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Cats Take on Thrashers in Atlanta Tonight

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

TONIGHT'S GAME: The Florida Panthers play their third preseason game and the third of six consecutive road preseason games this evening when they take on the Atlanta Thrashers. Tonight marks the third of six games in eight nights for the Panthers. The Cats return to South Florida for their final two preseason games, when they will face-off against Atlanta on Sept. 27 and Chicago on Sept. 28.

LAST GAME:The Panthers played their second exhibition game Monday night in Edmonton with the Oilers edging the Cats 2-1. G Alex Auld made his Panthers debut stopping 18 of 19 shots in 30 minutes of action between the pipes. Rookie D Martin Lojek scored the lone Panthers goal in the first period on the power play.

FAMILIAR FOE: Beginning last season, the Panthers and Thrashers now meet eight times a year in divisional play. The Panthers went 3-4-1 against Atlanta during the 2005-06 season. Atlanta leads the all-time series 14-11-5-4. Atlanta and Florida will meet once more in preseason at the BankAtlantic Center on Sept. 27. They will meet for the first time during the regular season on Oct. 7 in Atlanta.

STRONG FINISH: The Panthers ended the 2005-06 schedule going 3-0-2 in their last five games. D Mike Van Ryn ended the Cats season on a high note, scoring two goals including the OT game-winner in the final game of the season against Atlanta. Two games prior, it was C Joe Nieuwendyk who had the OT winner as the Panthers won in Ottawa 5-4.

FREE AGENT FRENZY: The Panthers were very active in free agency, acquiring two key players for the upcoming season. D Ruslan Salei (from ANA) and G Ed Belfour (from TOR) bring a combined 201 games of NHL playoff experience. Belfour has accumulated the second most wins in NHL history and Salei has played in more games then any other defensemen selected in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Both of the Cats preseason goals this season have come on the power play. Olli Jokinen scored in the first period against Calgary with the man advantage, and Martin Lojek followed the following night against Edmonton with a power play goal late in the first period.

QUICK DRAW:Winning the draw was not a problem for the Panthers against Calgary and Edmonton. Combined through the first two preseason games, the Panthers have won 76 of 127 face-offs (60%). In Calgary the Cats won 62% of the draws and in Edmonton they won 58%.

DOUBLE DUTY: Cats bench boss Jacques Martin took over the duties of General Manager on Sept. 3, 2006. He is currently the only head coach in the NHL to serve as both coach and General Manager. Martin has 444 career coaching victories, second most among active NHL coaches.

ELDER STATESMAN: C Olli Jokinen is now the longest tenured Panther. Jokinen was traded to Florida in June 2000. In five seasons with the Cats, he has scored 115 goals and 142 assists, while being named captain of the team prior to the 2003-04 season. His 88 points last season marked the third highest single season total in Panthers history.

LEADERS: C Stephen Weiss (3-1-3), LW Rostislav Olesz (2-2-4) and C Chris Gratton (0-4-4) led the Panthers in points during the 2005 preseason. All three centers are back with the Cats again for the 2007 preseason. Gratton also lead Florida with 18 PIM during last year's preseason games.

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW: Tickets are on sale for Cats home games including great season, mini and group ticket packages. Call (954) 835-PUCK to reserve your seat. The Panthers drop the puck for the 2006-07 regular season on Oct. 6 when they face-off against the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. at the BankAtlantic Center.

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