West across Alligator Alley is the home of the ECHL Florida Everblades and the second non-NHL facility that the Panthers will compete in this preseason. Affiliates of Tampa Bay and Carolina, the Everblades were recently the 2012 Kelly Cup Champions.
Two preseason games remain for the Panthers both against cross-state foe, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Next up is a contest in Estero,Fl. at the Germain arena.
“They’ve got a really strong hockey base,” said head coach Kevin Dineen. “They’ve got a good minor league hockey program over there, so I think this is a good fit for both teams.”
Located in between Tampa and Sunrise, Dineen expects fans and cheers from the crowd to support both the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In preparation for the Florida battle, the Cats held practice today at the Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs.
Jacob Markstrom and Tim Thomas both saw practice time in net. The team also worked on a few shootout drills after two recent comebacks led to eventual shootouts in Tampa Bay Saturday night and against Dallas in San Antonio the previous Wednesday.
This is the second of a three-game preseason series against the Lightning. While the opponent is reoccurring, Bobby Butler said he is mainly focused on “controlling what he can control.”
“It’s good just to know who you are playing, but its probably going to be a different line up anyways,” said Butler who had a pair of wristers and a perfect faceoff percentage during the last meeting with the Bolts.
Taking the ice in another facility unaccustomed to NHL hockey, the Panthers will be exposed to a different crowd of spectators.
“[They’re were] good fans down in San Antonio and I’m sure there will be some good fans in Estero,” said Butler. “It’s good to try different rinks and play NHL guys at different Rinks--It’s always fun.”
The puck drops tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the 7,082 seat arena.
“We are trying to expand our market and we look at Estero as a great hockey crowd,” said Dineen.
The Panthers will round out their exhibition play with a home game on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.