This game will be just a little different than the last one.
Six days after shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 at the BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers face a different Lightning team at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday.
That’s because the Lightning has a new bench boss.
After firing Barry Melrose on Friday, just 16 games into the season, the Lightning made Rick Tocchet its interim head coach. Tampa didn’t fair well in his first game - lost 3-2 in the shootout to Carolina on Sunday - the Panthers are expecting a continuous attack from Tampa.
“From what I understand, they’re going to be more aggressive, obviously,” said Panthers coach Peter DeBoer. “I read some of his comments, and (he wanted) shorter shifts and more tempo, that type of thing. That’s a good skating team, if they’re moving and playing with speed, they’ve got some dangerous people there.”
“They’re going to come out a lot harder,” said defenseman Keith Ballard, who played in Phoenix while Tocchet was an assistant coach with the Coyotes. “I don’t think that (Wednesday) was their best game. They didn’t compete hard enough and we’re going to see that tomorrow.
“I think one thing with Tocchet, he’ll make them work hard, that’s probably what we’ll see tomorrow.”
Usually teams wait until the end of the season to make a coaching change, but an in-season switch can, and has, worked out to kick-start a team.
“I remember last year when Washington changed their coach,” forward David Booth said. “They were one of the best teams in the league. We have to expect the same thing from Tampa. They’re going to be fired up to play. We have to play the same way we did against them last week.”
For the Panthers, they know that they have to keep focusing on out-working their opponents and being prepared for whatever Tampa throws at them.
“I think it’s pretty evident. We’ve talked that when we bring our ‘A’ game, we’ve shown we can compete against the best teams in the league: the Detroits, San Joses, Montreals,” said DeBoer. “We also know that if we don’t show up, we have games like we did in L.A. or Atlanta. We’re not in a position to take anybody for granted.”The Med Unit.
Both Stephen Weiss
and Gregory Campbell (bone bruise) went through the full 1 ½ hour practice while Cory Stillman left early with the flu.
“They looked good,” DeBoer said of Campbell and Weiss. “I’m hopeful they can both play tomorrow. Stillman left practice with the flu so hopefully he’ll be alright. That’s as close a healthy a practice as we’ve had in a long time so it was nice.”
Kamil Kreps skated prior to practice and will be making the three-game road trip with the team.
“He’s been out for awhile so conditioning’s an issue,” DeBoer said. “He definitely won’t play tomorrow but maybe Thursday.”