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Cats Back At Work

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
By Brian Goldman for

Florida Panthers goaltender Craig Anderson (31) got the start the last time the Panthers were in Atlanta and was strong in net, making 30 saves. The Cats however lost the game in overtime, 3-2. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
Santa Claus has come and gone and now it’s time to get back to work for the Florida Panthers. The Cats travel to take on the Atlanta Thrashers Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at Phillips Arena.

Thursday’s game begins a big stretch of five games in eight days for Florida. The Panthers will be looking to release the ghosts that have haunted them at Phillips Arena the past two seasons. The Cats are 0-8-2 in Atlanta since October of 2003.

Last month when Florida visited Atlanta, the Cats dominated the game for 59 minutes, but Marian Hossa scored with three seconds left in the third period to tie the game at 2-2 and send it to overtime where Ilya Kovalchuk scored just 25 seconds in as he banked a shot off of Jay Bouwmeester’s skate and past Craig Anderson to give the Thrashers a 3-2 win.

“We played well in that game,” Panthers GM/Head coach Jacques Martin said. “They got a call late in the third period and capitalized on it, but we played a good game that night.”

Thursday night the Panthers will most likely be without winger David Booth again. The Panthers biggest surprise player so far this season has been sidelined for two weeks now with a bruised knee. Booth skated at practice this morning and will fly out to Atlanta with the team, but Martin said it is unlikely he will play tomorrow.

“I felt good out there,” Booth said. “It’s great to get back on the ice. Hopefully tomorrow I will feel even better, but we just have to wait and see.”

If Booth can’t go tomorrow, Martin said he would call someone up from the Panthers AHL affiliate, Rochester Americans, tomorrow morning. The Amerks play tonight at Toronto and no decision will be made, Martin said until after their game tonight.

Martin stressed after practice today that the Panthers need a strong first period tomorrow. After having three days off, the Cats should be well rested and ready to go tomorrow night. Meanwhile, the Thrashers played Sunday night in St. Louis and traveled this morning to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets tonight before flying back home after their game in order to be ready for tomorrow’s game against the Panthers. The potential to take advantage of a very tired Thrashers team is riding on a good first period for the Cats.

“We were lucky to have three days off like we did,” Martin said. “Atlanta has had to play two games before we play them tomorrow. I think it’s important to have a good first period tomorrow. We need to start strong and skate hard.”

Game time tomorrow in Atlanta is set for 7:00 p.m. The game can be seen locally on FSN-Florida or hears on the radio at 790AM The Ticket.
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