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The Florida Panthers acquired rugged right wing Todd Bertuzzi for some needed offense and leadership. He's providing plenty of that after just one game.

After an impressive debut, Bertuzzi and the Panthers face the Atlanta Thrashers at Phillips Arena.

Bertuzzi scored the team's first goal at 6:33 of the opening period, and added three assists in Florida's 8-3 rout of Boston on Friday. It was his first four-point night since Feb. 25, 2003 when he was with Vancouver - the team Florida acquired him from.

"It's nice to get that out of the way," said Bertuzzi, who has three goals and four assists in six career games against Atlanta. "But most importantly, it was the win. We needed a strong team effort to get off right. ... It was a matter of getting going tonight, and we did."

The Panthers (1-0-0) acquired Bertuzzi as part of a five-player deal with the Canucks on June 23. Bertuzzi had 25 goals and 71 points last season, but will always be known for his blindside hit of Steve Moore in March 2004, leaving the Avalanche player with fractured vertebrae in his neck.

Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. The lockout wiped out the next season.

Canucks general manager Dave Nonis said the move was best for Bertuzzi.

"Todd will be better off in a new city," Nonis said. "Todd never said 'I'll never play in Vancouver again,' but I think he recognized and we had some discussions that if there was a situation that worked for him elsewhere, then maybe it was better for him to move on.

"He's been really unfairly hammered in this market and I think he'll be better off in Florida."

Alex Auld, who came to Florida with Bertuzzi stopped 34 shots.

"It was a lot of fun," said Auld, who has replaced All-Star Roberto Luongo, but has yet to face Atlanta in his career. "And,obviously, it's great to get that kind of support at the other end."

Joe Nieuwendyk, starting his 19th season, had two goals, and Mike Van Ryn, Juraj Kolnik, Nathan Horton, Chris Gratton and Olli Jokinen also scored for the Panthers - who hadn't scored eight goals at home since a 10-5 win over Boston on Nov. 26, 1997.

Jokinen set career highs when he led Florida with 38 goals and 51 assists for 89 points last season. Five of his eight assists against the Thrashers came on the power play.

Atlanta (0-0-1) regroups following a 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. Scott Mellanby and Marian Hossa each recorded a goal and an assist for the Thrashers, who tied a team record for fewest shots in a game with 11.

"I was really disappointed," Mellanby said. "We were prepared. I thought we came out and had them on their heels."

Hossa, who was second on the team with 39 goals last season, has a four-game points streak against the Panthers, recording three goals and five assists over that stretch.

Ilya Kovalchuk, a 52-goal scorer last season, had just one shot on goal. The top overall pick in 2001 by the Thrashers, Kovalchuk had just three goals in seven games against Atlanta last season.

Since Nov. 16, 2003, Atlanta has won six straight at home from Florida and 10 of 13 overall.

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