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Countdown 3: No. 1 Game; October 15 vs Tampa Bay

by James Kent / Florida Panthers

David Booth and the Panthers look to start the home slate off against Pavel Kubina and the Lightning just like last year's opening game. (Eliot J. Schechter)

In today's topic, we take a closer look at the game vs the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 15th in the Top 5 Games this season.

After two road games to start the season, the Panthers return to South Florida for their home opener at the Bank Atlantic Center October 15, against Eastern Conference rival Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers look to open up at home against the Lightning the same way they did on the road, with a victory. As the Lightning look to return to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row the Cats will look to calm the storm and establish themselves as the top dog in Florida.

The Panthers, who have themed this season in a way with the slogan “We See Red”, will sport their new red jerseys in Saturday’s game in hopes that new jerseys and a revamped lineup, featuring three former Stanley Cup Champions in Thomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell, will help the Panthers finally make it back to the playoffs where they have not been in over a decade. GM Dale Tallon thinks that with the panthers very active offseason there’s no reason this team can’t make the playoffs this season.

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning, look to pick up right where they left off last season; however the Panthers and newly acquired all-star defensive duo, Ed Jovanovski and Campbell have other plans for Mr. Stamkos when he takes the ice at the BankAtlantic Center. Campbell and Jovonovski will provide leadership and experience to a very young and talented defensive unit that includes the 3rd overall draft pick (Erik Gudbranson) in the NHL entry draft in 2010.

On the other side of the ice the Panthers have brought in some firepower on offense as well to lend a hand to fan favorite David Booth.  The Panthers lack of experience showed at times last season, but Tallon and Dineen refuse to make the same mistake two years in a row so on top of recruiting top defensemen this off-season the panthers loaded their offense with more experienced players but the question with guys like Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann is, will they stay healthy?  

It will be the second year in a row that the Panthers open their home schedule against their cross-state rivals. In last season's home opener, the Panthers scored four times in the first twenty minutes on their way to a 6-0 victory.

It's the home opener so why wouldn't this be the top game of the season? A chance to see the new team up close for the first time during the regular season coupled with the fact of seeing the new jersey and a whole new game presentation for the upcoming season.
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