus in relief of the injured James Reimer, rookie goalie Ben Scrivens allowed five goals on 14 shots against the Bruins. Offensive talisman Phil Kessel was held pointless for just the third time this season. The defense seemed reluctant to get in front of the crease and pay the price. Wilson said his team's issues surfaced in the game before against Columbus, but were overshadowed by the win.

"The way we were playing in the second and third period against Columbus is an indication of a team that's going to let things get out of hand at some point,'' Wilson said. ``We were lucky in that game to have been up 4-0. It's actually probably better for us to go through a game like this right now so that we can focus. If it had been 2-1 or 3-2 or 1-0 it would be 'Oh we were just a shot away,' but we weren't anything close to that tonight.''

Who's Hot: Before the Boston debacle, Clarke MacArthur had points in five of seven games. Florida's Brian Campbell finally netted his first goal of the season against the Bolts to go along with 11 assists.

Injury Report: Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen (knee) is expected to be activated for the Toronto game. … For the Leafs, Reimer (concussion) and winger Colby Armstrong (sprained left ankle) are on IR, while center Tim Connolly will miss 1-2 weeks with an upper-body injury suffered against the Bruins.

Stat Pack: Toronto is 5-0-0 when leading after two periods, and Florida was 4-0-1 when scoring first before the collapse against Tampa Bay. For these teams, the early bird typically gets the worm.

Puck Drop: It turns out NHL coaches are just like us. When asked what he did after Saturday's throttling at the hands of Boston, Wilson had this to say: "I went to a movie, I rented a movie and did some reading."
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